Citroen is commonly acclaimed for introducing the first front-wheel-drive production automobile. That would be quite a difference, but the fact is it’s not true. Cord, Ruxton and Gardner all proposed production front-wheel-drive automobiles several years before Citroen joined the party. The importance of Citroen’s involvement is not that it was first with front-wheel-drive, but that it was the first company to make front-wheel-drive a true success. Unfortunately, that victory came almost simultaneously with Andre Citroen’s death, so the legendary French auto magnate never got to enjoy the fruits of his gamble.
Henry Ford of France
By the way, there is no doubt, that Andre Citroen was a gambling man. The son of a Dutch diamond broker, Citroen was born in 1878 and by the time he reached the age of 25, he was a force to be taken seriously in French industry. After graduating from technical college, he obtained a license for a Russian process of machining gear teeth and, license in hand, set up a machine works. The gears rapidly gained a reputation for silence and strength, and Citroen’s business, which he manage with great vigor, became very profitable. Soon the prominent French automobile producer Mors asked him for technical assistance, his first foray into the car industry. Read more . . .
Without doubt there is a huge gap between a luxury car and an economy car, but a far bigger gap exists between an economy car and no car at all. And that is precisely the gap Pierre Boulanger wanted to bridge with the improvement of the Citroen 2CV, the fabled and much-maligned Deaux Chevaux.
Andre Citroen succeeded in bringing mass production to the French auto business. With his A Model and then the 5CV Trefle, the visionary leader opened the probability of owning an automobile to many who could have never considered it before his arrival. But then, the Great Depression knocked the wind from his company’s sales, and not even the well known Traction Avant could put its house back in order. Soon before he passed away in 1935, he was forced to sell the control of his company to Michelin, and at his death he was very unsure about its survival. Read more . . .
It might be difficult to imagine now, more than 30 years later, but in 1972, a French-designed and built automobile was extensively regarded as the best car in the world. If one discounts the Panhard et Levassor models of the early 1900s, this might be the one and only time a French car was acknowledged as the best on the globe, and that is unsurprising since French cars usually enjoy the same esteem granted to Mexican banking practices and Scottish cuisine. How did the planets sided in favor of the Citroen SM? Well, that is an interesting story indeed. Read more . . .