140 years ago day for day, on February 5th, 1878, André Citroën was born in Paris. The occasion for Citroën to return on the exceptional course of his/her founding father, whose heritage impregnates still today the culture of the Mark…
André Citroën is graduate Polytechnic school at 22 years. In 1905, at the 27 years age, it creates its first company by exploiting a patent of gears in the shape of rafters. Used in the car but also in naval construction, industrial success is immediately with go. Symbol of success and technological progress, the double stylized rafter will become and remain consequently the emblem of its mark through its famous logo.
It is only at thirty-four years (in 1912), that Citroën starts to be interested in automotive industry. Thus it is named chief executive officer of Bit, an automobile firm in lose speed which had had certain success at the beginning of the century. It defines new models, reorganizes the manufacturing and in six years multiplies by ten the sales.
1914 mark the beginning of the First World War. Noting that the French Army misses ammunition cruelly, Citroën decides to mobilize itself in artillery while launching out the challenge to manufacture 10.000 shells per day… A challenge! It buys a ground with the Javel quay (current Quay André Citroën), in the south-west of Paris, built a factory and produced there soon 10.000 then 20.000, and to 50.000 shells per day. The men being with the face, Citroën calls on a female labour for which it will set up social services without precedent (canteens, cribs, etc…). This social dimension with respect to its staff appears also in 1927, year when Citroën is the first employer of France to remunerate of a thirteenth month its employees.
The high production paces are obtained thanks to the implementation of the mass production and scientific management of Taylor. As of the end of the war, Citroën converts its factory of shell and applies this method following the example of Henry Ford whom it met in the United States, and with which one often compares it. It thus produces Type A, the first Citroën but more especially “first car built in Europe in great series”, making the dream automobile accessible to the greatest number. It thus created a true revolution for the time… It is consequently the beginning of the true rise of Citroën, which will lead it in the Thirties to the first place of the manufacturers in France and Europe, and with the second in the world.
Regularly imitated by its rival Louis Renault, Citroën launches innovation after innovation: the first conveys really popular with 5 HP, all-steel, the floating engine, until the integral revolution which was Traction Before…
Better than that: Citroën was the first in the world to understand that a car was not only one object sold to a customer, but that it was also a service. It drew the conclusions from them by inventing the after sales, by developing a network of repairing agents, by publishing a dictionary of repairs and a catalogue of the spare parts, by imagining the standard exchanges of bodies, the guarantee, the car rental, the credit sale (it founded for that the SOVAC, first French company of consumer credit)… In short, it created the modern trade of the car!
It opened branches in France, subsidiaries and assembly lines abroad, and the department store of cars of the world, places Europe at Paris.
Its taste for disproportion, Citroën cultivates it in all the fields: whereas “the others” are not yet that with the advertisement, Citroën made him already indeed of the “pub”… Thus, when the occasions did not exist, it could create them: by registering its name with a plane in the sky of Paris, in luminous letters on the lathe Eiffel (of 1925 to 1935), while launching the Citroën toys, control panels road to its name, advertising caravans, or more extremely still, by organizing transcontinental cruisings out of caterpillar tractors which impassioned the whole world (Crossed of the Sahara, Black Cruising, Yellow Cruising, etc). Player and ready with all the industrial bank values when it liked an idea, Citroën thus did not cease astonishing his contemporaries by his spectacular initiatives.
THE TREASON OF THE BANKS
Such actions could not that to just like worry the bankers his contempt of the money displeased to them. “When an idea is good, he said, the price does not have importance”. But Citroën is caught up with soon by the world economic crisis and the banks refuse to advance the sums necessary to him to its expiries. He is however almost saved: its network of dealers supports it and Traction will leave in a few months: it will be, all the specialists say it and write it, a considerable success.
At this point in time a small supplier protests for two drafts. Citroën must file for bankruptcy its. Michelin, on which it had called, takes over and reassures the banks, which require the departure of Citroën. Nobody comes to his assistance. Very sick, it is operated without success on May 9th, 1935. He dies of a cancer on July 3rd, 1935, at 57 years. He rests with the cemetery of Montparnasse, in Paris.
The figure of André Citroën remains a model which did not lose anything of its modernity nor of its charisma. Today still, this heritage is part of the capital of the Citroën mark.
POUR EN SAVOIR PLUS :
Biographie complète d’André Citroën : www.laventurepeugeotcitroends.fr/andre-citroen-un-homme-dexception
Musée virtuel ‘Citroën Origins’ : www.citroenorigins.fr