In a little less than a month, the Geneva Motor Show will reveal a much-awaited French car: the big DS sedan. Whether DS8 or DS9, this new silhouette will be the only PSA Group representative at the Swiss show, as Citroën and Peugeot will not be present. But DS is definitely not an easy task because of… coronavirus!
Here we see the coronavirus epidemic in China through the lens of the automotive industry. This endemic, which is (for the time being?) much less deadly than the so-called classic flu (!), will have lasting effects on the world automobile markets. The Chinese market is obviously the first to be affected. It is all the more sensitive as it has just experienced two successive years of falling car sales.
Another area impacted next is the supply chain, whether on the import (low) or export (high) side. If we zoom in with our lens, there is one French automotive group particularly affected: PSA, even if, with a production capacity of more than one million vehicles with five plants in China, PSA has not exceeded 250,000 units produced there in 2018.
Carlos Tavares has therefore tackled this major challenge with no hesitation, pragmatism and, hopefully, success in the near future. By selling the shares of CAPSA – its factory inaugurated in 2013 in Shenzhen and dedicated to the sole production of DS models – to a Chinese manufacturer and thus, by getting rid of the factory that produces the new DS9, one could have feared the worst. But production of the large DS sedan would be outsourced to the factory, which would also be responsible for the manufacture of future models, such as the DS4 Crossback and DS4 sedan.
But PSA is not only based in Shenzhen, it is also the famous Wuhan-3 factory inaugurated in 2013 that produces the other models of the group’s brands. Since the deadly virus has spread, many large factories have been ordered to remain closed until the end of this week as a first step. And Shenzhen as well as Wuhan-3 are obviously affected. PSA is not the only one impacted in this region of eastern China, since there are production sites of General Motors, Nissan, Renault, Volkswagen and Honda in this confined area.
The question that is being asked a month away from Geneva and the presentation of the DS8 (DS9) is simple: will the manufacturer have cars to present on the European continent knowing that this great sedan is produced in Shenzhen? Unofficially, there is at least one copy of the DS8 (DS9) in Europe. Will others be able to arrive from a country that is closed in on itself for health reasons? The question is raised when it is known that Hyundai has taken the decision to suspend production in its South Korean factories because supplies of spare parts from China have been blocked because of the coronavirus.
Fortunately in its misfortune, DS also plans to reveal a new concept car at the Geneva Motor Show (three details below). We can of course count on the DS brand teams, with Béatrice Foucher at its head and its new Marketing and Communication Director, in the person of Bastien Schupp (above), to drop the mask in a month’s time and celebrate, at last, the arrival of the long-awaited big sedan! But in the face of China’s strict health regulations, will a few examples of the big sedan be able to cross the borders, yes or no? Answer in less than a month…