The DS Numero 9 captured much of the pre-Beijing press coverage thanks to the ‘leak’ of its pre-show Parisian photo shoot and Laurent Nivalle’s seductive video. It’s hitting the mark with the public and press who’ve seen it here in Beijing. You can read Guy Bird’s viewpoint here if you want to know more.
But it’s worth noting the context it sits in, the highly-impressive DS stand, which stands apart from the Citroën stand in a separate show hall altogether. At dinner last night with senior members of the Citroën design team I learned much more about the plans for the DS brand. Four cars in to DS and many have started to judge Citroën’s upmarket sub-brand as having a level of success, yet the team know that for it to truly succeed and feel authentically premium it has numerous challenges. The first is to offer something authentically French – an idea of premium that’s totally different to what the Germans offer. Then there’s the need to establish a series of themes and design cues that are recognizably DS and not Citroën. Part and parcel of that is a consistent message given out not just by the cars themselves, but through all methods of marketing and communication.
Thierry Metroz told us that to this end, the design team are working very closely with Citroën’s marketing and communications teams. So for the Beijing show, the DS stand was developed primarily by design. The striking sculpture that hangs over the DS Number 9 Concept was commissioned by them too. And they’ve made sure the brand is perceived to be playing to national strengths of high-fashion design and artisan creativity, by featuring an atelier DS in one corner of the stand, with two craftspeople hand-stitching and trimming leather throughout the show.
Carlo Bonzanigo, head of Advanced Design and who led the DS Numero 9 project, also stressed the importance of the DS motif. This diamond-shaped graphics, which contains both the D and the S relates to the DS logo itself. It is being spread as a graphic around the various cars and in Beijing is employed heavily in the design of the stand. Most apparent is the beautiful wall of glass crystal diamonds that hangs as a backdrop to the DS3. It’s carried through into a range of luggage and accessories we’re currently coveting more than the cars.
Given that we now understand Citroën’s plans to separate the DS brand from Citroën altogether – dropping the double Chevron altogether from the cars in the future – it’s hardly a surprise they’re working so hard to develop and control this image. As a lesson in how to create yourself a premium brand, it’s highly impressive and more importantly it’s clearly working – the Chinese seem to absolutely love it.
by Joe Simpson