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A BRIEF HISTORY OF CITROňN Part Three


In 1973, Fiat sold its share of Pardevi to Michelin and the following year, Michelin having decided to return to its core activity of manufacturing tyres, sold CitroŽn to Peugeot. 

The company announcement (in la Double Chevron 37) stated "For Citroen, the summer has been marked by two major events. One was the introduction, on 26 August, of the new CX 2000 and CX 2200 models, which are the subject of this issue's Special Edition (page 11).
The other was the announcement, put out on 24 June, of a merger between Automobiles Peugeot and Automobiles Citroen. The common announcement states that “the final objective of both groups is the constitution, under a legal form as yet undefined, of a coherent whole which, having at its disposal the variety of ranges and styles required by customers, as expressed through two networks remaining independent from one another, would reach such dimensions as would reinforce the position of both highly individual marques on all markets”.

It moreover states that Peugeot will head the entity thus set up, in which Michelin will stay by their side. In July, Peugeot and Michelin formed SONEDIA, “Sociťtť Nouvelle pour l’Etude et le Dťveloppement de l’lndustrie Automobile” (New Company for Motor Car Industry Research and Development), whose purpose is to prepare the ways and means for bringing both member companies together and to ready a detailed programme by
1st November. As an indication: combined Peugeot-Citroen production in 1973 totalled 1,517,435 vehicles (of which 1,343,367 were private cars), thus reaching the third rank in Europe behind Volkswagen with 2,348,063 ( 2,242,761 private cars) and Fiat with 1,659,720 (1,556,778p.c.),'andinfront ofRenault with 1,452,841 (1,294,298p.c.)."

Georges Taylor became Chairman and Managing Director.  Peugeot decided to rein back CitroŽn's finances and the SM was dropped.  The CX replaced the DS and the company introduced the LN and then the Visa - re-engineered Peugeots.  This trend of banalisation of the company's products continued throughout the eighties and nineties.

In 1979, Jacques Lombard became Chairman and Managing Director and he was superceded by Jean Baratte in 1982.  Jacques Calvet became Chairman in 1983 and was replaced by Jean-Martin Folz in 1997. 

Under Folz, the company has seen a revival in its fortunes; the product range is wider than ever and exciting new cars are being introduced.

In the immediate post war years, the French bought French cars almost exclusively, the British bought British, the Germans bought German and the Italians bought Italian.  In the case of the United Kingdom, a number of foreign manufacturers had implant factories in Britain – Ford, Vauxhall (part of GM) and surprisingly, CitroŽn too all built cars in Britain.  For the full story on CitroŽn’s UK operations, buy a copy of John Reynolds’ excellent book “From A to X” .

In other countries without an indigenous motor industry, foreign manufacturers set up factories.  CitroŽn had a factory in Belgium.

As motor production geared up, markets remained essentially patriotic and it was not really until the mid to late seventies that internationalisation became more prevalent.  Of course some vehicles always managed to transcend national boundaries and achieve popularity abroad – the 2CV, VW Beetle and Mini spring to mind.  Nationalism led to cars being designed with national characteristics in mind.  In France for instance, the fiscal rťgime mitigated against large capacity engines and the poor state of the roads led to softly sprung cars being the norm.  In the United Kingdom, congested, narrow but comparatively well surfaced roads led to firmer sprung cars with comparatively large capacity engines.  Little importance was placed on good handling and technical innovation on the whole, played second fiddle to styling. 

In France, technical innovation took precedence over annual restyling as a result of which, technophiles found the products of this country very appealing.  Furthermore, product runs measured in decades rather than years resulted in on-going improvements and refinements that were denied to the purchasers of other countries’ short-termist manufacturers.

By the time the EEC was formed and fiscal barriers started falling, the Japanese manufacturers had started their onslaught and in response, European manufacturers had to both internationalise their products and enter into partnership with companies that had hitherto been rivals.  In doing so, what had made them unique was dissipated and diluted to the extent that the product of one European manufacturer is all but identical to the product of another.  This trend continued throughout the eighties and even into the first half of the nineties but as the millennium approaches, there are signs that this trend will be reversed. 

Many are the names that have fallen by the wayside in the last 50 years and almost as numerous are the names that still exist but which are now owned by erstwhile competitors. 

CitroŽn was not immune to these trends – in fact the company was more vulnerable than most and what was so surprising was that it remained independent (albeit under the wings of Michelin) for so long and that while it lurched from imminent financial catastrophe to inevitable financial catastrophe, the company produced some of the most innovative and idiosyncratic cars ever built.

The first fruit of the Peugeot takeover was the LN - a Peugeot 104 coupť fitted with CitroŽn's flat twin - hardly an auspicious beginning.

The Visa was also based on the Peugeot 104 platform but was rebodied in typical CitroŽn style and was fitted with a bored out version of the flat twin or with the 104's water-cooled transverse four.

The BX was the "make or break" model for CitroŽn - pitched into a market sector dominated by conventionally engineered cars, the BX offered low weight and hydropneumatics.

The AX was utterly conventional - apart from its very low weight - and was a great success, appealing to people who would never have considered purchasing a "quirky" CitroŽn.

The XM was a typical big CitroŽn - a relaxed, high speed cruiser with electronically-controlled hydropneumatic suspension.

The ZX was another utterly conventional (passive rear-steer aside) car which enjoyed great success.

The Xantia replaced the BX and was better built than its predecessor. Top of the range models used the XM's electronically-controlled suspension or active, zero-roll suspension.

Evasion (or Synergie), together with its Peugeot, Fiat and Lancia clones was PSA's belated entry into the MPV market sector - having turned down the Espace concept.

The major success story of the Peugeot-owned CitroŽn was the Saxo - beloved by the "Max Power" brigade...

Touted as "the new 2CV", Berlingo, along with its Peugeot sibling, Partner, combines practicality with driving pleasure - both as a van and a mini-MPV.

The ZX's replacement is little more than a rebodied ZX and is seen as a viable alternative to the offerings from Ford, GM, VW and Fiat.

CitroŽn's response to Renault's Mťgane Scťnic is better built and highly distinctive in appearance - another best seller...

Xantia's replacement is the C5 - loaded with electronics and using a "decentralised" hydraulic system.

According to the motoring press, C3 is yet another "new 2CV"...

A rag top, a spyder, a pickup - Pluriel is many cars in one - based on the C3... ...another "new 2CV" maybe?

C8 is the replacement for Evasion (or Synergie)

C2 is the sporty new model which went on sale in the autumn of 2003.

C1 is also available as a Peugeot and a Toyota

The Xsara replacement is the C4

C6 will hopefully revive the marque's reputation for building unique luxury cars

C4 Grand Picasso is the company's seven seater MPV

C4 Picasso is also available in 5 seater guise

C-Crosser is the company's first SUV developed in partnership with Mitsubishi

The all new C5 has a distinctly Teutonic look and will be offered with a choice of conventional and hydractive suspension

Nemo - mini MPV Revised Berlingo
All new C3

DS3 C Zero New C4



DS4
DS5
C4 Aircross



C-Elysťe
C4L