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The History of Citroen

The life of French vehicle manufacturer Citroën began in 1919, when industrialist and French national André-Gustave Citroën, born in 1878, embarked on a mission to become the very first mass-producer of cars outside of the United States of America.
At the age of 27, and after a few steady years of building experience in the automobile industry, André founded André Citroën & Cie.

He spoke often of his admiration of the work of Henry Ford, who revolutionised the use of assembly lines in the USA at the beginning of the 20th Century and he subsequently took as few as eight years to establish his company as the biggest car manufacturer in Europe and the 4th biggest on the planet.

In the beginning, André began to develop artillery for the French military in World War I. However, he was all too aware of the need to consider post-war products and cars were a speciality. He therefore aimed to use his factories to produce affordable and well-equipped vehicles for the public instead and spoke of the desire to eventually build up to 1000 cars a day.

By 1920 the company had produced 20,200 Citroën vehicles. He slowly became one of the leaders of vehicle innovation, which has led to the adoption of its long-term slogan "Créative Technologie”. This slogan was particularly well suited for the development of things like the Type A in 1919, which emerged around the same time as post-war peace and took influence from fellow motor entrepreneurs. Similarly, the Traction Avant, the world’s very first front-wheel drive car produced for the public, certainly seemed creative to the world. Some 50 years later, Citroën would develop movable headlights to improve vision on difficult roads, proving an ongoing lust for innovation.

André-Gustave Citroën was a prolific gambler and experienced bankruptcy of his company. After close negotiations with General Motors, which eventually fell through for financial reasons (leading to some assistance in funding from the bank Lazard), many exciting, innovative and independent years followed for Citroën.

In 1921, Citroën taxis could be seen in the Parisian streets. In 1925, a Citroën 5CV Type C Torpedo became the first car to travel around Australia; a journey that took four months. This iconic moment of the early years of the company was matched when André rented France’s most iconic structure, the Eiffel Tower, for nearly a decade and decorated the side of the tower with the company’s name using 250,000 lights. He also wrote his name in the sky over the city. During the 1930s, Citroën developed the types 9, 10 and 15, which were known for their ability to travel colossal distances.

In 1955 Citroen unleashed the DS; a model complete with a ground-breaking disc brake system, which would spawn a generation of future DS models. Today the DS series includes some instantly recognisable names – such as the highly popular DS3 – and has had cameos in the likes of The Rugrats, Back to the Future and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

André died in 1935 of stomach cancer. Citroën was taken over by tyre manufacturer Michelin and, as an integral part of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group today, Citroën celebrated its 90th Anniversary in 2009.


published: 26/06/2014 17:00:00

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