‘DS is the icebreaker for new technology at Stellantis’

‘DS is the icebreaker for new technology at Stellantis’

interview

The DS car brand has been really going for well over seven years now. Call it a start-up with deep historical roots in the French car industry. At the launch of their new flagship DS9 E-Tense 360, we look together with spokesperson Maigre and project leader Delaire where the slightly more chic Stellantis brand is now.

It is not always easy to interpret the DNA of the DS brand. Leaving aside the eye-catching design features, what is their place among the other Stellantis brands and how do they think they are now?

During the launch of the new DS9 top version E-Tense 360, spokesperson Benjamin Maigre and project manager sports hybrid DS Automobiles Jean-Philippe Delaire give an insight into the French cuisine in a double conversation. Where are they actually located within the Stellantis building? Why, for example, is there a link with Formula E from day one, while DS is still presented as an exclusive luxury brand? “Electrification has been an integral part of our brand philosophy from the start of our brand. Sport is a catalyst as a booster for developments. We are now also translating what we have learned into production, which is why we were one of the first to get on board in 2015.”

If we may be so bold: the PR story from motorsport to the ordinary road rarely really holds? “In this case it is reality. We learn a lot about software and electrical and electronic hardware. It speeds up developments. Also check out the E-Tense Performance prototype we are unveiling here.”

Why production?

Impressive, but we estimate that it has little to do with the production models? “Admittedly, techniques from the formula racing car are mainly used here. Still, that’s functional, because it accelerates our learning curve around hardware and especially software towards the production models in two or three years. It’s there so we can test on the road, as a mobile laboratory. Make no mistake, we will also let the press drive in. There is even know-how from the sport in the DS9 E-Tense 360 ​​and, for example, the electric DS3 Crossback E-Tense. Particularly for optimal regenerative braking and energy management. Those are exactly the aspects that have given us victories in the races as well.”

Aren’t they just standing on the same platform as, say, a Peugeot? Isn’t this a bit of a contemporary version of the old story about the usefulness of motorsport? “In essence, much of the underlying technology is indeed identical, but again: we use modified control systems and software. Specific to DS Performance. There really is a link between competition and production. What we are currently developing for future applications, for example, is optimal cooling of the battery pack to ensure long-term performance. Believe us: that is certainly a lesson from our Formula E experience. You have undoubtedly tested fast cars like the Taycan or Tesla and then you know that peak performance lasts for 20, 30 kilometers and then you are without boost and real power.”

Where is the link?

Not to complain, but a DS really has a different battery than in a racing car. “True, but that is exactly such a subject of research. In the prototype, we are testing new battery technology with a cooling system that actually surrounds the cells. Not just with a cooling plate on the outside. If you want to build an electric sports car – with the specific DS genes – that is a key technique. Together with the aforementioned optimal recovery and improved software, it will provide an edge over the competition. The future of sporty electric cars lies in the software and the cooling.”

Knowing Stellantis CEO Tavares, isn’t he excited to make something special – and we mean precious – just for DS? “Carlos Tavares sees DS as an icebreaker for Stellantis. That will apply to battery technology in the future, but we have already pioneered a lot of things that have flowed to the other brands. Like night vision.”

This raises the question of the unique role of DS among the thirteen brands within Stellantis. It was clear, but now there is also Alfa Romeo and – we assume – Lancia. “Alfa Romeo has a somewhat different connotation with a sporting tradition. DS’s positioning is also based on comfort. We see the DS9 as a Gran Turismo, dynamic and comfortable.”

We reach our own target group. Buyers who are looking for something ‘different’ than the usual – usually German – limousine

Quieter design

A very different topic. With the rebirth of DS, we are overloaded with nods to luxury brands. Focal for the sound system, the traditional clock from BRM, diamond shapes up to the headlights and emphatic design cues from luxury watch brands, such as leather straps in the interior panels and especially in the leather finish. To be honest, we wondered at the time who would buy such a car outside cities like Nice and Paris? In the new DS9s, that seems to have dimmed quite a bit, so the obvious question is: what does the target group look like now?”

Delaire laughs: “You should ask the designer that, but I can guess what he would say now: ‘If you are a young brand you have to shout louder to stand out and present your ‘universe’. Interior and exterior.’ That approach has softened a bit now that we’ve established our name. We reach our own target group. Buyers who are looking for something ‘different’ than the usual – usually German – limousine. A bit like Volvo is propagating the Swedish tradition and we are propagating the French way of driving. We have similar customers. The characteristic finish and design play a leading role in this.”

Performance concept

Back to the prototype for a moment. Does that have real value for the future? “Not as a commercial model, because it is purely our high-performance laboratory. In its design you see aspects that will come back in future DS models. Think of the three-dimensional logo in the front. You have much more design freedom with fully electric cars.”

The obvious question is to what extent the DS Performance studio can play a greater role. The cradle of the DS9 is in the Chinese Shenzen factory, but the new top version has a more French accent? “The DS9 E-Tense 360 ​​is hand-assembled and extensively modified in the workshops of the sports department in Poissy. There the electrically driven rear axle is mounted, the undercarriage radically modified and lowered, the steering is specific and it is mounted on special wheels and tires. It goes without saying that the entire software and control system is specifically designed to manage the system power of 360 hp and 510 Nm. He has a new generation of energy recovery.” All of this is working towards a fully electric flagship, among other things. Part of a previously announced transition to EVs within about four years. In addition to Alfa Romeo and possibly Lancia, it will be quite a puzzle.

Also read:
Stellantis: by 2030 only electric cars in Europe

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