With a family background in the manufacture of bicycles and a family history in tools and metal goods, Armand Peugeot (1849–1915) founded the Société des Automobiles Peugeot in 1896. However, in design terms Peugeot remained relatively conservative until the decades following the end of the First World War. Henri Thomas, who was head of styling at the company from 1933 to 1960, did much to develop a distinctive character in Peugeot design. One of the first cars that marked out a distinctive style was the aerodynamic six‐cylinder 601 of 1964, advertised in the press with a model reclining on the bonnet under the slogan ‘I love my Peugeot’. Another stylistically sophisticated model was the streamlined Peugeot 402, first shown to popular acclaim at the Paris Motor Show of 1935. Its sweeping aerodynamic styling was reminiscent of developments in the United States, particularly at Chrysler, and made an even greater impact than the innovative Citroën YCV Traction Avant (front‐wheel drive) model first seen the previous year. It also boasted automatic transmission, jointly researched with Gaston Fleischel. In production from 1935 to 1940 (only halted by the Second World War) it enjoyed healthy sales of 150,000, including a considerable number as taxis. After the war the Peugeot 203, launched at the Paris Motor Show of 1948, was the company's only car on sale between 1949 and 1954. This was followed by the Peugeot 403, shown at the Motor Show of 1955, which was well received by the public and remained in production for a decade. It fulfilled the brief for the design of an elegant, comfortable, spacious, economical, and fast car and was the first Peugeot that used an outside consultant, the Italian Pininfarina. An important figure in brokering this relationship between manufacturer and car stylist over the longer term was Paul Bouvot (1922– ) who came to Peugot in 1956, having worked on tractor design after the Second World War followed by a spell at Simca (1947–53). Other Peugeot–Pininfarina collaborations nurtured during Bouvot's period as head of the Style Centre (1960–80) included the 504, the first French car with curved side windows and fold‐down head restraints, selling 3.7 million. The Peugeot 104, launched in 1972, was the shortest four‐door model in Europe and the result of cooperation between Peugeot engineers and the Renault company whose Renault 5 played an influential role. This cooperation resulted from the formation of the PRV company (Peugeot‐Renault‐Volvo), a Franco‐Swedish enterprise in 1971. In 1976 a further merger took place with Peugeot acquiring 90 per cent of Citroën's capital. Between 1980 and 1994, as head of the Style Centre, Gérard Welter continued Bouvot's work in maintaining a productive relationship with Pininfarina. Welter also worked closely with Paul Bracq, who was responsible the design of Peugeot interiors. Bracq's previous experience had included responsibility for advanced styling at Mercedes‐Benz (1957–67) and BMW (1974) before joining Peugeot in 1974 as director of interior styling, a post that he retained until 1996. The Peugeot 205, launched in 1983, was the company's most popular car, designed in a further collaboration between the Peugeot Style Centre under Welter and Pininfarina. The success of this model did a great deal to underpin Peugeot's continued economic viability. Selling in 120 countries it proved to be a huge export success with a total of more than 15.25 million sales by 1999. It was the fourth best‐selling French car ever after the Renault Super 5 and the Citroen 2CV. Murat Gurnack, a graduate of the Royal College of Art with a design background at the Ford Motor Company and Mercedes‐Benz, was appointed as head of the Style Centre in 1994.
Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.