Paul Horrell03 January 2013

Will the DS line save Citroen's skin?

Possibly, but only in China. Paul Horrell reports...

Will the DS line save Citroen?

Citroen is surprising even itself with the success of the DS line. So Citroen people are feeling confident when they say there will be three more DS cars. In 2014, a crossover SUV and a mid-size four-door saloon, then the next year a big saloon.

Plus all the current DS models will be upgraded, and be given the new face which will go onto those three big entrants. It's pretty much the same as what was on the gorgeous DS Numéro 9 concept shown at the Beijing show nine months ago. It consists of a brushed metal grille surround that sweeps into a pair of lateral wings. The lamps surround those wings in a C-shape.

OK, put up your hand if you drive a French big saloon or crossover. Or indeed a mid-size saloon of any brand except Audi, BMW or Mercedes. Frankly, Citroen's upward expansion of the DS line looks like a hiding to nothing.

Until you say one word. China. China will account for most of these big DSs, and by 2015 is expected to be the number one world market for DS. Citroen is building a factory there that will open by building DS5s, and add the crossover and saloon. They all use the same platform. The crossover will get 4WD through an electric rear motor like the DS5 Hybrid4.

The crossover would quite possibly sell OK in Europe. Several manufacturers who can't get anywhere with big saloons find they have done quite nicely with a crossover. VW couldn't give Phaetons away but has had a success with the Touareg. Honda's Legend stiffed and the Accord is a slow mover, but the CR-V is a runaway success. Lexus: no joy with the GS, but convoys of RXs sold.

But even so, we probably won't see the DS crossover, at least for a time. For a French manufacturer to bring in a vehicle from China would mightily p*** off the unions and politicians in France, after the company announced it wants to close its giant Aulnay plant just outside Paris. Unless Citroen tools up to build it in Europe too, it'll never come here.

Still, what are they like, these cars you can't have? The DS Concept 9 is massively wide and low, too much for production. But its looks will influence the big saloon. Other design elements you'll see on the crossover and saloons include a variation of the DS3's shark's-fin pillar treatment, and a brushed metal blade defining the edge of the roof. It's there in the DS5 already, and visible too on the Numéro 9.

But the elements will be juggled. The shark-fin pillar might be the C-post rather than the B-post, and the metal blade might run to the rear of the car, not the front. So they'll be recognisable as DS, but not different-sized clones.

The DS range is already helping get Citroen out of a big financial hole. On average, they sell for more than £4000 over and above what people pay for a Citroen C-model of the same size. They've sold 300,000 DS3s, DS4s and DS5s so far. Encouragingly, it's 65 percent conquest sales, ie from people who've had something other than a Citroen before. Very good business.

Now share it...

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear's code of conduct (link below) before posting.