By the standards of mid-sized posh crossovers the Crossback a fine looking beast, and an obvious answer to the question of “how can we sell more cars in Europe?”
But it’s outside Europe that DS has to succeed if it’s going to be taken seriously as PSA’s third division. Premium carmakers can only focus on a relatively small part of any given market, and therefore have to cast their nets wider to achieve sales volumes. DS is already doing respectable business in China; indeed it already has a local SUV out there in the form of the DS6, built by the Changan Automobile joint venture. But if it wants to become a player in the top flight it is going to have to launch in North America, something the smart and sophisticated DS 7 seems ideally suited to helping it achieve.
It’s 26 years since Peugeot withdrew from the U.S. – Citroen and Renault having already thrown in the towel before it – and no French manufacturer has sold a car there since. PSA boss Carlos Tavares announced long-term plans to return to the ‘States last year, initially through a ride-sharing service that will probably use electric cars, then later through the organic creation of sales and distribution networks to bring in other models, over around a decade or so. At the time it sounded uncharacteristically tentative for Tavares, one of the industry’s punchiest bosses, and having seen the DS7 up close it now seems positively timid.
Not with a squillion-dollar U.S. wide introduction– as Fiat and Smart can attest, it’s not easy to sell European cars to middle America. But rather with a small launch aimed at big population centres, where affluent buyers are growing increasingly bored of the default choices. With DS emphasizing its concierge services and set to lead PSA’s move into autonomy it seems ideally suited to appeal to the tech-savvy and early adopters, with the DS7 being pretty much exactly the type of car that U.S. buyers are clamouring for.
Other models, and full EVs can follow, but it can’t be too hard to get a car that uses a development of the engine fitted to the last-gen Mini through Federal type approval, can it? The thought has clearly crossed a few minds at PSA, with confirmation that the DS7’s magic rotating headlights could have their beam-bending switched off so as to be able to pass the tough Federal lighting standards.
With a car that’s pretty much ideally suited to the U.S. on the launchpad, I reckon it’s time for DS to pop a few brave pills and accelerate the schedule.