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Is the CitroŽn DS a CitroŽn?

Well, there’s a daft question.  It should be self-evident that it is.  Except for when you ask CitroŽn UK* whose answer suggests that it both is and isn’t. 

Of course the CitroŽn world has been vexed by a not dissimilar question – are cars in the DS range CitroŽns?

Is the CitroŽn DS a CitroŽn?

I have already expressed my opinion regarding this latter question.  Since PSA Groupe has decided that DS is a separate, stand-alone marque within the Group, it is nothing more to do with CitroŽn than Peugeot is.  This latter question would, on the face of it, appear harder to answer than the question I posed in the title.  There is an argument that CitroŽn genes run in the new marque.  I happen to think it is a puerile argument since cars don’t have DNA or genes – outside of marketing departments.
So what triggered this idiotic question?  The answer is CitroŽn’s new website that they have launched.  It is called
CitroŽnOrigins.
The site is very slick – click on the car of your choice and you can rotate the view.  There is a very brief summary – number of cylinders – weight – number of cars manufactured – horse power – length and max speed.  Click on a key and you can hear the sound of the engine.  And there’s lots more information – although little of it will be new to members of this club.
So what is the problem? There are two glaring omissions - that quirky aerodynamic thing with all those pipes and funny suspension that goes up and down – the thing launched in 1955 and its offspring – the long coupť with the Italian engine.  However, the Elysťe is featured.  And surprisingly, so are the A Series cars.  Surprisingly since for decades the company has regarded the 2CV as a bit of an embarrassment; a reminder of when CitroŽn design offered original and very effective solutions to the general public at an affordable price.
Several people have asked me what I thought and my response was that it represents a Stalinist rewriting of history.  But then history has never been Peugeot-CitroŽn’s strong point.
An interesting blog by Ian Seabrook entitled
CitroŽn destroys brand loyalty is well worth reading.  Ian makes the point that the “…spinning off of the DS ‘brand’ from within CitroŽn is a triumph of marketing over substance.” And they have now decided to “…airbrush one of its most iconic designs from its history files…” …because “some marketing bod who was born decades later had a blue sky moment and decided it isn’t a CitroŽn anymore.”  He goes on to say that history is being altered to make it easier to sell the “hideous DS range of cars”.
PSA Groupe just doesn’t get it. It has no understanding of the role of heritage presumably because it is difficult to quantify on the bottom line.  And the bottom line is the raison d’Ítre of the business and since income achieved via the use of heritage isn’t readily identifiable, the bean counters assume it has no value.
CitroŽn’s heritage is second to none.  Its impact on the automotive world is unparalleled.  And companies whose impact pales into insignificance in comparison – companies like BMW and Mercedes-Benz – are all too well aware that heritage is important.
Peugeot has always been ambivalent about CitroŽn.  They view it as a wayward and expensive child that they adopted and they view CitroŽn’s customers with contempt.  They are non-conformists who refuse to be fobbed off with bland, stodgy, conventional (but profitable) cars.
Facebook has been full of comments too.  Someone wrote that they had tweeted CitroŽn UK and received the answer that “DS is nothing to do with CitroŽn”.  Affording the benefit of doubt, I think we should conclude that the person who gave this answer had only recently joined the company and had not been briefed properly.
Among the suggestions for the reason for the omissions is that the web designers only had room for a given number of cars so they deleted two of the least interesting models.  (I think this might have been tongue-in-cheek).
So I tweeted CitroŽn UK.  No reply.  So I re-tweeted them.  Again, no reply.  So I asked them on Twitter directly why they found it so difficult to respond.  And one again there was no response.
So I emailed their Press Office.  And all was explained.


Yes, more than happy to explain why the DS and SM don’t appear in this site at the moment.  As you know, DS Automobiles officially became an independent brand on 1 June 2014 and, as a result, the PSA Group now has three separate brands – CitroŽn, Peugeot and DS Automobiles. Today, the ambition of DS Automobiles is to revive the tradition of French premium vehicles, largely inspired by the original DS from 1955. CitroŽn, on the other hand, is at the heart of the mainstream. The brand has a ‘be different, feel good’ philosophy at its heart and is focused on a bold, optimistic and creative approach to automotive design. The original DS was part of the then CitroŽn range and remains a CitroŽn DS, and both modern-day brands are extremely proud of this shared heritage. Clearly it isn’t logical for two separate brands to pro-actively reference the same heritage models, so DS Automobiles will make primary reference to the history and the DNA of the original DS and its spiritual successor, the SM. This has been decided by mutual agreement between the two brands. However, as I have said, CitroŽn and DS Automobiles are both very proud of their shared history and it is fully acknowledged that the original DS was and remains a CitroŽn DS – so, of course, there will always be times when CitroŽn references the ‘classic’ DS and the SM. The CitroŽn Origins website will change and develop over time and the CitroŽn brand is already looking at ways of incorporating these two iconic models into the site in the future. I hope this is all clear?

Well, no, actually it isn’t clear at all.  I don’t understand why “two separate brands cannot pro-actively reference the same heritage models”.  The only reason that this might be a problem is if PSA Groupe wants to suggest that DS Automobiles has nothing to do with CitroŽn and therefore the DS must be expunged from the historical record.  But since the current CitroŽn range has absolutely nothing in common with its forebears that also wore the double chevrons, they might just as well stop trying to kid us that there is any connection.  It would be more honest were they to ignore their pre PSA heritage completely rather than selectively rewriting history.
PSA has adopted the strategy of targeting a new group of customers; people with no affinity for CitroŽn.  And in choosing the name DS for the new premium marque, PSA deliberately made the CitroŽn connection that their target market was reluctant to make. I suspect that this huge marketing monster has forced CitroŽn to wipe the original CitroŽn DS (and SM) from its history in favour of the marketing of the Chinese DS brand.

DS E-tense

I am told that in China the DS and SM have been removed from the CitroŽn chronology and have been inserted into the recent (Chinese) DS history.  The Chinese want the SM heritage because it has to function as the historical basis/heritage for the forthcoming E-tense that DS Automobiles’ management has called 'the new SM'.
Which is a joke, since it really has NOTHING in common with the CitroŽn SM.
There is only one DS.  The bland and uninteresting products of PSA Groupe that are marketed by DS Automobiles have nothing to do with that car.

© 2016 Julian Marsh

SM
Above DS E-tense
Right CitroŽn SM

* I understand that CitroŽn in France and the Netherlands have provided the same answer

7th February 2017 - the French version of the site reinstated the DS and SM; with the English language version following a few weeks later...


Above this is a screenshot of the original iteration of the CitroŽnOrigins website
Below this is a screenshot of the DS and SM entries in the original version


© 2017 CitroŽnŽt