A BRIEF HISTORY OF CITROEN

André Citroën was born in Paris on 5th February 1878 to Levie Citroën, a diamond merchant of Dutch Jewish origin and Amalie Kleimmann, a Jewess of Polish origin. André Citroën's father died when he was six.

The name Citroën derives from "Limoenman" which in Dutch means "small lemons man". The name was changed to "Citron" and then to "Citroën upon the family's arrival in France.

Citroën 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, André Citroën 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.

André Citroën 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, Citroën 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, Citroën 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 crèche for his workers' children.

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.