Citroën is a major French automobile manufacturer, part of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group.
Founded in 1919 by French industrialist André-Gustave Citroën (1878-1935), Citroën was the first mass-production car company outside the USA and pioneered the modern concept of creating a sales and services network that complements the motor car. Within eight years Citroën had become Europe’s largest car manufacturer, and the 4th largest in the world.
Citroën earned a reputation for innovation and revolutionary engineering, which is reflected in the company’s slogan “Créative Technologie”. Its history of innovation began with its founding when (as noted above), André-Gustave Citroën introduced the first industrial mass production of a vehicles outside the United States (a technique he developed mass-producing armaments for the French military in World War I). In 1924, Citroën produced Europe’s first all-steel-bodied car, the B-10. In 1934, Citroën secured its reputation for innovation with its Traction Avant not only the world’s first mass-produced front-wheel drive car, but also one of the first cars to feature monocoque-type body. In 1954 Citroën produced the world's first hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension system, then in 1955 the revolutionary Citroën DS, the first European production car with disc brakes. In 1967, Citroën introduced the first swiveling headlights in several models, allowing for greater visibility on winding roads. The brand celebrated its 90th Anniversary in 2009.
André Citroën built armaments for France during World War I and after the war he had a factory and no product. In 1919, the business started to produce automobiles, beginning with the conventional Type A. The Type A was designed by Jules Salomon, Chief Design Officer from Le Zèbre.
Citroën was a keen marketer—he used the Eiffel Tower as the world's largest advertising sign, as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. He also sponsored expeditions in Asia (Croisière Jaune) and Africa (Croisière Noire), intended to demonstrate the potential for motor vehicles equipped with the Kégresse track system to cross inhospitable regions. The expeditions conveyed scientists and journalists.
Demonstrating extraordinary toughness, a 1923 Citroën that had already travelled 48,000km was the first car to be driven around Australia. The car, a 1923 Citroën 5CV Type C Torpedo, was driven by Neville Westwood from Perth, Western Australia on a round trip from August to December 1925. The car is now fully restored and in the collection of the National Museum of Australia.
In 1924, Citroën began a business relationship with American engineer Edward G. Budd. From 1899, Budd had worked to develop stainless 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. At the Paris Motor Show in October 1924, Citroën introduced the Citroën B10, the first all-steel body in Europe.
The cars were initially successful in the marketplace, but soon competitors (who were still using a wooden structure for their bodies), introduced new body designs. Citroën did not redesign the bodies of his cars. Citroëns still sold in large quantities in spite of not changing the body design, but the car's low price was the main selling point and Citroën experienced heavy losses.
In an attempt to remedy the situation, Citroën developed the Traction Avant. The Traction Avant had three revolutionary features: a unitary body with no separate frame, front wheel independent suspension, and front wheel drive. Citroën commissioned Budd to create a prototype, which evolved into the 7 horsepower (CV), 32 hp (24 kW) Traction Avant of 1934.
In 1933, Citroën also introduced the Rosalie, the first commercially available passenger car with a diesel engine, developed with Harry Ricardo.
In 1963, Citroën negotiated with Peugeot to cooperate in the purchase of raw materials and equipment. Talks were broken off in 1965.
That year Citroën 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 had begun 12 years earlier, and they had agreed to a partial merger of their sales networks in 1953. Panhard ceased making vehicles in 1967.
1968 saw a restructuring of Citroën's worldwide operations under a new holding company, Citroën SA. Michelin, Citroën's long-time controlling shareholder, sold a 49% stake to Fiat, in what was referred to as the PARDEVI agreement (Participation et Développement Industriels).
That year Citroën purchased the Italian sports car maker Maserati and launched the grand tourer SM, which featured a V6 Maserati engine and a fully powered steering system called DIRAVI. 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. Citroën suffered another financial blow in the 1973 energy crisis. In 1974, the carmaker withdrew from North America, due to design regulations that outlawed core features of Citroën cars.
Huge losses at Citroën were caused by failure of the Comotor rotary engine venture, plus the strategic error of going the 15 years from 1955 to 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.
The origin of the logo may be traced back to a trip made to Poland by the 22-year-old André Citroën, where he discovered an innovative design for a chevron-shaped gear used in milling. He bought the patent for its application in steel. Mechanically a gear with helical teeth produces an axial force. By adding a second helical gear in opposition this force is cancelled. The two chevrons of the logo represent the intermeshing contact of the two.
The presentation of the logo has evolved over time. Before the war, it was rendered in yellow on a blue background. After the war, the chevrons became more subtle herringbones, usually on a white background. With the company searching for a new image during the 1980s, the logo became white on red to give an impression of dynamism, emphasized by publicity slogan.
On 5 February 2009, Citroën unveiled yet another modernized version of the logo, replacing the 24-year-old 1980s design, now in three dimensions, revitalizing the Citroën identity on all merchandize and dealerships.
In February 2009 Citroën launched a new brand identity to celebrate its 90th Anniversary. This consisted of the new logo, designed by Landor Associates — a 3D metallic variation of the double chevron logo accompanied by a new font for the Citroën name and the new slogan "Créative Technologie". A TV campaign reminiscing over 90 years of Citroën was commissioned to announce the new identity to the public. The new look is currently being rolled out to dealers globally and is expected to take three to five years.
A number of other celebratory events took place throughout the year, including processions of Citroëns from 1919 to 2009 through the capital cities of Europe and other continents, and the launch of a special-edition C3 Picasso 90th Anniversary Edition in the UK.
Citroën subsequently announced that it was setting up a premium series of cars under the DS name that would run parallel alongside its current car range. The DS range was launched early in 2010 with the DS3, a premium small car based on the floor plan of the new C3. The DS3 will be followed by the larger DS4 and the large DS5 respectively. Their rear badge is a new DS logo rather than the familiar Citroën double chevron and all will have markedly different styling from their equivalent sister car. For the brand new DS4, Citroën created an advertising campaign in France and UK.
Citroën Racing, previously known as Citroën Sport, is the team responsible for Citroën's sporting activities. They are a winning competitor in the World Rally Championship. After an abortive attempt with the Group B Citroën BX 4TC in 1986, the team returned with the Citroën ZX Rally Raid to win the Rally Raid Manufacturer's Championship in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997 with Pierre Lartigue and Ari Vatanen. They won the Dakar Rally in 1991, 1994, 1995, and 1996. From 2001 the team started participating in the World Rally Championship, winning the Manufacturer's Title in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
In 2004, 2005, and 2006, French driver Sébastien Loeb won the Drivers' Championship driving the Citroën Xsara WRC, and in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 with the Citroën C4 WRC.