Citroen DS reborn with new DS Inside concept

Published: 05 February 2009

Citroen tonight showed off its new DS concept car, as tipped by CAR Online earlier. The new DS Inside car will be shown at the 2009 Geneva motor show and represents the start of a major rebranding at Citroen, with new model ranges, new design and new customer relations.

The iconic DS badge is being revived for a range of luxurious, ‘near-premium’ models to sell alongside the regular C-badged hatchbacks, saloons and MPV/utility Citroens. Three models will be launched initially in the DS line: the DS3, DS4 and DS5.

While the seminal 1950s DS was a play on the French for déesse, or goddess, the new DS badge stands for Different Spirit, Citroen says. We’ll see the first production cars – the DS3 – in the first half of 2010. The other two DS cars will arrive in 2011.

There’s a reasonably straightforward branding logic at play here. The DS3 will be a cut above the regular C3 supermini, replete with high spec levels and minor changes to bodywork to justify the DS badge. Precisely how different the production versions look will be critical – many punters have long memories for wonkily executed badge engineering exercises in the past. Let’s hope that DS doesn’t merely take over where Exclusive trim left off…

The DS Inside: the concept car

Logically enough, the new DS Inside concept is based around the first DS model, the 2010 DS3. And – surprise, surprise – it’s based on the next-gen C3 hatchback, the next major model line to be replaced by Citroen at this autumn’s Frankfurt motor show. So look closely at those headlamps, that newly redrawn Citroen badge incorporated cleverly into the new grille. These will feature on all future models.

The chevrons have been softened off; they’re more like the contours of a hill than pin-sharp arrows. Black polo-necked types from the Landor branding agency claim the new logo is the first visible sign of change at Citroen. ‘The chevrons have broken free from their frame and become three-dimensional, gaining in strength and body,’ they say. ‘Yes, they’re a bit different, aren’t they – how much did you charge?’ we reply!

But the body language on the DS Inside is demonstrably different – design overlord Jean-Pierre Ploué vows this car ushers in a new era of Citroen style. And as this brand is producing by far the most interesting French cars right now, we’d say that can only be an exciting thing. And there will be six new models in the next three years…

What else is new with this rebranding?

The announcement runs to pages and pages of nitty-gritty, but essentially all you need to know is that Citroen is rebranding everything: its cars, showrooms, even its websites will change from tomorrow morning. Hell, there’s even an uber precise checklist that all salesmen must now adhere to. In fact, if you enter a Citroen showroom and aren’t greeted within three minutes, you could probably sue.

We’ll be adding more to this story as we unravel events announced at the media photocall in Paris tonight. The event marks Citroen’s 90th anniversary and founder André Citroen’s birthday.

Citroen is about to announce a new ‘premium’ branding strategy – and many reports suggest that the iconic DS badge will make a comeback. An announcement is due to be made on Thursday evening at an event on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Industry newspaper Automotive News Europe said the DS badge would be revived ‘for a new range of near-premium models’, as part of a global rebranding campaign.

Citroen is expected to launch a small premium car – dubbed DS3 – at the Geneva motor show on 3 March 2009. It’s tipped for showroom sales in the first half of 2010.

A second DS model, the mid-sized DS4, will then be launched in early 2011, followed by a Citroen C5-sized DS5 in late 2011.

Hang on a minute. Surely they’ll just be rebadged C3, C4 and C5s?

It’s not clear at this stage how different the DS models will be. Citroen is unlikely to invest the billions necessary to build separate models, but it would have to differentiate any hatch-based models wearing the seminal DS badge with some bodywork changes to avoid charges of misplaced badge engineering.

The DS badge was a play on the French word déesse, or goddess, but we hear the newborn DS range will stand for Distinctive Series. Are modern Citroens up to the job? We’d say yes, and having spent the best part of a year in a long-term Citroen C6, we think it’s not a bad stab at a modern iteration.

The original Citroen DS was a technological and style pioneer and was sold between 1955 and 1975. Let’s hope Citroen doesn’t plunder its heritage without treading carefully…

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By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet