PARIS, March 15 (Reuters) - Peugeot maker PSA Group's struggling luxury DS lineup will end a five-year sales slump in 2018, divisional boss Yves Bonnefont predicted, thanks to its new DS7 Crossback SUV and a little help from French President Emmanuel Macron.
Orders for the DS7, which Macron rode to his inauguration last May and again on a recent China visit, are ahead of expectations, Bonnefont said.
Global DS sales should improve this year after slumping 39 percent in 2017, the brand chief added during a group interview hosted by French automotive website AutoK7 late on Wednesday.
"I believe we'll have a better year in 2018," Bonnefont said. February sales numbers released the same day showed a modest 0.5 percent year-on-year increase for the brand.
The modern DS lineup, named after the hallowed 1955 Citroen limousine, was introduced in 2010 with the DS3 mini then neglected amid a 2013-14 cash crisis that almost bankrupted PSA.
Under a turnaround led by group Chief Executive Carlos Tavares, the marque relaunched with its own boutique-style showrooms and new models, of which DS7 is the first. Deliveries begin this month in Europe, followed by China later this year.
PSA has also revamped its joint venture with Chinese state-owned carmaker Changan following a sales slump for all three of its French brands in the world's biggest auto market, where DS sold just 6,000 cars last year.
Macron, who's inaugural ride crashed PSA's servers as web traffic multiplied by 30, went out of his way to help PSA's cause while visiting Beijing in January, Bonnefont said.
"He was very good about it and made sure there was a DS7 involved in his transport plans," he said. "The Chinese insisted that he take an armoured car surrounded by their secret service, but once he got to the embassy he switched." (Reporting by Laurence Frost; editing by Richard Lough)