As automakers go, Citroën is potentially one of the most unique and innovative in the history of the automobile.
Just Google Traction Avant, 2CV and DS as exhibit A, B and C in chronological order. The Traction Avant, which debuted in 1934, was the first monocoque construction (as opposed to ladder-frame, which was the norm) automobile to be mass-produced. It also featured front-wheel drive and independent suspension – in the 1930s!
That being said, the cost of production and tooling was such that it bankrupted the company. I suppose, like most visionaries and founders, André-Gustave Citroën was better at sorting mechanical drawings than balancing books of accounts.
Citroën is now part of the recently formed Stellantis Group – a merger between FCA and PSA, which includes storied brands like Jeep, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Vauxhall, Peugeot, Citroën, and others. Quite an eclectic mix of marques, but strength in numbers is exactly what’s needed at this time of transformation.
Getting back to history, the 2CV was Citroën’s answer to post-war frugality – much like the VW Beetle and Mini. The 2CV was so versatile that it could be used to cruise down the Champs Elysees one day and cross a freshly ploughed field the next. In fact, one of the design parameters was that you should be able to drive across a ploughed field without breaking any eggs in the cabin. It even had seats that could be easily removed and used as benches during picnics in the countryside.
If it was the 2CV that set the tone for exemplary comfort for Citroën, it was the DS that cemented not only that trait but also those of style and innovation. The DS is perhaps the most futuristic car of all time! It was so advanced that it looks cutting edge even today. In the 1950s, it had self-levelling suspension and disc brakes, which was shortly followed by the introduction of swivelling headlights. All of which was sculpted in the most exquisitely French and slippery body you could imagine.
The C5 Aircross, the vehicle with which Citroën is making its debut in India, certainly carries forward this tradition of style and comfort. But this is just the start of course – one thing’s for certain, Citroën will surely add an element of style and joie de vivre to our roads.