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THE DS BRAND AND CITROňNňT

 3rd June 2015


The DS brand was created by PSA Peugeot CitroŽn on 1st June 2014.
Prior to this, the name DS had been used for a range of cars sold as CitroŽns.
The question facing this site and many others, as well as CitroŽn clubs and magazines is whether coverage should include the DS cars now that DS is a marque in its own right.

The following edited article was originally published in the CitroŽnian (the magazine of the CitroŽn Car Club) in June 2015 and makes my position clear:

The prostitution of a goddess


In Ancient Greece, the hetairai were female servants who allegedly practiced sacred prostitution in honour of the goddess Aphrodite.  The goddess herself was not a prostitute.

Peugeot-CitroŽn seem to have ignored this latter point and have decided instead to turn the goddess into a prostitute.  The goddess in question is the DS and her name has been attached to a new marque which, name apart, has absolutely nothing inn common with the original.

Now I have no problem with Peugeot-CitroŽn choosing to create a new marque but I find it profoundly depressing that they chose the name ‘DS’ for a range of utterly conventional mainstream cars which represent the total antithesis of what the DS, stood for.  In 1955, ‘utterly conventional mainstream cars’ were rear wheel drive, cart sprung, drum-braked, cross-ply tyre equipped, un-aerodynamic machines built on a chassis.   The DS represented a quantum leap (to employ an old but still appropriate clichť) in automotive design – something that is unlikely to ever happen again.

Rather than admit that this is the case, Peugeot-CitroŽn pretend that this new marque harks back to the DS when self-evidently it does no such thing.  Had the decision been made to equip all cars in the marque with hydropneumatic suspension, then an argument could be made for such a hypothetical range of cars to be viewed as some sort of successor to the DS – in which case, why not retain the name CitroŽn?  The DS range could – indeed should – have been given another name Panhard perhaps?  (although I believe that PSA no longer has the rights to that name)  Or Talbot?  Or maybe something totally new.

And not only was the DS technologically ahead of the competition, it looked like nothing else on the road.  The DS range looks to my eyes just like every other marque.

A few years ago, in CAR, Gavin Green quoted the late Geoff Matthews who said, “A new Metro went by me the other day and, to tell you the truth, I thought it was a Citroen AX. And that upset me, because if I can’t tell them apart then what chance has the average motorist got? After all, I designed the AX.”

Geoff went on to say, “It’s pointless asking the general public properly to judge an advanced car. These are people with today’s eyes; what do they know about tomorrow’s cars?  They don’t have the vision to see one step ahead. I know from experience that, if you clinic potential small cars buyers in France, many will be Renault 5 owners: if your new car looks like a Renault 5, you’re flattering their tastes and they’ll probably like it. They feel more comfortable with a car that looks like their own. Clinics can slow progress. Some clinics, of course, are run more professionally than others. You should only take so much notice of a clinic. Some makers take too much.”  I suspect that at Peugeot-CitroŽn, the ultimate clinic is a very conservative Board of Directors and despite most of the ‘Chrysler Europe Gang’ being retired, the paradigm believed by senior management at Peugeot-CitroŽn remains that the unusual loses money. 

Geoff Matthews was fired by Luc Epron for defending a left-field design.  Carl Olsen told me “…the expressed goal of marketing and the Direction was to kill off the traditions of the CitroŽn design philosophy. This gang, from Chrysler Europe, believed that entry level design cars had to be non challenging aesthetically.  As you went up the product range, models could become more challenging - hence the XM which appeared as radical in the market at that time…”

In Stalinesque fashion, only a sanitised version of the past is permitted.  This allows images of the DS to be used for marketing the new marque but without any mention whatsoever of how revolutionary that car was – presumably because the majority of people would then realise that the new marque bears no relationship at all to the star of the 1955 Paris Salon.

All of which begs the question, should my website, CitroŽnŽt cover the DS range?.  If the DS range is to be included, should my site extend its coverage to all marques owned by PSA?  Clearly, those DS models which bear the CitroŽn name and chevrons should be included.

I have decided to provide only minimal and relevant coverage on my site – if the company surprises everyone by launching a hydropneumatic DS or some other, equally revolutionary technology or styling, I will cover the story – although my take on it is likely to be ‘What a pity that this couldn’t be used on a CitroŽn.’


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