Citroën's DS brand is racing to establish itself as a full-line premium competitor in the booming Chinese market, according to brand director general Frédéric Banzet.
In 2014 there will be the launch of a DS SUV (based on the same platform as the DS5 models) in China and, in 2015, a bigger luxury model. All the models are built at the CAPSA joint-venture factory in Shenzen.
The four DS models will eventually be joined by a new battery-powered car (probably wearing the Citroen badge), development of which is a requirement of the joint-venture deal with Chinese company Changan.
Speaking to Autocar at the unveiling of the DS5 LS in Paris, Banzat said that China was ‘extremely important’ because it was set to become the world’s largest market for premium cars. “China has the highest growth potential and the highest profits. Although the Chinese premium car market only accounts for 9 per cent of sales today, we expect it to match Europe’s premium share of 15-20 per cent. We absolutely want to be in this ‘profit pool’ with DS.”
Banzet said that the approach to new DS models was greatly influenced by the fact that the “Chinese premium buyer has a different profile than the European premium buyer. The average age of the buyer is lower, somewhat wealthier and they have a more modern outlook.”
Arnaud Ribault, head of the DS brand in China, told Autocar that by 2104 there will be ‘100 DS stores’ in China’s biggest cities as the company races to push the brand out across the country. “Our first target is to be recognised as a premium brand and then we can develop as a real premium brand,” Ribault said. “After that, then we can develop like a real premium brand. Once we have established premium status in China, then we can look at the rest of the world.”
Officially, there’s no decision yet on whether the DS SUV will be exported to Europe, but Autocar understands that it is currently unlikely. Firstly, sales in China are likely to take up all the planned production and, according to one source, Citroën is concerned about selling a Chinese-built car in Europe.
However, Banzet says that the new Shenzen factory “is the most efficient PSA plant in the world” and that the quality of the DS5 hatchback models that have already been built there, exceed the quality of the French-built cars.