Citroen History, Part I – The beginning of an empire

logo_citroen

History, Part I

André Citroën was born in Paris on February 5th 1878. Son of Levi Citroën, a diamond merchant and Amalie Kleimmann, at the age of six Andre loses his father. The name Citroen derives from the dutch word “Limoenman” which in dutch means “Small lemons man”. The name was changed to “Citron” and later on to Citroën after the arrival of the family to France. Andre Citroën was the youngest of 5 children. He lost his mother too in 1899 and his brother Bernard in 1919 in the 1st World War. He graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in 1900. 14 years later Andre marries to Giorgina Bingen who had Italian origin and had 4 children with her; Jacqueline, Bernard, Maxime and Solange. 2 years before his marriage he set up a gear-making company on Quai de Grenelle: La societe des engrenages Citroen. The chevron-shaped teeth gears worked smoothly quietly and efficiently. The company went well. From those gear teeth comes the Citroen emblem in several variations till today.

Andre Citroen

Andre Citroen

In 1913 Citroen took over the Mors Automobile Industry and after the outbreak of the war in 1914 his factory produced ammunition shells for the French government. In sum he produced 50,000 shells per day. 5 years later in 1919 Citroen started to produce cars. He borrowed mass production techniques from Henry Ford in the USA and reached production up to 100 units per day. The cars were complete and didn’t need work by coachbuilders. Citroen also created a dealer network in all over France that could also service the cars. He also provided road signs for the streets of the country. Citroen was a very good employer. He set up medical and dental services in his factory and also a gymnasium.

The first Citroen logo

The first Citroen logo

The first Citroen car was the Type A, 10 hp. It was Europe’s first mass produced car and it was a selling success. Amongst others it had electric lighting and a starter. In 1921 the B2 replaced the Type A and in 1922 the Type C was introduced. The annual production this year was 21,025 cars. In 1924 it was replaced by the B10 which was replaced by the B12 in 1925. The B14 was released in 1926 and two models: the AC4 and the AC6 were released in 1928 followed by the 8 and the 10 later on. The Citroen cars were reliable and strong.

The Citroen Type A

The Citroen Type A

In order to avoid extra import charges on his cars, Citroen built factories in Belgium, Britain, Germany and Italy. He was also keen on advertising of his company. In 1934 Citroen released the well known Traction Avant: the world’s mass produced front wheel drive car. It was low and streamlined with good handling and also safe. In the same year Andre Citroen was removed from the post of the Chairman by the French government due to the financial problems his company faced. The new owner was Michelin and the new Chairman Pierre Michelin who was later replaced by Pierre Boulanger in 1938. Andre Citroen died on the 3rd of July 1935 having created a company that for the next decades would became an empire and help people commute safely cheaply and in style.

The Traction Avant

The Traction Avant

After the 2nd World War governments weren’t in favour of automobile production simply because they needed the resources in more important fields. When the time came though the automobile industries started again to produce cars but this time they were destined to be exported due to the instructions of their governments for earning foreign currency. In 1948 Citroen launched a vehicle that would stay into production until 1990. The legendary 2CV was the vehicle that Citroen had carefully planned. A light, 4 seated, easy to construct and to repair car that could be used even by farmers to carry a barrel or a sack of potatoes on a field. In a larger segment Citroen released Traction Avant 11 CV which stayed onto Production until 1957 and in the most luxury segment Citroen produced Traction Avant 15 CV until the release of the DS 19 in 1955. Whatsoever Citroen did not ignore professional vehicles. In1948 they released the H Van which was a very strong and reliable professional vehicle that sold nearly 500,000 units.

The 2CV

The 2CV

The H Van

The H Van

In December 1950 Pierre Boulanger was killed in an accident and Robert Puisseux became Président-Directeur Général of Michelin and Chairman of Citroen. Citroen and Panhard agreed to combine their forces in their sales network and in 1965 Citroen took control of the Panhard factory in Rheims. 10 years earlier the DS 19 was released. A car unlike any other. It substituted the old fashioned Traction Avant. It had a semi-automatic gearbox, disc-brakes, powered steering and oleopneumatic suspension which used gas and fluid. The body was highly aerodynamic and very advanced for its era. The impact that this car made was huge and thus the orders increased. Whatsoever Citroen realised that to implement mass production techniques to such sophisticated car systems like its oleopnematic suspension was extremely difficult. The car finally wasn’t a commercial success even though Citroen released the ID19 which was a cheaper and simpler version of DS19 and also replaced the Traction Avant 11 CV. The total sales of the DS series are 1,455,746 units from 1955 until 1975.

The DS19

The DS19

In 1958 Pierre Bercot was appointed General Manager and Director of Citroen. Under his command Citroen built a new factory in Rennes. In 1961 the Ami 6 was released which was a car to compete in the middle segment area. Citroen entered into agreement with NSU to built rotary engines and with Peugeot too but this agreement broke up when Peugeot came into agreement with Renault. Then Bercot agreed with FIAT to sell Autobianchi cars in France and Belgium when in the same time FIAT would sell Citroen cars in Italy. That was the PARDEVI deal. In 1968 the company was reorganized under the new name Citroen SA which oversaw Citroen, Panhard and Berliet. In 1968 Citroen also signed an agreement with Maseratti. 2 years later with Maseratti’s experience in high performance engines Citroen built SM, a high performance tourer with 2 engine versions: a 2.6 lt and a 3 lt. In 1968 Claude Alain Sarre became the new Chairman and Managing Director of Automobiles Citroen and oversaw the building of a new factory at Aulnay-sous-Bois. In also the same year the Dyane was released which was the predecessor of the 2CV even though the 2CV continued to be produced until the early 90ies. In 1971, François Rollier was appointed Chairman and Managing Director of Citroën SA and Raymond Ravenel was appointed Managing Director of Automobiles Citroën. One year before Citroen released the technologically advanced GS which was a success in the middle segment market. It had hydropneumatic suspension all around disc-brakes and superb aerodynamics. It also had a new air cooled engine and could accommodate 5 adults with their luggage. The GS won the Car of the year award for 1971.

The SM

The SM

The GS Pallas, 1977

The GS Pallas, 1977

 

REFERENCES:

Books:

1. Title: Dates, Author:Citroen (Firm), Publisher: Neuilly-sur-Seine : Automobiles Citroen, Creation Date: c1996, Language: English

2. Title:Citroën : Daring to be different, Author:John Reynolds 1941 May 31-, Publisher: Yeovil : Haynes, Identifier: ISBN1859608965 (cased);ISBN9781859608968, Creation Date: 2003, Language: English

3. Title:Citroen DS, Author:Malcolm Bobbitt, Publisher: Dorchester : Veloce, Identifier: ISBN1904788300 (cased);ISBN9781904788300, Creation Date: 2005, Format: 192p. : ill. (some col.), photographs ; 26cm., Language: English

Sites:

http://www.citroenet.org.uk/miscellaneous/history/history01.html

http://www.citroenet.org.uk/miscellaneous/history/history02.html

http://www.citroencarclub.org.uk/drupal/node/37

http://www.citroencarclub.org.uk/drupal/node/24

http://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citro%C3%ABn_SM

http://www.hagalil.com/archiv/2011/06/09/citroen/

http://www.citroenet.org.uk/passenger-cars/ac/type-a/type-a.html

http://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%91%CF%81%CF%87%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF:Citroen_GS_Pallas_1977.jpg

http://www.f1news.ru/Championship/2010/100/92.shtml

http://www.citroencarclub.org.uk/drupal/node/38

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