Is the CitroŽn DS a CitroŽn?
there’s a daft question. It should be self-evident that it
is. Except for when you ask CitroŽn UK* whose answer suggests
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?
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
answer than the question I posed in the title. There is an
that CitroŽn genes run in the new marque. I happen to think it is
puerile argument since cars don’t have DNA or genes – outside of
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
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
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
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
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
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