The DS7 Crossback - Defining French Luxury
Why the DS7 Crossback presents a new age in French automotive design
With the imminent arrival of the DS7 Crossback, I have been wondering what actually is in store for this new brand. Certainly, they have the ideas to create some truly interesting cars within a segment which excels itself in being conservative.
It is no secret that PSA intends the DS brand to go toe-to-toe with the oft-mentioned German trinity, and produce a premium contender which is more Parisien and less Munchner. The aim is to take the chic elegance of French design and fashion, and translate it into a fashionable car brand. The reasoning being that the current crop of premium executive manufacturers present no real style and elegance, but merely focus on the same formula of technology and faux leather, and sell it as a premium product. DS wants to do something more, and build cars which have a real air of luxury about it. The DS5 got the ball rolling with its "watchstrap" leather seats, cockpit style dashboard and analog clock, but the DS7 Crossback takes the luxury feel up to 11.
Image from dsautomobiles.co.uk
The full leather dashboard, the TFT screens, the aluminium switchgear and the BRM clock are just some of the details to fulfil this French ideal. However, PSA knows all to well the struggle which it faces in producing a contender within the premium market. In the mid-2000s, there was a strong push to take on the German trio, with the Peugeot 607 and the Citroen C6. Even that other French manufacturer, Renault, gave it a shot, with the Vel Satis and the Latitude. However all of these cars failed miserably in their brief, at least, outside France. The 607 became the taxi driver's car of choice, the Vel Satis and Latitude struggled to make an impact outside France and the C6, for all its magnificence, was only bought by Citroen enthusiasts.
So what makes today's situation with DS any different? Why go to the expense of contending in a market you already failed in ten years ago? Perhaps, from an accounting perspective, the potential gains from such a market success are too attractive to ignore. That is not something I can comment on, but what I will say is that this new wave is certainly a more interesting approach than that which its predecessors had ten years ago. PSA are taking a leaf out of Volvo's book, by choose to stick to their roots, and do what they know best. As a Swedish brand, Volvo chose to build their cars in a very Swedish manner, opting for exceptionally clean lines, and quiet style, and it works. PSA wants to do the same as Volvo and take the DS and make it THE premium French manufacturer.
France, and especially Paris, is the city of romance, fashion and opulent design. So DS is taking that approach with their cars. In fact, DS doesn't refer to the place where the DS7 Crossback was designed as a design studio, but as an "atelier", referencing that this DS7 is less of an engineering masterpiece and more of an artistic masterpiece with a more concentrated focus on craftsmanship. This was especially noteworthy in the PR which DS came up with in preparing a DS7 Crossback for the swearing in of the new French President, Emanuel Macron. They made a video showing off the extra detail which the President's DS7 was given to make it that bit more extravagant. The result was a stylishly elegant ink-blue DS7 with touches of gold leaf dotted across the car, both inside and out.
So, the question is, will all this work? Heaven knows, but I hope it does. As someone very interested in this segment of the market, I will admit that DS as a brand presents a very interesting proposition. The Germans are stuck in a rut designing the same cars year after year, and to anyone who wants something new and different, DS may very well present them with a car suitable to their needs. Whether enough people will opt for DS enough to help PSA earn a decent profit out of the DS brand, remains to be seen.