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A BRIEF HISTORY OF CITROňN Part One

Andrť CitroŽn was born in Paris on 5th February 1878 to Levie CitroŽn, a diamond merchant of Dutch Jewish origin and Amalie Kleimmann, a Jewess of Polish origin.  Andrť CitroŽn's father died when he was six. 
The name CitroŽn derives from "Limoenman" which in Dutch means "small lemons man".  The name was changed to "Citron" and then to "CitroŽn upon the family's arrival in France. 
CitroŽn was the youngest of five children.  His mother died in 1899 and his brother Bernard died in 1914 in the trenches of World War 1.
He graduated as a "Polytechnicien" from the Ecole Polytechnique at the age of twenty two.
On 27th May 1914, Andrť CitroŽn married Giorgina Bingen, the daughter of an Italian banker domiciled in France and they had four children; Jacqueline born in 1915, Bernard born in 1917, Maxime born in 1919 and Solange born in 1925.
Andrť CitroŽn died on 3rd July 1935 having created and lost an industrial empire, having founded a firm whose products would change irrevocably the face of France and the nature of motoring and whose cars would generate a fanatical worldwide following.

In 1912, after visiting some of his wife's Polish relatives and seeing a distinctive set of chevron-toothed wooden gears, he set up a company to manufacture double helical gears and thus was born the double chevron logo. 

In 1913, he took over the Mors automobile company and increased output tenfold.  With the outbreak of war in 1914, CitroŽn offered to increase output of munitions shells and the French government gave him the go ahead; his factories produced more than 50 000 shells per day.

In 1919, CitroŽn started building motor cars at his Javel works.  He employed hitherto unknown (in Europe) mass production techniques borrowed from Henry Ford in the USA and within a year was manufacturing 100 cars per day. 

In addition to employing mass production, he also supplied cars that were ready to drive from the factory gates, cars that were fitted with bodies (the norm was for the manufacturer to supply a chassis on which a coachbuilder would construct a body built to the client's specification), lights, wheels and tyres.  Furthermore, he created a dealer network across France that serviced his vehicles and he provided road signs for the French road network. 

He was a paternalistic employer, setting up medical and dental facilities and a gymnasium in his factories and providing a crŤche for his workers' children.

1919 saw the launch of the 10 HP Type A - Europe's first mass produced car - and an immediate success

In 1922, the Type C was introduced

The B2, launched in 1921, replaced the Type A...

...and in 1924, it was replaced by the B10...

...which in turn was replaced by the Type B12 in 1925...

...the 1926 B14 followed by...

...the 1927 B18.

And then in 1928, CitroŽn launched two new models - the AC4 or C4

And the upmarket AC6 or C6. In 1932, the 8 (right) was launched, together with the 10 (below)...

...and the "haut de gamme" 15 (below)



He innovated in the fields of advertising (illuminating the Eiffel Tower with his name and logo) and marketing and set up factories in Belgium, Britain, Germany and Italy in order to avoid punitive import charges on his products.
In 1933, he tore down the old factory and built a new one - without impacting on production and he simultaneously was developing a revolutionary new car, the Traction Avant. 


© 2002 Julian Marsh/CitroŽnŽt