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Citroën

(1919)


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(established 1919)

André Citroën founded this world‐famous automobile manufacturing company in Paris. His entrepreneurial background had included the manufacture of gears and artillery ammunition in the First World War. Over the decades since it was founded the company established a reputation for innovative design, including the 2CV, the DS, and the SM, although this was less marked towards the end of the 20th century. The company logo, comprising two chevron gear teeth, referred to its early history in gear manufacture. The company's first automobile was the Type A 10 HP of 1919, designed and engineered by Jules Salomon. Significantly Citroën was influenced by developments in the American automobile industry, particularly the use of assembly‐line production, an economic outlook complemented by an increased emphasis on styling from the early 1930s. A sculptor and stylist Flaminio Bertoni was employed by Citroën from 1932 to 1964, doing much to develop the appearance of the company's cars. However, development of the YCV Traction Avant, a highly innovative front‐wheel drive model of 1934, was very costly and led to the takeover of Citroën by the Michelin tyre company. An early project to revive the company's fortunes commenced in 1935—the development of a utilitarian car for use by French farmers and their families. Pierre Boulanger, an architect who had previously designed workers' housing for Michelin, was charged with this project—the 2CV or Deux‐Chevaux—and worked closely with the engineer Maurice Brogly (and later André Lefèbvre). Large‐scale market surveys were undertaken, followed by the field‐testing of prototypes, and production started at the outbreak of the Second World War, only to be abruptly halted. The 2CV was finally launched at the Paris Motor Show of 1948. It became widely popular in circles never envisaged, including hippies, housewives, and Habitat shoppers, remaining in production until 1990 when it was replaced by the AX. Bertoni had worked on the minimal styling of the Citroën 2CV in the 1930s and, after the Second World War, on the dramatic, elegant sweeping forms of the DS19 of 1955 and the Citroën Ami 6 of 1961. Visitors to the Paris Motor Show of 1955 were not only struck by the aerodynamic shape of the DS19 but also admired the ‘space age’ appearance of its dashboard and controls. Its technical equipment such as hydropneumatic suspension, front‐wheel disc brakes, and foot‐operated parking brake also struck a contemporary chord. After some early teething problems the comfortable DS19 (Déesse or ‘Goddess’) went on to sell more than 1.4 million between 1955 and 1973 and was much admired by Roland Barthes, design writers, and critics. In 1964 Bertoni was succeeded as head of styling by Robert Opron, whose designs included the tapered form of the CX of 1974. During this period, an important role was also played by Michel Harmand, a French car designer with a background in the Fine Arts, who was at Citroën from 1964 to 1987, when he moved on to Peugeot, who had taken over Citroën in 1975. He specialized in the design of car interiors, evolving innovative dashboard designs for the CX and controls for the Visa, the GSA, and the BX. The Italian car‐styling company Bertone designed the latter car in 1982. Other designers associated with design at Citroën included Trevor Fiore, a British car designer with a background at the British Motor Corporation and the Raymond Loewy office. A consultant to Citroën in 1980, he became head of styling from 1980 to 1982, being succeeded by Carl Olsen, an American car designer whose previous industrial experience included a period in the Styling Section at General Motors (1957 to 1961). In 1987 Arthur Blakeslee, an American car designer with a background at Chrysler UK and Simca, took charge of Citroën's Style Centre.

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Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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