Founded in 1919 by French industrialist André-Gustave Citroën (1878–1935), Citroën was the first mass-production car company outside the USA and pioneered the modern concept of creating a sales and services network that complements the motor car. Within eight years Citroën had become Europe's largest car manufacturer and the 4th largest in the world.Reynolds, John. "André Citroën: Engineer, Explorer, Entrepreneur". (J H Haynes & Co Ltd) Revised edition (25 August 2006) Page 63
Citroën earned a reputation for innovation and revolutionary engineering, which is reflected in the company's slogan "Créative Technologie". Its history of innovation began with its founding, when André-Gustave Citroën introduced the first industrial mass production of vehicles outside the United States, a technique he developed while mass-producing armaments for the French military in World War I. In 1924, Citroën produced Europe’s first all-steel-bodied car, the B-10. In 1934, Citroën secured its reputation for innovation with its Traction Avant, not only the world's first mass-produced front-wheel drive car, but also one of the first cars to feature a monocoque-type body.Reynolds, John. "André Citroën: Engineer, Explorer, Entrepreneur". (J H Haynes & Co Ltd) Revised edition (25 August 2006) inside cover In 1954 Citroën produced the world's first hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension system, then in 1955 the revolutionary Citroën DS, the first European production car with disc brakes. In 1967, Citroën introduced the first swiveling headlights in several models, allowing for greater visibility on winding roads.
The brand celebrated its 90th Anniversary in 2009.
That same year, André Citroën briefly negotiated with General Motors on a proposed sale of the Citroën company to GM., p. 317. The deal nearly closed, but GM ultimately decided that its management and capital would be too overstretched by the takeover. Citroën thus remained independent for many years to come.
Citroën was a keen marketer—he used the Eiffel Tower as the world's largest advertising sign, as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. He also sponsored expeditions in Asia (Croisière Jaune), North America, (Croisière Blanche) and Africa (Croisière Noire) intended to demonstrate the potential for motor vehicles equipped with the Kégresse track system to cross inhospitable regions. The expeditions conveyed scientists and journalists.
Demonstrating extraordinary toughness, a 1923 Citroën that had already travelled was the first car to be driven around Australia. The car, a 1923 Citroën 5CV Type C Torpedo, was driven by Neville Westwood from Perth, Western Australia, on a round trip from August to December 1925. The car is now fully restored and in the collection of the National Museum of Australia.
In 1924, Citroën began a business relationship with American engineer Edward G. Budd. From 1899, Budd had worked to develop stainless steel bodies for railroad cars, for the Pullman in particular. Budd went on to manufacture steel bodies for many automakers, Dodge being his first big auto client. At the Paris Motor Show in October 1924, Citroën introduced the Citroën B10, the first all-steel body in Europe.
The cars were initially successful in the marketplace, but soon competitors (who were still using a structure for their bodies) introduced new body designs. Citroën did not redesign the bodies of his cars. Citroëns still sold in large quantities in spite of not changing the body design, but the car's low price was the main selling point and Citroën experienced heavy losses.
In 1927, the bank Lazard helped Citroen by bringing new, much-needed funds as well as by renegotiating its debt—for example, by buying out the SOVAC. It went even further by entering in its capital and being represented at the board. The three directors sent by Lazard were Raymond Philippe, Andre Meyer, and Paul Frantzen.
In an attempt to remedy the situation, Citroën developed the Traction Avant. The Traction Avant had three revolutionary features: a unitary body with no separate frame, front wheel independent suspension, and front wheel drive. Citroën commissioned Budd to create a prototype, which evolved into the 7-horsepower (CV), Traction Avant of 1934.
Pierre-Jules Boulanger had been a First World War air reconnaissance photography specialist with the French Air Force. He was capable and effective and finished the war having risen to the rank of captain. He was also courageous, having been decorated with the Military Cross and the Legion of Honour. He started working for Michelin in 1918, reporting directly to Édouard Michelin, co-director and founder of the business. Boulanger joined the Michelin board in 1922. He became president of Citroën in 1937 after the death of his friend and kept his position until his death in 1950. In 1938, he also became Michelin's joint managing director.
During the German occupation of France in World War II Boulanger refused to meet Dr. Ferdinand Porsche or communicate with the German authorities except through intermediaries. He organised a "go slow" on production of trucks for the Wehrmacht, many of which were sabotaged at the factory, by putting the notch on the oil dipstick in the wrong place, resulting in engine seizure. In 1944 when the Gestapo headquarters in Paris was sacked by the French Resistance, his name was prominent on a Nazi blacklist of the most important "enemies of the Reich" to be arrested in the event of an allied invasion of France. ξ1
Citroën researchers continued their work in secret, against the express orders of the Germans, and developed the concepts that were later brought to market in the 2CV and DS. These were widely regarded by contemporary journalists as avant garde, even radical, solutions to automotive design. This began a period of unusual brand loyalty normally seen in the automobile industry only in niche brands, like Porsche and Ferrari. The cult-like appeal of the cars to Citroënistes took almost two decades to fade, from 1975 to about 1995.
Citroën was undercapitalised, so its vehicles had a tendency to be underdeveloped at launch, with limited distribution and service networks. For both the important DS and CX models, development of the original engine around which the design was planned proved too expensive for the finances available, and the actual engine used in both cases was a modest and outdated four-cylinder design.
Citroën unveiled the 2CV—signifying two fiscal horsepower, initially only —at the Paris Salon in 1948. The car became a bestseller, achieving the designer's aim of providing rural French people with a motorized alternative to the horse. This car remained in production, with only minor changes, until 1990 and was a common sight on French roads until recently.
1955 saw the introduction of the DS, the first full usage of Citroën's now legendary hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension system that was tested on the rear suspension of the last of the Tractions. The DS was the first European production car with disc brakes.
The DS featured power steering, power , and power suspension, and—from 1968—directional headlights. A single high-pressure system was used to activate pistons in the gearbox cover to shift the gears in the transmission and to operate the clutch on the Citromatic, Citroën's semi-automatic transmission.
This high-pressure hydraulic system would form the basis of many Citroën cars, including the SM, GS, CX, BX, XM, Xantia, C5, and C6. These vehicles shared the distinguishing feature of rising to operating ride height when the engine was turned on, like a "mechanical camel" (per Car & Driver magazine). A lever beside the driver's seat allowed the driver to adjust the height of the car; this has now been replaced by an electronic switch. The height adjustability of the suspension allows for clearing obstacles, fording shallow (slow-moving) streams, and changing tires. This type of suspension is uniquely able to absorb road irregularities without disturbing the occupants.
During Citroën's venture with Maserati, the Citroën high-pressure hydraulic system was used on several Maserati models, for power clutch operation (Bora), power pedal adjustment (Bora), pop-up headlights (Bora, Merak), brakes (Bora, Merak, Khamsin), steering (Khamsin), and the entire Quattroporte II prototype, which was a four-door Citroën SM under the skin.
Citroën was one of the early pioneers of the now widespread trend of aerodynamic automobile design, which helps to reduce fuel consumption and improve high-speed performance by reducing wind resistance. The firm began using a wind tunnel in the 1950s, enabling them to create highly streamlined cars such as the DS that were years ahead of their time. So good were the aerodynamics of the CX that it took its name from the term used to measure drag coeffient: .
That year Citroën took over the French carmaker Panhard in the hope of using Panhard's expertise in midsize cars to complement its own range of very small, cheap cars (e.g., 2CV/Ami) and large, expensive cars (e.g., DS/ID). Cooperation between the two companies had begun 12 years earlier, and they had agreed to a partial merger of their sales networks in 1953. Panhard ceased making vehicles in 1967.
The year 1968 saw a restructuring of Citroën's worldwide operations under a new holding company, Citroën SA. Michelin, Citroën's longtime controlling shareholder, sold a 49% stake to Fiat in what was referred to as the PARDEVI agreement (Participation et Développement Industriels).
That year Citroën purchased the Italian sports car maker Maserati and launched the grand tourer SM, which featured a V6 Maserati engine and a fully powered steering system called DIRAVI. The SM was engineered as if it were replacing the DS, a level of investment the GT sector alone would never be able to support, even in the best of circumstances. Circumstances became more unfavorable as the 1970s progressed. Citroën suffered another financial blow in the 1973 energy crisis. In 1974, the carmaker withdrew from North America owing to design regulations that outlawed core features of Citroën cars.
Huge losses at Citroën were caused by failure of the Comotor rotary engine venture, plus the strategic error of going the from 1955 to 1970 without a model in the profitable middle range of the European market, and the massive development costs for the GS, CX, SM, Maserati Bora, Maserati Merak, and Maserati Khamsin models—each a technological marvel in its own right.
The takeover was completed in May 1976, as (Peugeot) (Citroen-SA) purchased a 90% stake of Peugeot P and the companies were combined into a holding company known as PSA Peugeot Citroën.
The PSA venture was a financial success from 1976 to 1979. Citroën had two successful new designs in the market at this time (the GS and CX), a resurgent Citroën 2CV, and the Citroën Dyane in the wake of the oil crisis, and Peugeot was typically prudent in its own finances, launching the Peugeot 104 based Citroën Visa and Citroën LNA. PSA then purchased the aging assets of Chrysler Europe, which it rebranded as Talbot, leading to losses from 1980 to 1985.
PSA gradually diluted Citroën's and Peugeot ambitious attitude to engineering and styling in an effort to rebrand the marque to appeal to a wider market. In the 1980s, Citroën models became increasingly Peugeot-based, following the worldwide motor industry trend called "platform sharing." The 1982 BX used the hydropneumatic suspension system and still had a Citroën-esque appearance, while being powered by Peugeot-derived engines and using the floorpan later seen on the Peugeot 405. By the late 1980s, many of the distinctive features of the marque had been removed or diluted—conventional Peugeot's switchgear replaced Citroën's quirky but ergonomic "Lunule" designs, complete with self-cancelling indicators that Citroën had previously refused to adopt on ergonomic grounds.
Citroën expanded into many new geographic markets. In the late 1970s, the firm developed a small car for production in Romania known as the Oltcit, which it sold in Western Europe as the Citroën Axel. That joint venture has ended, but a new one between PSA and Toyota is now producing cars like the Citroën C1 in the Czech Republic.
In China, Citroën began selling cars in 1984 and currently builds a range of family cars that includes the C3 and Xsara and locally designed cars like the Fukang and Elysée models. Citroën is a global brand except in North America, where the company has not returned since the SM was effectively banned in 1974 for not meeting U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) bumper regulations.
Production of the 2CV ended in 1990. More recently, Citroën has introduced the C3 Pluriel, an unusual convertible with strong allusions to the 2CV, both in body style (such as the bonnet) and in its all-round practicality.
Worldwide sales of vehicles reduced from in 2010 to in 2011, with of these sold in Europe. Shown below is the Citroen C3 Pluriel introduced in 2003, the C4 in 2004- Present. The C2 was designed and created in 2003-2009. Picture for all these cars below.
Their rear badge is a new DS logo rather than the familiar Citroën double chevron, and all will have markedly different styling from their equivalent sister car. Citroën have produced several dramatic-looking concept sports cars of late with the fully working Citroën Survolt being badged as a DS, hinting at current sub-brands future intentions.
In China, Citroën has "stand alone" DS sale rooms, including vehicle plants built for the production of these vehicles. Citroën plans to produce and sell the Citroën DS X7 in China in 2014.
The presentation of the logo has evolved over time. Before the war, it was rendered in yellow on a blue background. After the war, the chevrons became more subtle herringbones, usually on a white background. With the company searching for a new image during the 1980s, the logo became white on red to give an impression of dynamism, emphasized by publicity slogan.
In February 2009 Citroën launched a new brand identity to celebrate its 90th anniversary, replacing the 1985 design. The new logo was designed by Landor Associates / Communicate magazine / Communicate magazine, June 2009 — a 3D metallic variation of the double chevron logo accompanied by a new font for the Citroën name and the new slogan "Créative Technologie". A TV campaign reminiscing over of Citroën was commissioned to announce the new identity to the public. The new look is currently being rolled out to dealers globally and is expected to take three to five years.
Some joint venture models are manufactured in third party or joint venture factories, including:
=== DS line ===
=== Dongfeng Peugeot-Citroën ===
From 2001 the team returned to the World Rally Championship, winning the Manufacturer's Title in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, French driver Sébastien Loeb won the Drivers' Championship driving the Citroën Xsara WRC, in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 with the Citroën C4 WRC, and in 2011 and 2012 with the Citroën DS3 WRC.