DS, the luxury brand that was once part of Citroen, has launched into the Irish market. That is giving us something of an appropriately French sense of deja vu, because this isn't the first time that DS has launched in Ireland…
Back in early 2019, DS launched with the DS 7 SUV, a foil for the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. We road tested that very car back then, declaring it handsome, but with arguably too firm a ride quality for a luxury French device, especially one that claimed lineage to the original 1955 Citroen DS.
That launch was, in effect, itself a launch given that DS – as a standalone brand rather than a badge for posh Citroens – had launched in Ireland with the compact DS 3 hatchback, the larger DS 4, and the larger-again DS 5 in 2015.
Then, it all went quiet. While DS was happening for other countries, in Ireland, it was all bit silent-running as no dealer with sufficiently fancy facilities was available. Which brings us to today, and the relaunch of the relaunch – DS is now finally, properly here, and it’s brought back the DS 7 alongside, for the first time, the compact DS 3 Crossback crossover (a model that has been on sale in other markets since 2018).
Prices for the DS 3 – available in either turbo-petrol, turbo-diesel or fully-electric forms – start from €27,995, while the larger DS 7 gets a choice of diesel, petrol, or plugin-hybrid models and a starting price of €41,700.
Later this year, we’ll also get a surprisingly conventional DS 9 four-door saloon (think of it as an Audi A4 rival but with softer springs), and the DS 4. The 4 will arguably be the true starting point for DS when it arrives early next year.
It’s a hatchback-cum-crossover, and will compete with the likes of the Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3. It’s also, equally arguably, the best-looking of the revived DS range (certainly since the cute-as-a-button original DS 3 from way back in 2009) and strikes a distinctively avant-garde pose compared to its rather more dour Germanic rivals.
Will that be enough to shake sufficient Irish car buyers, with sufficient cash, out of their German luxury car trance? It's a tall order – just look at the struggles of the likes of Jaguar and Lexus have had, trying to draw buyers away from the Teutonic triumvirate, not to mention Nissan's Infiniti, which gave up on Europe even before making it to Ireland – but DS' Irish bosses have faith in the brand.
Part of that confidence is born of experience. DS is now, as are sister brands Peugeot, Citroen, and Opel, part of the Gowan Group, and that group's successes with Peugeot in recent years has raised a glimmer of hope that Irish buyers will go French if the products are good enough.
"The real lifeblood of our business is new models, and we're really enthused by what we see that's coming through the pipeline, especially the new DS 4 – that is a really cutting edge product," Des Cannon, Gowan's managing director told The Irish Times.
“I think there’s definitely an opportunity to win some business from the established German brands. It’s no easy task, and it’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re being realistic. Our plans for launching the DS brand, and growing it in a, let’s call it a sustainable and organic way, are not too dissimilar to what we’ve done recently with another French brand. We feel really confident that we can do that in the years ahead.”
Potential buyers are also being assured on the subject of residual values, often a stumbling block for companies wanting to compete with the German luxury Big Three.
“Through our PCP finance packages, we will be underwriting the guaranteed minimum future value of these products” said Stephen McGrath, head of product and pricing for DS Ireland. “We think it’s absolutely integral and crucial that we don’t lose control of the residual value price or allow it to be managed externally.”
"I think it's also important to note that Stellantis [the vast car-making conglomerate brought together by the merger of PSA Group and Fiat, which owns the DS brand] is on record to say the DS has a 20-ear strategy ahead of them, and each brand has been given its own autonomy and budgets to manage" chimes in Cannon.
“So, again, from Gowan Distributors point of view, we are pretty confident in the future the brand.”
For the moment, DS sales will be handled from one location, a special 'DS Store Dublin' which will be part of the Gowan Motors complex on the Navan Road in Dublin. Cannon has alluded to plans to open subsequent stores in Galway and Cork.
“Why can’t you have a French premium brand” asks McGrath, rhetorically. “Not everybody wants the German ones, and there’s that French style that’s very desirable, and very different to the German look.”