As statements of intent go, launching your new car in the grand setting of the Musée du Louvre in Paris is a pretty resounding one.
However, the DS 3 hatchback and convertible it unveiled at the world-famous landmark yesterday evening isn't all new - it has a new model name, fresh styling and uprated technology, but its underpinnings are ostensibly the same as the Citroën DS 3 that preceded it.
As the wraps came off the DS 3, amid whirling dancers under the lights of the Louvre's pyramid, I pondered whether DS considered saving a location this special for the launch of one of its all-new models, which will be arguably even more significant than the DS 3.
DS can't wait though: those vehicles aren’t due to arrive until 2018, and between now and then it has some serious brand building to do. Hence the use of France’s most-visited tourist attraction to launch the smallest car in its model range.
Last night’s affair was as much about broadcasting the DS brand to the world as it was showing off its ritzy new Mini rival.
The arrival of the DS 3 means the first stage of DS’s birth is effectively complete: the models that will spearhead its European model plan for the next two years have all now dropped their Citroën badges.
Next comes the task of putting clear blue water between Citroën and DS in terms of brand recognition. This is easier said than done; as many manufacturers have found in the past, dressing a car in posh clothes and charging a premium for it doesn’t always convince buyers. Jaguar discovered that with the X-Type, which was derided in some quarters for its technical links to the Ford Mondeo.
DS knows it has to offer substance as well as style if it wants to charge more money for its products than it currently can. So it was interesting yesterday evening to hear DS chief executive Yves Bonnefont explain how each of the three car brands in the PSA group will implement a few of its own technical systems.
Seems sensible: the more parts of a DS that are distinct to the brand, the greater the appeal to customers who are willing to pay extra for that kind of exclusivity. Similarly, an approach built around highlighting technology has worked very nicely for Audi for many years.
Of course, allowing each brand to develop its own kit pushes up R&D costs, so this approach will have to be tempered with the practicalities of sharing core components, such as engines, transmissions and platforms.
Building your brand image by aligning yourself with iconic landmarks, art and high fashion is just so much window-dressing if your products aren’t convincing. If DS wants to succeed in the long-term it needs to build cars with character and soul. The Louvre has been around for more than 200 years; you can't buy that kind of credibility.
The brand is taking baby steps at the moment, but when the all-new cars arrive in 2018 we’ll have a much clearer idea whether it is heading in the right direction.