DS shows the risk of sub-brands

  15 July 2018 - 7:00pm |    John Swift

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Tough call, isn’t it, when a manufacturer for which you hold a franchise says it plans to set up a new brand and expects you to get fully behind it and invest.

The trade is littered with cases where these have failed and valuable showroom space and sales staff which could otherwise have been profitably used selling cars that buyers actually want has instead been squandered on chasing a dream.

Lancia, Daewoo and Chevrolet are three of the recent failures which spring to mind where manufacturers believed all they had to do was bung on a different badge, price and spec the car up from the base model (Lancia from Fiat) or try to rebadge some old stock (Daewoo/Chevrolet with Vauxhall) and expect people to sign the order form.

Some have worked brilliantly. Lexus is a text book case, as is Dacia. They were immediate successes because they were distinctly different from the parent company’s usual cars and had a very strong brand message and identity; luxury from Lexus, ultra budget motoring from Dacia.

Abarth seems on the fringes of success, Infiniti is questionable at best and I know of at least one Ford retailer wondering about the cost/benefit relationship of the Vignale sub-brand to the business.

And now it is the turn of DS, the name Citroen uses for sportier or more luxurious versions of its own-badged cars. It said this week that production has stopped on one model and another will follow by year’s end, effectively removing the mid-range of what retailers can sell, while it sorts out a way of giving DS a stronger identity instead of looking what they are, rebadged Citroens.

I was in a DS dealership earlier this summer and all I could see was windscreen stickers displaying the huge discounts on its unregistered cars. It was a multi-franchise operation and one entire showroom was filled with cars shouting about how much cheaper they had to be to sell.

Distressing the product and the retailer. It’s not the first time it’s happened…

John Swift

Editor

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