The Citroen DS is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive executive car that was manufactured and marketed by the French company Citroen from 1955 to 1975 in sedan, wagon/estate and convertible body configurations. Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni and the French aeronautical engineer Andre Lefebvre styled and engineered the car. Paul Mages developed the hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension.
It also posited the nation's relevance in the Space Age, during the global race for technology of the Cold War. Structuralist philosopher Roland Barthes, in an essay about the car, said that it looked as if it had "fallen from the sky". An American advertisement summarised this selling point: "It takes a special person to drive a special car".
Because they were owned by the technologically aggressive tire manufacturer Michelin, Citroen had designed their cars around the technically superior radial tire since 1948, and the DS was no exception.
The DS was successful in motorsports like rallying, where sustained speeds on poor surfaces are paramount, and won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1959. In the 1000 Lakes Rally, Pauli Toivonen drove a DS19 to victory in 1962.
In 1966, the DS won the Monte Carlo Rally again, with some controversy as the competitive BMC Mini-Cooper team was disqualified due to rule infractions. Ironically, Mini was involved with DS competition again two years later, when a drunk driver in a Mini in Sydney Australia crashed into the DS that was leading the 1968 London„Sydney Marathon, 98 miles from the finish line. The DS was still competitive in the grueling 1974 London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally, where it won over 70 other cars, only 5 of which even completed the entire event.
The 1955 DS cemented the Citroen brand name as an automotive innovator, building on the success of the Traction Avant, which had been the world's first mass-produced unitary body front-wheel-drive car in 1934. In fact, the DS caused such a huge sensation that Citroen was apprehensive that future models would not be of the same bold standard. No clean sheet new models were introduced from 1955 to 1970.
The DS was a large, expensive executive car and a downward brand extension was attempted, but without result. Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s Citroen developed many new vehicles for the very large, profitable market segments between the 2CV and the DS, occupied by vehicles like the Peugeot 403, Renault 16 and Ford Cortina, but none made it into production. Either they had uneconomic build costs, or were ordinary "me too" cars, not up to the company's high standard of innovation. As Citroen was owned by Michelin from 1934 to 1974 as a sort of research laboratory, such broad experimentation was possible. Michelin was getting a powerful advertisement for the capabilities of the radial tire Michelin had invented, when such experimentation was successful.