Car History 4U

History of French Motor Car / Automobile Manufacturers

Attention: open in a new window. | Print |

8.5 France

  • 8.5.1. Bugatti

    • Ettore Bugatti (Italian) designed a number of vehicles, starting with the Type 1 in 1898, before starting the Bugatti company in Molsheim (then in Germany, now in France) on 1 January 1910.

    • From 1902 to 1904 he designed the Types 3,4, 6 and 7 models under the dual name of Dietrich-Bugatti, producing about 100 of the Types 3 & 4.
    • In 1910 he introduced the Type 13 racing car, producing three other racing models prior to the start of World War 1 in 1914.

    • The 5,027 cc Type 18 “Garros” that was produced from 1912 to 1914 was Buggatti's first passenger car. Only about 6 were made.

    • Between 1922 and 1940 the company produced about 14 different racing car models and approx. the same number of passenger car models.

      1927 Bugatti Type 44 Roadster

    • The highly successful Type 35/35B racing cars were produced from about 1926 to 1928 and 45 of these cars, that were capable of 125 mph (200 kph), were made. Note: A 35B Bugatti racing car won the first Monaco Grand Prix in 1929.

    • The 1940 Type 57SC was the last car manufactured by Bugatti before he died in 1947. During World War 2 he designed the Type 73 passenger car and Type 73C racing car, but these did not go into production.

      Bugatti 57SC 1938

    • The company went into decline in the late 1930s and after unsuccessful attempts to revive the company in the 1950s and 1960s it was sold.

    • In 1987 a new company called Bugatti Automobili SpA was formed in Italy, producing the 3,499 cc Bugatti EB110 in 1991. This company ceased trading in 1995.

    • In 1998 Volkswagen bought the rights to produce cars under the Bugatti name, founding Bugatti Automobiles SAS in 2002.

    • In early 2006 the company started delivery of the 7,993 cc Bugatti Veyron 16.4, producing about 300 that year. The car has a top speed of 252 mph (407.5 kph).

    • Between 1910 and 2006 just under 8,000 Bugatti cars were made.

  • 8.5.2. Citroën

    • Citroën was founded in 1919 by Andre Citroën and by June that year it had started to produce its first car; the 1,327 cc Type A.

    • In 1919 the company produced 2,810 vehicles. A decade later annual production had increased to 102,891.

      Citroen 5CV Type C2 Torpedo 1923

    • Citroën became bankrupt in 1934 and was taken over by the Michelin Tire Company.

    • In 1934 Citroën introduced the 1,303 cc Traction Avant, the world’s first mass produced front wheel drive car. When production of the Traction Avant ceased in 1957 approx. 760,000 had been built.

    • During the 1930s Citroën decided to develop a small car, which became known as the TPV (Très Petite Voiture). By 1939 it was ready to start  production.

    • With the start of World War 2 in 1939 production of the TPV was put on hold and many of the prototypes were either hidden or distroyed.

    • During World War 2 Citroën’s annual vehicle production dropped from 69,575 in 1939 to only 2,318 in 1944

    • Production of the TPV, also called the 2CV, started in 1948. When production finally ceased in 1990 over 3.8 million had been made, making the car the company’s top selling model.

      Citroen 2CV 1955

    • The DS model was introducted in 1955, the first production car equipped with disk brakes and self-levelling suspension. Nearly 1.5 million were produced between 1955 and 1974.

    • In 1963 Citroën took over the French car maker Panhard and in 1968 the Italian car maker Maserati. Between 1970 and 1975, when Maserati was sold to DeTomaso, nearly 13,000 Citroën Masserati SM models had been produced.

    • In 1974 Citroën went bankrupt. This led to the merger with Peugeot, forming “PSA Peugeot Citroën” in 1975

    • Other Citroën models produced between 1960 and 1990 include the Ami 6 and 8, the Dyane, ID, GS and CX.

    • In 1999 Citroën's annual vehicle production exceeded 1 million for the first time.

    • Models produced in 2007 include the C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6 and C8 range, the Berlingo and Xsara Picasso.

  • 8.5.3. Peugeot

    • Peugeot built its first steam powered car in 1889, producing a petrol powered car the following  year. See Part 1, The Early History, Sections 3.3, 6.3 and 7.3.

    • From 1904 to 1910 Peugeot produced at least 53 car types, ranging from the Type 57 to the Type 134, including seven Lion models.

    • The first Lion models were the VA (1,000 made between 1906 and 1908) and the VC/VC1 (1,000 made between 1906 and 1910). The Type 80 sports car was one of the 8 models produced in 1906 but only 3 were produced that year.

    • In 1910 eleven models were introduced; about 3,200 cars. The most popular was the Type 127 Torpedo. 1,226 were made. 

    • Production continued up to 1915 when only one model was launched; the 10 hp (7.5 kW) Lion VD2.

    • Production resumed after World War 1 in 1919. Two 10 hp models were introduced; the Type 159 and the Type 163 of which 9,349 were made up to 1924.

    • During the 1920s Peugeot launched at least 30 models, including Quadrilette Types 161/4 hp (3,500 made 1920-22) and 172/4 hp (8,705 made in 1923-24). One hundred GS 172BS/5 hp models were made in 1924.

    • Two other top selling models in the 1920s were the Type 172R (27,119 made 1926-28) and the Type 190S (33,677 made 1929-31).

    • The 25 hp (19 kW) Type 156 (1920-23) was the first Peugeot car to be fitted with a valveless 6-cyinder engine. 

    • In 1923 the company fitted brakes to all four wheels on all their models.

    • Peugeot produced their 100,000th car in 1925.  

    • In 1929 Peugeot introduced the 201 model. In 1931 it became the first mass-produced car to be  fitted with independent suspension. Is that correct?   89,010 of these cars were made up to 1937

    • The 201 model was also the first car to be numbered with what became a registered Peugeot trademark; three digits with a  central zero.

    • Production of the 1,100 cc 202 model started in 1938 but ceased in 1942 due to World War 2. Limited production resumed in 1945. When production ceased in 1949 over 104,000 had been made.

    • In 1941 the company launched the VLV electric car and 377 were  made up to 1945. Info on this car required. See Green Cars, Section 7.4.1.

    • The 203  model was introduced in 1948 and 685,628 were produced up to 1960.

      Peugot 203 Coupe

    • Models introduced between 1955 and the mid 1970s include the 403 (1955-66), which was the first Peugeot car to sell over 1 million, the 404 (1960-75), the 204 (1965-77) and the 304 (1969-80).

    • About three million 504 models were made between 1968 and 1983 when production in Europe ceased. In 2006 the car was still being manufactured abroad in Kenya and Nigeria.

    • In 1975 Peugeot acquired Citroën and formed “PSA Peugeot Citroën”.  Three years later, in 1978, the group took over Chrysler’s European division, the former Rootes and Simca car manufacturers.

    • From 1975 to 1986 the ex-Chrysler (Roots) Sunbeam, Horizon, Avenger, Alpine and Simca range were produced as “Talbot” cars. In the early 1980s two new Talbots were introduced; the Solara and the Samba.

    • The 205 supermini was first produced in 1983. The model had a 954 or 1,905 cc engine and carburettor or fuel injection.

    • From around 1993 production of the 205 started to slowdown, with production finally ending in 1998 after nearly 5.3 million had been made.

    • In 1998 Peugeot introduced the 206 and by mid 2005 over 5 million had been produced.

    • Between 1980 and 2006 Peugeot also introduced the 309 (1986-97), 106 “Super-Mini” (1991-03), 406 (1995-04), 307 (2001), 407 (2004), 107 (2005) and 207 (2006).

    • Models available in 2007 include the 107, 206, 207, 307, 407 and 607 models.

  • 8.5.4. Renault

    • For the early history of Renault cars see Part 1, The Early History, Sections 6.3 and 7.3

    • From 1905, until the start of World War in 1914, the company produced some 47 different types/variants.

    • The Type Y, a medium sized family car, was produced from 1905 to 1906; a car whose design possibly evolved from the Type C, D & E Voiturettes.

    • In 1909 the company’s name was changed to Les Automobiles Renault.

    • A luxury 7,539 cc Type CB “Towncar” was on the Titanic when the liner sank in 1912.

      1912 Renault Towncar

    • The 2.8 litre Type EU model (1919-21) was the first car produced by Renault after the end of World War 1.

    • When was the first Renault model produced with the steering wheel on the left side and on what model/type?

    • The company name was changed in 1922 to Sociétè Anonyme de Usines.

    • The 1925 40CV model was the first Renault car to be fitted with the diamond symbol logo.

    • From 1925 brakes were fitted to all four wheels on Renault cars. 

    • In 1928 the company produced nearly 46,000 cars.

    • During the 1930s Renault produced over 50 different car Types.

    • The 7,539 cc Primaquarte, designed by Louis Renault, was produced from 1931 to 1939. It was to be the last type of car to leave the Renault production line before his death.

      Renault Primaquarte 1936

    • The Juvaquatre was produced between 1937 and about 1955 (a station wagon version remained in production until 1959/60) (Which date? 1959 or 1960), with production suspended during the war.

    • Renault produced about 12.000 vehicles in 1945, of which only about six were cars (which models?). In the same year the company became state owned and was called “Regié Nationale des Usines”.

    • The 4CV, which was secretly designed and developed during World War 2, was produced from 1946 to 1961. It was the first French car to sell over a million.

    • In the early 1960s the company introduced the top selling Renault 4 and between 1961 and 1992 8,126,200 were produced.

    • The first prototype of what became the Dauphine car was built in 1952.

    • By 1954 Renault had produced two million cars since the first car, the Type A Voiturette, was built in 1898.

    • In 1959 Renault was the 6th largest automobile manufacturer in the world.

    • Models produced in the 1970s include the R15/17, Alpine A310 (1971) and the R18 (1976).

    • The R11 model was launched in 1983, followed by the Renault Espace in 1984

    • Other models introduced between 1950 and 1980 include the Dauphine Floride/Caravelle (1956-68) with over 2 million made, the 2-litre Fregate (1951-60), Renault 5 (1972-96) with 5.47 million made, Renault 8/10 (1962-72), Renault 16 (1965-79) and the 1,289 cc Renault 12 (1969-80), with nearly 3 million made.

    • New models introduced in the early 1990s include the Clio (1990), Twingo and Safrane (1992) and the Laquna (1994).

    • By 2005 the Clio was Renault’s top selling car, with sales exceeding 8.5 million.

    • The Mégane was launched in 1995. In 1996 Renault produced the Mégane sedan, coupe, 5p and Scenic models. When fitted with a 1,998 cc engine the car has a top speed of 220 kph (138 mph).

    • In 1996 the Renault company, which had been state owned since 1944, was privatized.

    • Models available in 2007 include the Clio, Espace, Kangoo, Laquna, Logan, Mégane, Modus, Scenic, Twingo and Vel Satis.

  • 8.5.5. Other French Car Manufacturers

    • De Dion Bouton, Delahaye, Facel Vega, Hotchkiss, Lorraine-Dietrich, Panhard, Salmson, Simca and Talbot.

  • 8.5.6. French Car Web Sites

© copyright - form and function