History of Citroen – The Post War Years

History of Citroen – The Post War Years

During the Second World War the Citroen motor vehicle factory production was severely restricted, and even then was used purely for vehicles destined for German occupation forces in France. Following the end of hostilities, Citroen were finally able to launch a new model, the 2CV, which was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1948. Though initially powered with only a 375 cubic cm engine, the 2CV became something of an icon around the world and remained in production until 1990.

In 1955 Citroen once again hit the jackpot with a new model as they rolled out the DS – “La Deesse” – the Goddess. The DS included many revolutionary features for the period such as hydropneumatic self levelling suspension,and power steering. It was also the first car in Europe produced for the general motoring public with disc brakes. It was the beginning of a new era for Citroen and by 1957 the last of its pre-war Traction Avant range – 11CV Familiale – was produced.

The French company were also to the forefront in developing aerodynamic, fuel saving designs. The company were testing their designs with the use of wind tunnels as early as the 1950s.

Having suffered bankruptcy in the mid-1930s, Citroen were always eager to expand their financial base. In 1963 they started talks with French rivals Peugeot to collaborate in purchasing, but the talks proved to be abortive, ending two years later. There was more luck in discussions with Panhard as Citroen sough to expand their smaller car range. And in 1968 they formed a holding company for their worldwide operation called Citroen SA.

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The year 1968 also saw Michelin, who had effectively owned Citroen since the car makers bankruptcy in 1934, sell 49 per cent of their stake to Italian car giant Fiat. Following this the company became more ambitious, taking over Maserati, the famous producer of Italian sports cars, and launched the Grand Tourer SM.

However, market forces were once again beginning to conspire against Citroen. The oil crisis of the early 1970s forced the American government to bring in tighter emission and environmental controls, resulting in the French motor manufacturer pulling out of the US market. The oil crisis left the French company increasingly vulnerable and matters were made worse as Fiat returned their stake in the business to Michelin.

Hope was to come in 1976 when Peugeot SA gained a 90 percent holding in the businesses holding company. This led to Citroen models being developed as an economy brand though the designs were increasingly based on Peugeot engineering. However, by 2009 Citroen were ready to return to the luxury car market, with the relaunch of the famous DS brand. Starting with the DS 3, the new range is set to be rolled out in 2010.