What does the future look like for DS?
If DS starts to sell more cars, you'll see more *new* DS models. If not, well...
"This is not a pure design exercise. What is shown here will become reality." Always encouraging to hear that about a concept car isn't it? This is the boss, too: Beatrice Foucher, CEO of DS, discussing the DS Aero Sport Lounge concept.
"We have two crossovers already and this body type will compliment what we have now," she tells Top Gear. "We will bring aerodynamics onto our new cars, as energy management is a key topic. The aerodynamic shape shows elegance and simplicity, and the car isn't as high as a SUV. It's the best of two worlds."
So it's a slippery kind of crossover. Aero details include a falling roof line, and channels to carry air around the front end and back through the wheels. As an electric car, it can only stretch motorway range by easing past every air molecule as gently as possible.
"We'll propose big cars, either hybrid or electric," she says. Indeed, DS unveiled the production DS 9 PHEV saloon at almost the same time.
The Aero Sport Lounge has a 110kWh 'new generation' underfloor battery and 680bhp of motor. That's a zero to 62 time of 2.8 seconds and 400 miles of range, in theory. Sounds like a company leveraging its Formula E drivers' and constructors' championship wins.
The 'lounge' cabin uses super-fresh materials. They didn't want a wall of touch screens, so the instruments are projected onto a stretched cotton sheet. Straw marquetry decorates the doors. Huh? "The materials and the technology of the screens is promising," says Foucher.
Even if it suffers the usual toning-down between concept and production, the DS Aero Sport Lounge is a whole lot more radical than the DS 9. That one is basically a very luxe version of the Peugeot 508, and frankly it shows. Still, it'll do well in China, and how radical is an Audi A4? What the DS 9 needs is to be refined and well-equipped. And it needs the brand to be credible.
Speaking of which, how is the DS brand progressing? Foucher says the DS 3 and DS 7 Crossbacks are the two best-selling premium models in France, beating all the Germans. Over in the UK it's not so good. Out of every 1000 cars sold here, just two are a DS. But the numbers are strengthening and the selling prices are high.
Foucher says a critical aspect of future growth is to be visible. "Awareness will rise. That supports the growth of each model."
We recently asked PSA's UK boss, Alison Jones, about how DS would build awareness in the UK. She said it would in part be a localised strategy, using prominent dealerships to build a nucleus of cars. "We'll do geo-marketing: build it up in local areas, create hot-spots," she said. "And we now have PHEV and EV which is good for fleet, so we'll market to certain companies, maybe those with an affiliation to France."
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In the past DS has said it would launch a new car every year. Foucher says that's not necessarily still the case. "It's most important we make the most of every new car we launch. Cars benefit from brand building, so the full benefit of the DS 3 Crossback will be in 2020 and 2021.
"The pace of launches afterward will depend on that." So you won't follow it and the DS 9 with the next car until they've had enough impact? "Yes, the cadence will adapt to that. We can't waste what we put on the street." So, if DS grows well, it'll get new cars quickly. If not, not.