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Engineers that Changed the World - Andre Citroen - Part II

written by: johnsinit•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 3/21/2009

Born in the end of 19th century, Andre Citroen fought at First World War and soon afterwards - established his automobile company. Read André Citroën’s life story - it is as unique as the French automobile he invented.

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    As it was noted in Part I of Citroen biography, Andre was born in 1878 and graduated College by the end of the century. Later he invented helical gears and proposed notable improvements to French Army munitions during World War I. After the was he has met Henry Ford - and the two man shared their passion for cars. Thus, Andre has decided to start his own business.

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    Birth of the Citroën Automobile Company

    The first Citroën car was the “Type A,” a car that debuted in 1919. There was nothing awe-inspiring about the design of the Type A, but using the laws of mass production, Citroën was able to offer features like electric starters and spare wheels at a price that the newly emerging middle class could afford.

    Orders for the Type A poured in: 30,000 of them. The successor to the Type A, the Type B-2 was born under the particular genius Citroën had for publicity. Prior to the B-2’s release, Citroën had encouraged rumor mongering, the 1920s version of our own age’s “viral advertising.” Citroën sold almost 100,000 B-2s in five years.

    By 1927, Citroën employed 35,000 workers, and threw a party to celebrate the crossing of the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh in 1927. Lindbergh knew he was almost to Paris when he saw the iconic Eiffel Tower – which had “Citroën” spelled out in 125,000 lights. The press over the Lindbergh welcome was worth more than any advertising he could have purchased.

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    The End of Citroën’s Career

    Unfortunately Citroën’s gambling addiction allowed him to fritter away millions of francs of his own and the company’s money. By 1934 the cash flow problems were severe enough that Michelin – Citroën’s largest creditor – took over the plant and put André Citroën out to pasture. Unhappy in retirement, Citroën quickly declined after being diagnosed with stomach cancer and died in 1935.

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    Citroën’s Legacy

    The Citroën name, logo, and body styles that were so popular during the 20th century are still recognized everywhere. André Citroën was not only a brilliant engineer and publicity man, he pioneered workplace policies unheard of in the 1920s, like medical care for workers and maternity leave. Though his gambling addiction was severe enough to send the company into receivership, André Citroën is still warmly recognized as the master of French design that he was.