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
The Rolls-Royce and Ferrari stands sit alongside one another in the halls of the Beijing auto show. I took these two pictures less than a minute apart, having stood for quite a while watching the throngs of photographers milling around the two stands.
While it’s far from a scientific observation, I thought it interesting how much more popular the Rolls-Royce stand was proving. Literally hundreds of Chinese were queueing up to have pictures taken by friends of them with the Phantom or Ghost in the background. Yet at Ferrari, it was comparatively quiet.
In Europe, I’d judge the opposite to be true, you’re typically unable to get close to even the barrier of the Ferrari stand at the average motor show. Which made me ask the question – in China, what value does sporting pedigree have? Ferrari would probably say they are a sport-luxury brand. But in China, Ferrari’s sporting and motorsport heritage is much less well know. Given that so much of what we know and value the brand for in Europe and North American markets is connected to this motorsport history, does that mean a sport-orientated luxury or premium brands carries less value here?
By Joe Simpson
Why write about flowers on a car design site? A passing interest in floristry aside, it’s worth casting your eye idley around a show to see what’s happening in terms of stand and fashion trends. In Geneva, we noticed some very expensive looking, rather lovely arrangements of lillies on the Maserati and Rolls Royce stands. Here, literally every stand is decked out with vases of white flowers. Why? Well, unless someone happened to misplace the decimal point when ordering flowers, we suspect the reason brands are going for white blooms is that they convey freshness, purity, clarity and a level of real premium-ness.
The notable exception to the rule here is Infiniti, who’s stand architecture, stand staff uniforms and flowers, is resplendent in purple. It certainly helps them stand out.
By Joe Simpson
It has not escaped the attention of Stuttgart that, in the recent past, we’ve been far from the biggest fans of Mercedes-Benz’s design direction. So hurrah for a car that we can finally get behind and sing the praises of.
The Concept Style Coupe is a thinly veiled preview of an upcoming four door coupe, which will slot into the Mercedes range below the C-Class.
So what’s to like? For a start, despite being front wheel drive (it’s based on the A-class platform), its proportions are good. Until now, only Audi’s managed to pull off convincingly premium proportions on front-wheel drive platforms. Secondly, while it’s still busy, the surface language on this car really works. There’s a lovely teardrop form in plan, which cleverly works with the side profile, where we get hints of the banana-like shoulder line of the original CLS.
Most importantly though, this car is supposedly 95 percent production ready. Only details will change when the production car (CLA?) arrives we’re told. But the critical bit is that this will slot in (and be priced) below the C-class. Which means that, if Mercedes manages to bring it to market with less compromise than has befallen the 5-door A-class, it could – yet again – give birth to a new and highly influential segment of C-car sized four door coupes. Watch this space.
By Joe Simpson
This is the Shouwang BCHD-1. Shouwang is one of many new brands that the Chinese government have mandated foreign brands launch in order to continue to sell cars in China. Shouwang is from Hyundai and is a collaboration between the Korean firm and Beijing automotive. It employs a ‘cut-out’ design theme, which sees sections of bodywork removed around the grille, A-pillar, C-pillar and trunk deck to make elements of the car (such as the A-pillars) appear as though they are floating. Proportionally quite premium, to our eyes and without knowing the exact numbers, the package appears to closely resemble that of an E60 BMW 5-series. The overall aesthetic however, reminds us more of recent Infiniti production cars.
Previewing a forthcoming production car, what really caught our eye was how dirty and covered in dust this concept was – as if it had been hanging around in a grubby hanger for a while before being wheeled onto the motorshow stand. Like many concepts here, it also goes without an interior, sadly. Blatant design mistakes are notable too – for instance where the top of the windscreen meets the roof, the two surfaces come together to form a negative dip or ‘hole’ at the header rail. They’re the kind of things that take the shine off what is a promising start for a brand new name.
Posted by Joe Simpson