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DS luxury brand remains on Aussie agenda

Seven up: All-new models such as the DS7 luxury SUV currently being rolled out in Europe are on the agenda for sale in Australia, but not before PSA and its local distributor Inchcape reconsolidate the Peugeot and Citroen brands here.

Peugeot, Citroen turnaround the top priority for PSA/Inchcape but DS set to follow

Citroen logo6 Feb 2018

By TERRY MARTIN

PSA Group remains committed to reintroducing the DS luxury brand to Australia but may not lock in a timetable this year for its rollout – as was originally intended when Inchcape Australasia took over local distribution from Sime Darby eight months ago.

PSA’s head of operations for the India-Pacific region, Emmanuel Delay, told GoAuto there was no question about eventually bringing the luxury brand back to Australia but that the French car-maker was backing Inchcape’s quest to first turn around the struggling Peugeot and Citroen brands.

Mr Delay said there was nothing in the current five-year agreement between PSA and Inchcape that enabled the independent distributor to resist bringing DS here, and that when the decision was finally made – whether this year or next – steps would be then taken to launch the brand here as soon as practicable.

However, he emphasised that “we don’t have urgency to make a decision”.

“We want to go step-by-step, we want to make sure that the business that exists today can turn around,” he said.

“As I said, I think that we have good signs, we want to give the time to our partnership with Inchcape to take form, we want to see signs of traction, good momentum for Peugeot and Citroen, before we add a third brand to the challenge.

“We don’t have to make a decision in 2018 even though it is our original intention, but if we have to delay the decision for good reasons, we will do that.”

Asked whether PSA nonetheless expected DS to be launched in Australia, Mr Delay said: “Yes, but to be honest with you, the reference scenario that we have with Inchcape is that DS is not part of the, let’s say, scope perimeter at the beginning.

“Not because there is a doubt – I mean, there is no doubt that if we bring DS back to Australia, it would be through Inchcape, there is nothing else in mind – but at the same time we don’t want to precipitate things.

“We want to go slowly and we want both sides to feel comfortable once we have a good business model in mind, then we’ll go ahead.

“All the things that we do, that we try out with Peugeot and Citroen, will be lessons for us to refine our plan for DS. And we want to take the time to do that.”

PSA previously sold the Citroen C3-based DS3 light hatch and convertible, the C4-based DS4 small hatch and the larger DS5 liftback under Sime Darby, but the brand’s presence in Australia petered out as the French car-maker and its distribution partner accepted the need to focus on rebuilding the Peugeot and Citroen brands before piling resources into DS.

The company is continuing to build the DS brand internationally, with the recent launch of the DS7 Crossback SUV adding to a burgeoning range that also includes the DS5 LS and DS6 – and is sure to extend to other key SUV and passenger car segments with a blend of powertrains spanning mainstream, high performance and electrification.

Any Australian launch will require a major investment from the factory, distributor and retail network and, as other companies such as Nissan has found with Infiniti, the road can be a difficult one to travel.

“We have products – DS7 is a new product that we are launching right now in Europe – so if we wanted to bring this model to Australia it won’t take five years,” Mr Delay said.

“(But) to be honest, we are open-minded. It would be worse for us if our turnaround on Peugeot and Citroen is not progressing at a reasonably good pace.

That would be the biggest concern for us.

“We want to go through that first hurdle, together with Inchcape, and if in parallel to that we can study, and get comfortable that we have a good case for DS, we’ll go ahead with it. But we don’t want to force ourselves to go faster than we can, so let’s learn to walk before we run, right.”

Peugeot Citroen Australia managing director Anouk Poelmann echoed those sentiments, telling GoAuto “we have so many building blocks” and that DS was a lower priority than the rebuilding of Peugeot and, in a strategy still to be detailed, Citroen.

“We are very focused, and very determined, on building the Peugeot brand, doing things right for Peugeot … and you just cannot do everything at once – we cannot and a dealer cannot,” she said.

“So we have to manage all those opportunities at the right time, and when we do it, we have to do it the right way, and not just for the sake of it, or doing things too fast, so we have to do it properly.

“If we would be launching the DS brand, then we will be doing it in the right way, in a way that we believe we can do it successfully.

“We represent the PSA brands in Australia, but at the moment we are determined to make a success out of Peugeot.”

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