Citroen history and history video
Son of Levie Citroen, a Dutch diamond merchant, and Macha Kleinan, a Pole, Andre Gustave Citroen was born on 5 February 1878 in Paris.
He is ten when he first encounterd – and fell in love with – the writing of Jules Verne. Throughout his life, he will be inspired by the underlying philosophy of these works.
The building of the Eiffel Tower for the World Exhibition in 1889 was the young man’s second formative experience. He set his heart on becoming an engineer.
In 1898, at the age of 20, he enrolled at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique. When he graduated in 1900, he joined the French Army as an engineer officer, and blended into the military way of life for four years.However he was aware that the 20th century will be an era of industrial challenges.
In 1902, on a trip to Poland at the age of 24, he stumbled on a gear-cutting process based on a chevron design, which will later become the logo of his company. Realising that the process could open new possibilities if used with steel, he bought the patent. By 1904 Citroen had left the army and had filed a patent for the double helical chevron gear to be made in steel. Thus starts one of the greatest industrial adventures of modern times. he invested all he has in his Polish discovery, and forms a company.
His first industrial adventure was a small gear cutting business called ‘Engrenages Citroen’ in Fauburg St Denis where he introduced the ‘logo’ for his company as two double helical ‘chevrons’. This emblem survived all his other subsequent activities and is still the internationally recognisable logo of Citroen cars. ‘Engrenages Citroen’ became quite successful and Citroen was later joined in his venture by Andre Boas and Jacques Hinstin. A new company was formed in 1905 renamed ‘Hinstin Freres Citroen & Cie’
and moved to Essonnes (Orly). As the French automobile industry was very well advanced, the requirement for gears was high. Citroen began very quickly to comprehend the need to mass produce components in order to achieve low prices and fast deliveries. He therefore invested in latest up-to-date machinery and introduced flow control management processes. His gears found their way into most French cars and to such diverse avenues as the steering system for the ‘Titanic’!
When World War I broke out. Andre is named captain of the 2nd heavy artillery regiment of the 4th Army.
Observing the shortage of shells, Andre Citroen went to the Ministry of War and offered to set up a factory capable of manufacturing between 5,000 and 10,000 shrapnel shells per day in the space of three to four months. He opened an ultra-modern factory on a 15-hectare site in the area of Javel and applied production methods. By 11 November 1918, the Citroen factory had produced more than 24 million shells.
The government frequently called upon Andre Citroen, who was appreciated for his remarkable leadership and organisational skills. In 1917, he reorganises supplies to munitions plants and sets up a military postal service. In 1918, he organises the distribution of bread ration cards across the whole Paris area in the space of just twenty-four hours.
As part of this vision, he built the first light utility vehicles: delivery vehicles, and multi-purpose vehicles for business and leisure. The 9 seater was the prototype for todays “MPV’s”, the “TUB” Citroen light van of 1939, set the design standards that are still used by light vans today; low floor, sliding side door, forward controls etc. He set up both a taxi company and a bus company, that had routes right across rural France. He even opened his own car insurance company. All of these innovations were to have a profound effect on the way automobile manufacturers do business, even to the present day.
Andre Citroen, pioneered skywriting as a form of advertising and Faithful to his childhood dreams, and, inspired by the books of Jules Verne, he sends his “Kegresse” half-tracks on a quest to conquer the Sahara, Africa and Asia.
And yet, other than his factories, Andre Citroen had nothing to his name. He rented his flat, just as he rented the villa les Abeilles for holidays in Deauville from 1923. He had no personal interest in money; it was merely a means to an end. By the early thirties, he had achieved most of his dreams of industrial success, but the Depression strikes. By 1934, he was finding it difficult to meet his financial commitments and the banks refused to provide more money. The Michelin brothers buy a stake in the CitroÎn factories and then, at the request of the banks, take over the management. Andre Citroen’s next challenge, the launch of the , is not enough to save him from bankruptcy.
Andre Citroen died of cancer on 3 July 1935 and is laid to rest in Montparnasse cemetery in Paris.”
*Information from Socalcitroen.com
**Video published on YouTube by “PSA – Citrovidéo“