PARIS – The role of China in Citroen’s future is made clear by the opening of its upscale DS World brand boutique in Shanghai and the arrival of the DS Wild Ruby concept SUV at the Shanghai auto show April 20, prefiguring the first Citroen DS SUV.
The French auto maker was one of the first foreign brands admitted to China in the 1980s, along with Volkswagen, but whereas VW parlayed its beginning into a leadership role with massive investments, Citroen let its market share slip.
However, with the premium DS line getting its own joint venture with Chinese auto maker Changan, and with China more ready than many other markets to accept Citroen as a luxury marque, the auto maker appears to be making up for lost time.
“China is our priority market,” Citroen General Manager Frederick Banzet says at the opening of DS World in China, according to a news release. The DS World in Paris won’t open until later this year.
The first DS concept car, Numero 9, is on display at Shanghai’s DS World boutique, along with the DS 3, DS 3 Cabrio, DS 4 and DS 5.
The second DS concept, Wild Ruby, will be the star of the Citroen stand at the auto show. The brand is tying itself to the tradition of French luxury, and the marketing of the Wild Ruby begins with the statement that it was “conceived in Paris, capital of fashion and jewelry.”
The Wild Ruby was designed to be popular in China, with a longer wheelbase providing extra backseat legroom. The body style is production-ready, although the plug-in gasoline hybrid powertrain will arrive later. The production SUV is certain to have several powertrains, but no one has said how many or what they will be.
However, PSA Peugeot Citroen is developing at its China tech center a gasoline version of the diesel hybrid it is marketing in Europe, in which an electric motor drives the rear wheels and the internal-combustion engine drives the front wheels.
Smaller wheels likely will replace the concept’s 21-in. versions, although the DS logo on the hub could remain on the production model. The concept uses chrome accents around the rear taillights, on the roof rails that dip into the rear liftgate and around the front headlights and grille.
Meanwhile, the PSA-Changan joint venture, CAPSA, has started pre-production at the factory in Shenzhen of the DS 5, the high end of the brand at the moment. It is expected to begin full production after summer.
Future models to be built at the plant are expected to be a 4-door sedan version of the DS 4 and in 2014 the (Wild Ruby) SUV, which would become the new top of the DS line. The French press has evoked the idea of a larger car also to be built in China in the future.
The Shanghai DS World boutique is located on Nanjing Road in a neighborhood that includes stores from French luxury brands Dior and Vuitton and car brands such as Porsche, Ferrari and Maserati.
At the moment, Citroen DS has 26 dealerships in China's major cities and expects to have 70 more by the end of the year.