When DS Automobiles recently committed to the ABB Formula E Championship until at least the end of 2026, the firm described its relationship with the electric single-seater series as “l’histoire d’amour”: the love story. It has certainly been a happy tale so far.
Just a year after being formally spun off from sister brand Citroën, DS joined Formula E for the 2014/15 season, the championship’s second year and the first in which manufacturers were allowed to develop their own powertrains. DS teamed up with Virgin Racing, with Sam Bird taking its first win in the fourth race of the year.
Since then, DS has won at least one race every season – the only manufacturer to do so – and has cleaned up since the Gen2 car was introduced for 2018/19. In that season, DS switched to supplying the Techeetah outfit, which had won the previous season’s drivers’ title with Jean-Éric Vergne. The new DS Techeetah partnership instantly paid off with a teams’ and drivers’ title double, as Vergne became the first driver to win the championship more than once.
DS Techeetah claimed another title double in the disrupted 2019/20 season, although this time it was new signing António Félix da Costa, who moved over from BMW, taking the drivers’ crown.
DS will start the new season in Saudi Arabia this weekend as the team to beat and with its Formula E love affair reaching new levels of infatuation. That helps to explain why DS has wed itself to the series for at least five more years, at a time when rivals such as Audi and BMW are in the process of breaking off their relationships and looking elsewhere for motorsport love.
“It’s amazing for the team to know that DS is continuing for the long-term,” says Vergne, who has raced for the Chinese-owned Techeetah squad since its first season in Formula E in 2016/17. “It provides reassuring stability, for the mechanics and everyone in the team, and for sponsors.”
But what does DS see in Formula E that the likes of Audi and BMW don’t? There’s no doubt winning helps: it’s a lot easier for a manufacturer to justify the marketing expenditure of motorsport when they’re collecting a lot of trophies. While manufacturers can use the category to help develop electric powertrains, which should be enhanced by the forthcoming Gen3 rules, of far more importance is the brand-building it offers.