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First look: Citroen’s Mini-style DS

It's a Citroen: the new-generation DS reveals the French car-maker's new look.

Niche hatchback and new logo kicks off Citroen’s plan to reinvent itself

6 Feb 2009

CITROEN has revealed the first in a new line of models that will be at the forefront of a “wholesale reinvention” of the Citroen brand aimed at restoring its desirability.

The French car-maker revealed the near-production Mini Cooper-style DS3 in Paris as a concept yesterday – on the birthday of company founder Andre Citroen – ahead of its public debut at next month’s Geneva motor show.

It is expected to go on sale globally in early 2010.

While technical details were scant at the Paris ceremony, the new car is understood to be based on the platform of the Citroen C3 supermini and its Peugeot 207 cousin.

Officially called the DS Inside Concept, the concept might carry a name associated with the 1960s, but it kicks off a modernisation project to revamp showrooms, improve quality and customer service and refresh the chevron logo for the first time in more than half a century.

33 center image Citroen – the smaller of the two companies making up France’s biggest car-maker, PSA Peugeot Citroen – will launch six new models over the next three years, with one arriving every six months.

This will include three vehicles in the niche DS (which stands for ‘Distinctive Series’) line, starting with the B-segment DS3 in 2010.

A mid-size DS4 will follow in 2011 and a larger DS5 – thought be styled after the classic Citroen SM estate of the 1970s – is expected to be launched in 2012.

Although the DS name invokes memories of Citroen’s classic DS19 saloon from 1955, it is described as “a breakthrough strategy to create rarity within the mass market”.

The three new DS models will be positioned above Citroen’s equivalent mainstream cars, which continue as normal and are designed to help lift a perceived flagging brand image.

A Citroen marketing insider said DS models could achieve 25 to 40 per cent of the sales of their equivalent mainstream models and attract different buyers, providing Citroen with additional volume as well as brand kudos.

The DS3 is expected to be priced “between that of a standard Citroen car and that of a more specialised vehicle”.

“Our analysis is that, as we progress, people will be less and less ready to pay high prices for a beautiful object,” the insider told Reuters.

“Our idea here is to propose an object, then two, then three, that is very strong on design ... but does not seek to imitate the classic attributes of premium vehicles.” The DS was known as the “deesse” in French (“goddess” in English) because of a pun on its initials and rivalled the famous Deux Chevaux as an emblem of French motoring between 1955 and 1975.

The original DS was designed by Flaminio Bertoni and made headlines at the 1955 Paris motor show with its futuristic low-slung body and advanced hydropneumatic suspension. It became the car of French presidents and was made famous by films such as The Day of the Jackal.

Coincidentally, British magazine Classic and Sports Cars just this week declared the DS “the most beautiful car of all time”, ahead of the Jaguar XK120, Ferrari 275GTB, Jaguar E-Type and Lamborghini Miura.

Magazine editor James Elliott said he was surprised by the result of the poll, which surveyed 20 of the world’s leading car designers, including Paul Bracq, Ian Callum, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Patrick Le Quement, Gordon Murray and Peter Stevens.

“The Citroen is a benchmark design, but we were still astonished that it came out on top when you look at the sexiness – and values – of some of its rivals,” said Mr Elliott. “Apart from the Mini, it’s by far the most affordable car to get any nominations at all.” Bertone design legend Marcello Gandini, who designed the Lancia Stratos and Lamborghini Countach – neither of which made the top 10 – and also sat on the voting panel, said his view has changed about the DS.

“At the time I think it was complete folly, madness from a business and industrial point of view,” said Mr Gandini.

“It was a really innovative car in 1955. A few people may have thought of all those beautiful ideas, but it was real bravery to implement all of them in one car.” ItalDesign legend Giorgetto Giugiaro described the CS as “the only example of a car really conceived ‘outside the box’ – it is just impossible to imitate”.

While the new DS3 is unlikely to engender such praise, the concept car’s styling includes some interesting design elements such as a semi-concealed B-pillar.

The DS also presents Citroen’s restyled logo for the first time.

Developed jointly by Citroen and an international branding company, the company said the logo is the first visible sign of change.

“The chevrons have broken free from their frame and become three-dimensional, taking on relief and gaining in strength and body,” said the company.

“Bridging Citroen’s past and future, the colour red is used for the new brand name typography. The red assumes a new, deeper tone.” The company’s advertising globally will carry the line “Créative Technologie” in French, just as Audi uses “Vorsprung durch Technik” (advancement through technology).

Citroen’s 8000 dealerships globally will be revamped over the next three years with a new architecture concept selected from 12 short-listed projects by a jury as part of an international competition.

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