CitroŽn is a French automobile manufacturer, started in 1919 by Andrť CitroŽn.
Originally a mass-market car maker with relatively straight-forward designs, CitroŽn shocked the world in 1934 with the innovative Traction Avant (front wheel drive) (1934-1956). Until the late 1980s the company had a reputation for approaching auto design in a unique way. Later significant models include the H Van (1947-1981, "HY"), 2CV (1948-1990, The "Ugly Duckling"), DS (1955-1975, "Goddess") and CX (1974-1989).
The story of CitroŽn begins with the founder himself: Andrť CitroŽn. After serving in the French army he set up a gearwheel-making business. In 1919, however, it started to produce automobiles, beginning with the conventional Type A .
In 1924, CitroŽn began a relationship with American engineer Edward Gowan Budd. From 1899, Budd had worked to develop pressed-steel bodies for railroad cars, Pullman in particular. Budd went on to manufacture steel bodies for many automakers, Dodge being his first big auto client. In 1928 CitroŽn introduced the first all-steel body in Europe. By 1930, Budd had created a prototype for CitroŽn with a unibody and front wheel drive. It was this prototype that evolved into the Onze LťgŤre and 7 CV traction avant of 1934. These cars would set the pattern to be followed thirty years later by the Mini, Volkswagen and nearly every other manufacturer.
In the beginning the cars were successful, but soon the competitors (who still used wood structure for their bodies) introduced aerodynamic body designs on their cars. CitroŽn had no way to redesign the body of his cars so the cars were perceived as old-fashioned. Despite their style the CitroŽns sold in large quantities, but the low price was the main selling point and CitroŽn experienced heavy losses. That encouraged Andrť CitroŽn to develop the Traction Avant, a car so innovative that the competition would have no response. Achieving quick development of the Traction Avant was of course expensive and contributed to the financial ruin of the company.
CitroŽn also sponsored some expeditions in Asia (CroisiŤre Jaune) and Africa (CroisiŤre Noire), intended to demonstrate the potential for motor vehicles to cross inhospitable regions. The expeditions conveyed scientists and journalists, and were a publicity success.
In 1934 debts meant the company could not continue; it was taken over by its biggest creditor, the tire company Michelin.
CitroŽn unveiled the 2CV at the Paris Salon in 1948.
1955 saw the introduction of the DS, which was the first full usage of CitroŽn's now legendary hydropneumatic suspension system (it was first tested on the rear suspension of the last of the Tractions). The DS featured power-operated steering, brakes, and suspension, and, on their "Citromatic" (CitroŽn's version of a semi-automatic gearbox) the same high-pressure system was used to activate pistons located in the gearbox cover to operate the clutch. This high-pressure hydraulic system would form the basis of many CitroŽn cars in the second half of the 20th century, including the SM, GS, CX, BX, XM and Xantia.
In 1965 CitroŽn took over the French carmaker Panhard, In the hope of using Panhard's expertise in mid size cars to complement its own range of very small, cheap cars (2CV/Ami) and large, expensive cars (DS/ID). In 1967 CitroŽn took control of Maserati, the Italian sportscar maker and launched the sportscar/Grand Tourer SM, which contained a V6 Maserati engine. This was unfortunately timed, with the impending oil crisis making GT manufacture unprofitable.
Huge losses caused by failure of the Maserati tie up, coupled with crippling warranty costs by the unreliable GS and CX led to Peugeot taking over CitroŽn in 1976. The combined company was known as the PSA Group.
In the 1980s, CitroŽn models were increasingly Peugeot-based. The BX of 1982 still used the hydropneumatic suspension system, but was powered by Peugeot-derived engines. By the late 80s, PSA used platform sharing in a major way, the XM was the first, using the same engines and floorpan as the Peugeot 605; the Xantia of 1993 was identical under the skin to the Peugeot 406.
CitroŽn developed a small car for production in Romania, known as the Oltcit, which it also sold as the CitroŽn Axel.
CitroŽn's quirky approach to engineering and styling has been squeezed out in favor of Peugeot conservatism. The ubiquitous 2CV was finally killed off in 1990, production having moved from France to Portugal.
In spite of the problems between Peugeot and CitroŽn, CitroŽn has continued its tradition for innovation, exemplified by new vehicles such as the C2 and the Xsara Picasso. It has even expanded into new markets, for example in China where the C3 and Xsara are alongside the ZX Fukang and Elysťe local models. The introduction of even newer models, such as the long-awaited XM replacement, the C6, indicates CitroŽn's commitment to innovation in the 21st century.
Passenger cars and vans
- P45 (1934-1953)
- 350 to 850 aka Belphťgor
Prototypes and Concept Cars
An old-fashioned nickname for CitroŽn cars is Citron (lemon, in French).
The company's famous "double chevron" logo derives from Andrť CitroŽn's early business in gear-cutting, the company pioneered mass production of double helically-cut gear teeth, which mesh together in a chevron.
CitroŽn is a major competitor in the World Rally Championship. On October 17, 2004, French driver Sebastien Loeb won the Driver's Championship using the CitroŽn Xsara WRC at the Rallye de France.
CitroŽn also investigated in the early seventies the possibility to produce helicopters using the Wankel engines manufactured by its subsidiary Comotor. Some models, like the CitroŽn RE2 , have been flight tested and still exist.
CitroŽn's winners of the European Car of the Year award
Citroen's second and third placed entrants in European Car of the Year award