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Andre Citroën: Revolutionizing the Automotive Industry

Andre Citroën was a visionary entrepreneur who revolutionized the automotive industry with his innovative ideas and relentless pursuit of excellence. Born in 1878 in Paris, France, Citroën was destined to leave an indelible mark on the world of automobiles. From his early days as an engineer to the founding of his eponymous company, Citroën’s contributions to the automotive industry continue to shape the way we think about cars today. In this article, we will explore the life and achievements of Andre Citroën, and how his innovative spirit transformed the automotive landscape.

The Early Years: From Engineer to Entrepreneur

Andre Citroën’s journey in the automotive industry began with his passion for engineering. After graduating from the prestigious École Polytechnique in Paris, Citroën worked for the French automobile manufacturer Mors, where he gained valuable experience in the field. However, it was his encounter with Henry Ford’s assembly line during a trip to the United States that sparked his entrepreneurial spirit.

Upon returning to France, Citroën realized the potential of mass production and its ability to revolutionize the automotive industry. He saw an opportunity to bring the assembly line concept to Europe and create affordable cars for the masses. In 1919, Citroën founded his own company, Société Anonyme André Citroën, with the goal of making cars accessible to a wider audience.

The Traction Avant: Pioneering Front-Wheel Drive

One of Andre Citroën’s most significant contributions to the automotive industry was the development of the Traction Avant, a groundbreaking car that introduced front-wheel drive to the mass market. Prior to the Traction Avant, most cars were rear-wheel drive, which limited their performance and handling capabilities.

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Citroën recognized the advantages of front-wheel drive, such as improved traction and maneuverability, and set out to design a car that would incorporate this innovative technology. The Traction Avant, introduced in 1934, was the first mass-produced front-wheel drive car and quickly gained popularity for its superior handling and comfort.

The Traction Avant’s success not only solidified Citroën’s reputation as an innovator but also set a new standard for the automotive industry. Front-wheel drive became the preferred drivetrain layout for many manufacturers, and its benefits are still evident in modern cars today.

The Citroën DS: A Design Icon

In 1955, Citroën unveiled another groundbreaking car that would become an icon of automotive design – the Citroën DS. Designed by Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni, the DS featured a futuristic and aerodynamic design that was unlike anything seen before.

The DS was not only visually striking but also packed with innovative features. It was the first production car to feature disc brakes, a self-leveling suspension system, and a hydropneumatic suspension that provided a smooth and comfortable ride. The DS also boasted advanced safety features, such as a crumple zone and a padded dashboard.

The Citroën DS was an instant success and became a symbol of French automotive excellence. Its avant-garde design and technological innovations set it apart from its competitors and solidified Citroën’s reputation as a pioneer in the industry.

Bankruptcy and Acquisition by Peugeot

Despite his many successes, Andre Citroën faced financial difficulties in the late 1930s. The economic downturn and the outbreak of World War II took a toll on the company, leading to mounting debts and a decline in sales. In 1934, Citroën was forced to declare bankruptcy.

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However, Citroën’s legacy did not end with his bankruptcy. In 1935, the French government appointed Pierre Michelin, the head of the Michelin tire company, to oversee the restructuring of Citroën. Michelin successfully turned the company around and restored its financial stability.

In 1976, Citroën faced another crisis and was on the verge of bankruptcy once again. This time, the company was acquired by Peugeot, another French automobile manufacturer. The merger between Citroën and Peugeot created the PSA Peugeot Citroën Group, which has since become one of the largest automotive groups in the world.

Legacy and Impact on the Automotive Industry

Andre Citroën’s contributions to the automotive industry are immeasurable. His innovative ideas and relentless pursuit of excellence revolutionized the way cars were designed, manufactured, and marketed. Citroën’s emphasis on mass production and affordability paved the way for the democratization of the automobile, making cars accessible to a wider audience.

Furthermore, Citroën’s commitment to technological advancements and avant-garde design set new standards for the industry. The Traction Avant’s front-wheel drive layout and the Citroën DS’s innovative features pushed the boundaries of automotive engineering and design.

Today, Citroën continues to be a prominent player in the automotive industry, known for its distinctive design and innovative technologies. The company’s commitment to Citroën’s legacy is evident in its current lineup of cars, which embody the spirit of innovation and excellence that Andre Citroën instilled in the brand.


Andre Citroën’s impact on the automotive industry cannot be overstated. His innovative ideas and relentless pursuit of excellence revolutionized the way cars were designed, manufactured, and marketed. From the introduction of front-wheel drive to the development of avant-garde designs, Citroën’s contributions continue to shape the automotive landscape.

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Today, Citroën stands as a testament to Andre Citroën’s vision and legacy. The company’s commitment to innovation and excellence is a reflection of its founder’s pioneering spirit. As we look to the future of the automotive industry, we can draw inspiration from Andre Citroën’s remarkable journey and his unwavering belief in the power of innovation.

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