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CitroŽn is a French automobile manufacturer, founded in 1919 by Andrť CitroŽn. It is today part of PSA Peugeot CitroŽn. Its headquarters are in Paris, rue Fructidor.
Originally a mass-market car maker with relatively straightforward designs, CitroŽn shocked the world in 1934 with the innovative Traction Avant, the world's first mass-production front wheel drive car (1934-1956). Until the late 1980s the company had a reputation for approaching automobile design in a unique and innovative way. Later significant models include the H Van (1947-1981, 'HY'), the 2CV (1948-1990, 'The Duck'), the DS (1955-1975, 'Goddess') and the CX (1974-1991).
The story of CitroŽn begins with the founder of the company himself, the engineer Andrť CitroŽn. He built armaments for France during World War I but, after the war, he had a factory and no product. In 1919, the business started to produce automobiles, beginning with the conventional type A model.
The symbol for this firm, still used today, is the 'double chevron' trademark, referencing CitroŽn's early work on the 'herringbone' or double helical gear. However, there are other theories about this. Andrť CitroŽn, was Jewish and also an internationally well-known Freemason, attached to the Lodge of "La Philosophie Positive" in Paris. The CitroŽn logo may be interpreted as a masonic symbol. It is evident, that the 'double chevron' can also form a square, so this symbol can be interpreted as a double masonic square or a double masonic compass, associating the masonic ideology of Andrť CitroŽn to his invention of the double Helical Gear. In masonry, the compass is associated with the symbolism of the 'architect's tools', so it is very possible that CitroŽn used a double compass to represent his invention, in a masonic way.
Andrť CitroŽn was a keen marketer - he used the Eiffel Tower as the world's largest advertising sign, as recorded in the Guinness book of World Records. He also sponsored expeditions in Asia (CroisiŤre Jaune) and Africa (CroisiŤre Noire), intended to demonstrate the potential for motor vehicles equipped with the Kegresse track system to cross inhospitable regions. The expeditions conveyed scientists and journalists and were a publicity success.
In 1924, CitroŽn began a relationship with American engineer Edward G. Budd. From 1899, Budd had worked to develop pressed-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. In 1928, CitroŽn introduced the first all-steel body in Europe.
In the beginning, the cars were successful but soon competitors, who still used a wood structure for their bodies, introduced new body designs on their cars. CitroŽn had no way to redesign the body of his cars and they began to be perceived as old-fashioned. The CitroŽns still sold in large quantities, despite the stylistic drawback, but the car's low price was the main selling point and CitroŽn experienced heavy losses.
This encouraged Andrť CitroŽn to develop the Traction Avant, a car so innovative that the competition would have no response. The 'Traction Avant' had three revolutionary features: a unitary body with no separate frame, front wheel independent suspension, and front wheel drive. CitroŽn commissioned Budd to create a prototype, which evolved into the 7 fiscal horsepower (CV), 32 HP Traction Avant of 1934.
The Traction Avant would set major elements of the mechanical design that was to be followed, thirty years later, by the Mini and, today, by nearly every other manufacturer.
Achieving quick development of the Traction Avant was expensive and contributed to the financial ruin of the company. In 1934, debt forced the company into foreclosure and it was then taken over by its biggest creditor, the tire company Michelin. Fortunately for Michelin, the Traction Avant met with market acceptance and the basic philosophy that had led to this design continued. During the German occupation of France in World War II, CitroŽn researchers continued their work 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 CitroŽnistes would take almost two decades to fade (from 1975 to circa 1995).
CitroŽn unveiled the 2CV (2 fiscal horsepower, initially only 12 HP) at the Paris Salon in 1948. This car become a bestseller - achieving the designer's aim of providing rural Frenchmen 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, which was the first full usage of CitroŽn'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 production car with disk brakes.
The DS featured power steering, power brakes and power suspension and, from 1968, directional headlights. The same high-pressure system was used to activate pistons located in the gearbox cover to shift the gears in the transmission and to operate the clutch on their "Citromatic", CitroŽn's version of a semi-automatic transmission.
This high-pressure hydraulic system would form the basis of many CitroŽn cars, including the SM, GS, CX, BX, XM and Xantia. These vehicles all shared a distinguishing feature: rising to operating ride height when the engine was turned on, like a 'mechanical camel' (per Car & Driver magazine). The dashboard included a lever which allowed the driver to select whether the car would travel with the body in the high or low position. This type of suspension was uniquely able to absorb road irregularities without disturbing the occupants.
Interestingly, when the high position was selected, the car would sink back to the low position while stopped (as at a traffic light) until motion resumed, when it would rise again. This sinking often caused other motorists to signal to the driver that the car had a flat tire (the presumed cause of the sinking motion).
During CitroŽn's venture with Maserati, the CitroŽn high pressure hydraulic system was used on several Maserati models, for power clutch operation (Bora), power pedals adjustment (Bora), pop-up headlights (Bora, Merak), brakes (Bora, Merak, Khamsin), steering (Khamsin) and the entire Quattroporte II prototype, which was a four-door CitroŽn SM under the skin.
In 1963, CitroŽn negotiated with Peugeot to cooperate in the purchase of raw materials and equipment. Talks were broken off in 1965.
That year CitroŽn 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 both companies began 12 years earlier, as they agreed to a partial merger of their sales networks in 1953. Panhard ceased making vehicles in 1967.
1968 saw a restructuring of CitroŽn's various worldwide operations, under a new holding company, CitroŽn SA. CitroŽn's long-time controlling shareholder, the tire company Michelin, sold a 49% stake to Fiat, in what was referred to as the PARDEVI agreement (Participation et Dťveloppement Industriels).
That year CitroŽn purchased the Italian sports car maker Maserati and launched the grand tourer SM, which featured a V6 Maserati engine. 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. CitroŽn suffered another financial blow due to the 1973 energy crisis. In 1974, CitroŽn withdrew from North America, due to design regulations that outlawed core features of CitroŽn cars.
Huge losses at CitroŽn were caused by failure of the Comotor rotary engine venture, plus the strategic error of going 15 years (1955-1970) without a model in the profitable middle range of the European market and the massive development costs for the GS, CX, SM, Birotor, Maserati Bora, Maserati Merak and Maserati Khamsin models - each a technological marvel in its own right.
CitroŽn was weak and unable to withstand the softening of the automobile market, that accompanied the 1973 oil crisis. In 1973, FIAT withdrew from PARDEVI and returned its 49% stake to Michelin. This was an ominous sign of things to come and, less than a year later, CitroŽn went bankrupt. The French Government feared large job losses and arranged talks between Michelin and Peugeot, where it was decided to merge Automobiles CitroŽn and Automobiles Peugeot into a single company. In 1974 Peugeot purchased 38.2% of CitroŽn and became responsible for managing the combined activities, in particular their joint research, purchasing and investments departments.
Peugeot sold off Maserati to DeTomaso, in May 1975 and the Italian firm was quickly able to exploit the aspirational image of the Maserati brand to sell tens of thousands of newly-designed Bi-Turbo models.
The takeover was completed in May 1976, as Peugeot SA purchased a 90% stake of CitroŽn SA and both companies were combined into a holding company, known as PSA Peugeot CitroŽn.
Since CitroŽn had two successful new designs in the market at this time (the GS and CX) and Peugeot was typically prudent in its own finances, the PSA venture was a financial success from 1976 to 1979. PSA then purchased the aging assets of Chrysler Europe, leading to losses for the consortium from 1980 to 1985.
PSA gradually eliminated CitroŽn's ambitious attitude to engineering and styling in an effort to rebrand the marque as an economy brand. In the 1980s, CitroŽn models were increasingly Peugeot-based. The 1982 BX used the hydropneumatic suspension system and still had a CitroŽnesque 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 distictive features of the marque had also receded - the AX GT, for example was noted by contemporary journalists for its poor ride quality - an unusual attribute for the brand.
CitroŽn has 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 CitroŽn Axel. That joint venture has ended but a new joint venture, between CitroŽn, Peugeot, and Toyota, is now producing cars like the CitroŽn C1 in the Czech Republic. In China the C3 and Xsara are sold alongside the Fukang and Elysťe local models. CitroŽn is still a global brand, except in North America, where the company has not returned since the SM was effectively banned in 1974 for not meeting contemporary NHTSA bumper regulations.
The ubiquitous and versatile 2CV workhorse was finally killed off in 1990, without replacement. Companies like Chrysler with the PT Cruiser, Toyota with the Scion xB and Honda with the Element have recognized the 2CV concept and translated it to the modern era. Latterly, CitroŽn 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.
The Pluriel is but one example of CitroŽn's return to innovation, after launching somewhat dull (although efficient) models throughout the 90's. Other examples are new vehicles such as the C2, C4 and C6. The introduction of even newer models, such as the long-awaited XM replacement, the C6, indicates CitroŽn's continued commitment to innovation in the 21st century.
In 2003 CitroŽn sold 1,372,500 cars, as stated in the PSA Peugeot CitroŽn group's 2003 annual report.
* Kegresse track
* 7CV (1934-1935)
* 7C (1935-1940)
* 7U Rosalie (1935-1937)
* 8CV Rosalie (1932-1935)
* 8CV (1933-1934)
* 8NH (1935-1936)
* 10CV (1933-1934)
* 11U Rosalie (1935-1937)
* 11 (1935-1940)
* 15 (1935-1936)
* 15/6 (1939-1955)
* C4 & C6 (1928-1934)
* Type A (1919-1921)
* Type B (1921-1928)
* Type C C2-C3 (1922-1926)
* Traction Avant (1934-1957)
* TUB van (1939-1941)
* 2CV (1948-1990)
* Ami 6 (1961-1971)
* Ami 8 (1969-1979)
* CitroŽn Bijou (1959-1964)
* DS/ID (1955-1975)
* Dyane (1967-1984)
* H Van (1947-1981)
* Acadiane (1978-1987)
* Ami Super (1973-1976)
* Axel (1984-1988)
* C25 (1981-1993)
* C35 (1974-1992)
* CX (1974-1989)
* GS and GSA (1970-1984)
* LN (1976-1979)
* LNA (1978-1986)
* M35 (1970-1971)
* Mťhari (1968-1987)
* SM (1970-1975)
* Visa (1978-1988)
* AX (1986-1998)
* BX (1982-1994)
* C15 (1984-2005)
* Evasion (1994-2002)
* CitroŽn Fukang 988 (1998-2003)
derivative for the Chinese market
* Saxo (1995-2003)
* XM (1989-2000)
* Xantia (1993-2001)
* ZX (1991-1997)
* Berlingo (1996-present)
* C1 (2005-present)
* C2 (2004-present)
* C3 (2003-present)
* C4 (2004-present)
* C5 (2001-present)
* C6 (2005-present)
* C-Crosser (2007-present)
* C8 (2002-present)
* C-Triomphe (2006-present) derivative for the Chinese market
* Elysťe - derivative for the Chinese market
* C-Triomphe (1997-present) - derivative for the Chinese market
* Jumpy (1995-present)
* Jumper (1994-present)
* Xsara (1997-present)
Concept cars
* CitroŽn Traction Avant 22CV
* G Van
* Prototype C or Coccinelle
* C-60
* Project F
* Mini-Zup (1972)
* GS Camargue (1972)
* 2CV Pop (1973)
* Prototype Y
* C44 (1980)
* Karin (1980)
* Xenia (1981)
* Eco 2000 (1984)
* Eole (1986)
* Zabrus Bertone Concept car (1986)
* Activa (1988)
* Activa II (1990)
* Citella (1992)
* Xanae (1994)
* Osmose
* Tulip (1995)
* C3 LumiŤre (1998)
* C6 Lignage (1999)
* Osťe Pininfarina
* Pluriel (1999)
* C-Crosser (2001)
* C-Airdream (2002)
* C-Airlounge (2003)
* C-SportLounge (2005)
* C-Airplay (2005)
* C-Buggy (2006)
* C-Mťtisse (2006)