The new UK boss of DS believes a focus on offering a premium buying experience with new dealerships and personal customer service is key to growing the brand in Britain.
DS was spun off from fellow Stellantis marque Citroën six years ago, with the aim of creating a French rival to German premium brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But while DS has shown encouraging growth in some European markets – and is particularly strong in its homeland – it is lagging behind in the UK.
DS sold 2379 cars here in 2020, giving it a market share of just 0.15% – down from 0.19% the previous year.
UK boss Jules Tilstone, who previously served as the firm’s European commercial chief, told Autocar: “As a new, conquest brand, Covid-19 hit us harder than established brands with showrooms closed. With click-and-collect orders, people will likely stick with the brands they’ve been with for years.
“That reflects the past 12 months. We’re in a significant phase of growth across Europe; some countries have been ahead in that journey, and we [the UK] are behind some of the big countries in mainland Europe. It’s disappointing that Covid-19 hit at a time when we were building momentum.”
Tilstone believes the recent success of the likes of Lexus and Volvo shows that “there’s life outside a German brand” in the premium market, noting that DS outsold the Japanese firm across Europe last year.
DS currently offers the 3 Crossback crossover and 7 Crossback SUV in the UK, and it will add the 9 saloon and 4 hatchback this year. To support those, Tilstone has initiated a plan dubbed Elevation to boost the brand’s fortunes in the UK.
Customer experience is key
As with most other brands, DS has invested in its digital operations during the pandemic, launching a virtual showroom and online sales platforms. But Tilstone believes that physical dealerships are key to selling DS’s French luxury ‘savoir-faire’ approach.
“If you really want to understand a brand, the physical showroom experience is very important,” he said. “People want to feel it. Our virtual showroom can bring a product to life compared with a video, but many people still value that personal interaction.