The Citroën DS Numéro 9, which will make its debut at the Beijing auto show, marks a return of luxury French motoring – a segment the nation has shied away from in recent years. This follows the poor sales of cars such as the Renault Vel Satis, Peugeot 607 and Citroën's own C6 beyond the handful of examples commandeered to whisk French politicians between Parisian Arrondissements.
However while the desire for Gallic limos has all but died in their traditional heartlands, the demand for European luxe amongst the growing Chinese bourgeoisie – be it fashion, wine or cars – offers a new lifeline to the French curios we all love other people to own.
Citroën is of course ideally placed to capitalize on this new opportunity; it has the most heritage in this space – think DS, SM, CX, XM – and its DS line of cars is ripe for a halo product.
The huge advantage of tailoring this car to the Chinese market is that the customer demographic is a marketing department's dream – young, wealthy early adopters with a passion for the latest must have. This has clearly allowed Citroën's designers in Paris to break free from the conservatism demanded in the European luxury sedan market and create something genuinely adventurous, interesting and decidedly un-Germanic. From the Louis Vuitton-aping ‘DS' roof texture motif to its caricature long, low and wide proportions (it's 4,930mm long and just 1,270mm high), the Numéro 9 is a clear departure from awkward, over-wrought Metropolis concept of 2009 and demonstrates the ever-increasing design consciousness of the Chinese market.
Its change of format from three-box sedan to a two-box fastback (a true shooting brake has only three doors) also underlines the feeling that China is no longer a sedan-only territory.
If this car reaches the market in this form (we suspect it will) it will surely open the gates for a new generation of hedonistically opulent limos – such as Peugeot's similarly impressive HX1 – the like of which many considered extinct.