The Citroën brand and its motor vehicles have a long and proud history. The company was founded in 1919 by André Gustave Citroën, who was a citizen of Paris. He had travelled to the United States and this inspired him to have global aspirations.

Citroen Johannesburg 2011 International Motor Show

His first venture into manufacturing came in 1912 after visiting his wife’s relatives in Poland, where he had seen a distinctive set of chevron-toothed wooden gears. He purchased a licence for the manufacturing process and set up his first company, La Societe des Engrenages Citroën, to manufacture double helical gears. He was just 24 years of age at the time. Thus was born the famous double chevron CITROËN logo.

Andre Citroën was involved in the production of components for military hardware during the First World War and post war, did not need his big factory, so decided to switch to building motor cars.

Citroen Johannesburg 2011 International Motor Show

So he founded a new, automotive company in 1919, which he called simply Citroën, after himself. It became the first company outside the United States to mass produce motor cars, the first model being called the Type A. Within a year he was building 100 cars a day and although the Type A had a lifespan of only two years his company built 24 000 of them during that period.

At that time most motor manufacturers built only the chassis with running gear and the body built and fitted to the frame by a specialist body builder. Buyers of Citroëns could drive away from the factory gates in a completed car!

Furthermore he created a dealer network across France to service his vehicles and also provided road signs to the French road network. He was a paternalistic employer, setting up medical and dental facilities and gymnasia in his factories as well as providing a crèche for his workers’ children.

He was a brilliant, ingenious engineer with a radical mind that brought major advances in terms of design, engineering, production and marketing ideas to the automotive world.

He illuminated the word Citroën on the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris with 205 000 light bulbs between 1925 and 1934, which was a marketing feat of epic proportions.

He set up factories in Belgium, Britain, Germany and Italy to avoid punitive import charges on his products.

In 1933 he tore down the old factory in France and built a new one, without impacting on production!

He simultaneously developed a revolutionary new car, the Traction Avant, the world’s first front wheel drive car to go into production. This spurred the company onwards with a succession of new models, many incorporating new technology.

Andre Citroën died in July 1935, but far from being forgotten his talent and vision left an indelible mark that still endures today.

Citroen 2011 Johannesburg International Motor Show

The French-based company, which became part of PSA Peugeot Citroën in 1976 with its headquarters in Paris, continues to be at the forefront of innovation and unusual designs.

Creativity is built into the brand’s DNA. Technology is the fundamental principle for all vehicle manufacturers, but Citroën’s Creative Technology means more than feats of scientific and technological expertise. It means finding pertinent and unexpected solutions for new vehicles and new services alike.

Among the automotive “firsts” recorded by Citroën over the years are:

  • The first moving assembly lines in Europe
  • The first all-metal monocoque body (non-chassis frame) in Europe.
  • The first company to mass produce a front- wheel drive car.
  • First company to pioneer diesel engines in passenger cars.
  • First car with self-levelling hydro-pneumatic suspension
  • First car with swivelling headlamps.

Citroën was also an early pioneer in developing aerodynamic body designs.
In the modern era CITROËN was the first to propose Stop & Start technology on the C2 and C3 models. In Europe it is the leader in automated manual gearbox technology and illustrated its ecological and fuel-saving commitment by confirming its European leadership with conventional petrol vehicles that emit only 106g/km of CO2 emissions.

Citroen 2011 Johannesburg International Motor Show

Citroën invented the Hydractive suspension system as well as the wide angle panoramic windscreen and new driving aids such as lane departure warning system and head-up displays on the windscreen. It also developed new architecture and maximum modularity as seen on the C3 Picasso.

Today, in 2011, CITROËN still confidently demonstrates a boldness to completely rethink the motor car, rather than rehash existing solutions as is demonstrated with the new DS Line. It is a company on the move, driven by Creative Technology.