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Citroën Celebrates 100 Years

Citroën Celebrates 100 Years


Innovative and daring for all its 100 years, Citroën is celebrating a Century of automotive advancement.

André-Gustave Citroën founded the eponymous Citroën brand in 1919.

During World War 1 his factory had been building armaments, but André had vision and knew that once the war was over, his factory would stand idle; he had to come up with a new product.

Andre CItroen 1932

As early as 1916 André was thinking about going into automobile production; so, when the war ended in November 1918 he was almost ready to unveil his new car. March 1919 he revealed his Type A to the press and by the end of May the first model rolled off the production line; by June the car was on show at No. 42 The Champs-Élysées, Paris; this iconic showroom is still used by Citroën for exhibitions and to showcase its concept cars.

Just one month later, on 7 July, 1919, the first customer took delivery of a Citroën motor car.

Citroen Type A

André Citroën was an innovator, he didn’t believe in following the crowd and his instinct was right with the Type A selling 10,000 cars in its first year of production. He tasked his team with designing a car which would become renowned for turning the motor industry on its head. The Traction Avant, known as the Citroën 7A was a remarkable car and its revolutionary features are very much in use today;

  • Four-wheel hydraulic independent suspension with torsion bar
  • Unitary body construction which meant the body and chassis of the car were combined
  • Front wheel drive
  • Hydraulic brakes on all four wheels
  • Floating engine

1934 Citroen Traction Avant

Hard to believe that all these 5 features, which are still standard in most of today’s cars, came from the Citroën team in just that one car. Sadly, the cost of all the innovation and research which went into the Traction Avant was crippling for Citroën and by 1934 the company was in financial ruins, but within the month, Michelin stepped in and early in 1935 Pierre Michelin became Chairman of Citroën with Pierre-Jules Boulanger his deputy.

Very sadly, that same year, André Citroën died, but his innovative spirit and philosophy of developing cutting edge technology lived on.

Pierre-Jules Boulanger became president of Citroën in 1938 after Pierre Michelin died in an accident. Boulanger was a tough cookie having won the Military Cross and Legion of Honour in Word War 1; in World War 11 Boulanger stood his ground, refusing to communicate with the German authorities directly. Forced to produce trucks for the Wehrmacht, Boulanger sabotaged them by putting the notch on the oil dipstick in the wrong place, which meant many of the trucks were useless due to engine seizure.

Against the express orders of the German occupying forces Citroën carried on their research, developing what would later become the 2CV, Type H Delivery Van and ground-breaking family car the DS.

Grey Citroen 2CV in a field

Unveiled in 1948 the iconic 2CV did exactly what Citroën had wanted, provided an economical alternative to the horse for people living in rural France. Cheap to buy and cheap to run, the car remained in production until 1990 with nearly 9 million 2CV and variants produced.

Another ground-breaker was the DS, launched in 1955, which, with French pronunciation, sounds the same as déesse, French for goddess!

This incredible car was way ahead of its time and still has fans around the world, its radical, yet beautiful design means it’s been showcased in museums, but underneath the gorgeous exterior was some serious technology. The DS heralded:

  • First production car with disc brakes
  • Hydraulic system for power steering, suspension and brakes
  • Hydro-pneumatic self-levelling suspension

Dark beige CItroen DS parked outside a shop

Citroën have gone on to innovate, to build on André Citroën and Pierre-Jules Boulanger legacy and today Citroën heritage lives on with cars designed for life, with flair, attention to detail and an eye on the future.