The unleashing of the new DS3 is the first major step towards the marque's light reinvention of itself. This small, stylish hatchback is the first of three slightly more upmarket models designed to give Citroen a dash of prestige and move it away from the heavy discount habit it has pursued for years.
Selling cars on price is not viable in the long-term, admitted Citroen insiders at the recent DS3 launch (we could have told them that years ago), which is why the company has been attempting to offer, with varying success, models offering some advantages over the competition.
While the older C4 missed the target, the new C4 and C3 Picasso MPVs are selling well, the bigger C5 is making modest inroads into the fleet market and the company has strong hopes for the new C3 with its unusual Visiodrive big windscreen.
The aim of the DS strategy is to attract customers with the sheer desirability of these models, which are priced a little higher than the models whose innards they are based on. A mix of style and technology – the very qualities that Citroens 30, 40 and 50 years ago were sold on – is the key to these models, the remaining pair scheduled to appear in 2011. Both DS4 and DS5 will feature hybrid-diesel technology, and the DS4 – the counterpart of the C4, which gets replaced later this year – will be a five door cross-over, almost certainly inspired by the dramatic Hypnos concept of 2008.
Despite significantly increasing the size of its range with this trio Citroen is not giving up on the executive segment either. Sales of its big C6 saloon have been disappointingly small, but it will be replaced according to Citroen boss Frederic Banzet, 'with something different.'
It will still be a flagship car, but rather than an executive saloon some kind of cross-over seems possible. Banzet reckons that Citroen needs a flagship model 'to stretch our designers and engineers,' the business of creating a stylish, high-end and technically advanced model benefiting the development of the rest of the Citroen range.