New DS boss: on new cars, target growth and customer service
► The DS 9 sedan launches a critical year for DS
► We are talking to new british boss, Jules Tilstone
► Can customer service and EV move the needle?
Two new cars – the DS 9 sedan and DS 4 hatch-cum-crossover – points out that 2021 is a great year for DS Automobiles, a year in which it must truly gain a foothold in the United Kingdom.
A new CEO, Jules Tilstone, who has lived and breathed the brand for six years in key marketing and sales roles in Europe, has that resolute executive air that will shake things up – or leave it all in the forefront. the scene. playing field in case of defeat.
“The blood, sweat and tears are in where we are today,” he begins with measured responses in a low voice. And in the first three months of 2021, we have overtaken Lexus and Jaguar sales in Europe. Not bad for a brand that is only five or six years old, with only two models.
‘Have been [up against] some extremely well-established brands, which have been slow to reach their potential. I don’t think we are doing too badly. But the potential is huge, including in the UK, being the second upscale market in Europe.
We have to talk about the British performance, Jules…
The car sits with Tilstone on the cream leather furniture of DS Leicester, two years after my last venture in a DS store in Manchester. Then there was a feeling of excitement, with 5,074 registrations of the DS 7 Crossback alone in 2018, and the DS 3 Crossback with a purely electric version about to be released.
Yet in 2019 registrations fell to 4,299 units (just 0.19% market share, compared to 1.5% in Europe in 21). And these UK figures are pre-Covid; What didn’t go well?
“There are a lot of factors in there that are difficult to point out as individual elements,” he replies diplomatically. “When I look at how we have been successful in markets outside the UK I think the Store / Salon element is important.
Tilstone refers to the retail network, which in 2019 consisted almost entirely of ‘salons’ – small boutique areas within existing Citroën dealerships, with limited space to showcase models and experience of the Mark. Now the split is roughly 50:50 among the 32 retailers, with more self-sufficient and larger stores – and the ambition to fill an additional 13 territories to expand coverage beyond half the market.
“We lost some momentum at the start of 2020. It’s time, with the arrival of two new products as well as changes to the network and opportunities with companies [fleets and user choosers], for us to speed up. Stellantis, newly formed as a result of the Peugeot-Citroën and Fiat-Chrysler merger, makes it easier for DS to explore the interest of retailers currently selling Fiats, Alfas or Jeeps.
DS: always focused on customer service
DS has always been committed to providing a distinctive customer experience. For example, picking up your DS for servicing and returning it, inviting owners to Harvey Nichols fashion shows or Mademoiselle Macaron digital confectionery classes, and having your own “ concierge ” as your single point of contact.
A new element is DS +, which aims to capitalize on an emerging trend: the desire of certain consumers to reduce the number of domestic cars. After polling 2,000 households, DS found that 36% planned to own fewer cars, if they could access on-demand mobility in the short term. Driving forces include the expectation of fewer trips after Covid, and with more punters choosing electric cars, the requirement of a combustion engine or hybrid alternatives for long trips.
“Buy a DS and you’ll have access to a second or third car on demand through the app,” says Tilstone. The turnaround time is set at 48 hours or less where possible, and a DS 3 Crossback would cost customers £ 48 per day, or less for loans over three days. It’s an interesting take on the concept of shared mobility that the auto industry is grappling with.
And DS9: how does Tilstone expect the sedan?
The DS 9 will arrive in the expanding DS retail network in September. Prices start at £ 40,615 for the Puretech Petrol Performance Line + (see our history of specifications and prices) – undercutting German premium rivals – although lower residuals will inevitably lead to higher monthly rents in the crucial leasing market, despite minimal volumes.
‘We are talking about hundreds and not thousands [of annual registrations]», Explains the general manager. “We’re not going to go into a price war with other high-end brands. There is no pressure on us to increase our market share. ”
Hundreds is only a fraction of the 14,308 BMW UK 5 Series sedan registrations in 2019; more realistic targets are the Lexus ES and Volvo S90 with 1018 and 2189 units, respectively.
Like the Volvo and Lexus models, there is no diesel and a great focus on hybrids: every DS model has an electrified E-Tense version, whether pure EV with the DS 3 Crossback or PHEVs for the other. The brand got into electrification very early on and won the Formula E racing series twice.
Indeed, DS 9 will offer three plug-in hybrids. “We expect 60% of our volume will be PHEV, but I’m interested to see if that’s too conservative.” Business users – who are eligible for a reduction in company car tax – are going to drive this.
You wait years for a new DS, then two come at once
The DS 4 follows the exhaust of the DS 9. The intermediate hatch will open orders in September, with deliveries in the last months of 2021. Is this the revolutionary DS model?
“As manufacturers, you don’t want one car to be your unlocking pin: depending on just one model is a scary concept,” Tilstone says wryly. “But the DS4 will be an important car for us. Your design can be more expressive to stand out in the C segment, and the size of the segment offers opportunities.
The DS 7 Crossback is aging, the DS 3 Crossback has failed to win in the UK, and the DS 9 will be rarer than a spring trip to France. Whether Tilstone likes it or not, the DS 4’s performance next year will tell if its tenure will be associated with failure – or sustained progress.