The emergence of the French automotive industry dates back to the 90s. XIX century. Initially, these were small businesses, often repurposed workshops. So, for example, the Peugeot workshop before automobiles produced sequentially metal products (clock springs, saw blades, coffee mills, etc.) and bicycles. However, by 1913, the country occupied the 2nd place in the world in the production of cars (after the USA) and 1st place in their export.
In general, the situation with cars from France is rather ambiguous. Because of some mistakes in the past, French car companies have not earned the best reputation. However, several car brands have gained widespread popularity not only in France but also abroad. Among them are four auto giants – Peugeot, Citroen, Bugatti, and Renault.
The most famous French car brands
Founder: Ettore Bugatti
Headquarters: Molsheim, Alsace, France
Owner: Volkswagen Group
Bugatti is a French company specializing in the production of racing, sports and luxury cars. The brand was founded by engineer and artist Ettor Bugatti in 1909. As a result of his efforts, mobile cars began to enter the market, capable of accelerating to “mind-blowing” 100 km / h. Nowadays, company produces high-quality vehicles, which are famous all over the world.
Founder: Armand Peugeot
Headquarters: Legal and top level administrative: Ave de la Grande Armée, Paris Operational: Sochaux, France
Owner: PSA Group
The family-owned industrial enterprise “Peugeot” was founded in 1810 in Sous-Crees by brothers Jean-Pierre and Jean-Frédéric Peugeot and specialized in the production of clock springs and hand mills. By 1886, the company had started serial production of bicycles, and in 1890 the first Peugeot car was born, with a two-cylinder gasoline engine with a capacity of one horsepower. Now, PSA’s parent company Peugeot Citroën is Europe’s second-largest car manufacturer.
Founded: 25 February 1899
Founder: Louis Renault, Marcel Renault, Fernand Renault
Headquarters: Boulogne-Billancourt, France
Parent: Groupe Renault
Owner: French state (15.01%), Nissan (15.0%), Daimler Pension Trust (3.1%), Public float (62.74%)
The history of the Renault brand begins in 1898. A young engineer named Louis Renault created the first car in his life and equipped it with the first transmission in history. The following year, Louis, along with brothers Fernand and Marcel, registered a company called the Renault Brothers. Renault is currently one of the most popular and best-selling car brands in the whole world!
Founded: March 1919
Founder: André Citroën
Headquarters: Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine, France
Parent: Groupe PSA
Owner: Groupe PSA
1919 was a historic year for automotive Europe. It was in this year that the first production car – Citroen model “A”, came out of the gates of the Parisian plant on the Javel embankment. The company has a successful history of manufacturing technologically advanced vehicles and numerous motorsport victories. Today, the largest market for the brand is China.
Minor famous French car brands
Founded: 22 June 1955
Founder: Jean Rédélé
Headquarters: Dieppe, France
Parent: Renault S.A.
Owner: Groupe Renault
Brand Alpine, founded by Jean Rédélé, is specialized in the production of racing and sports cars. However, the company became world-known only after World War II. Nowadays it produces only sports cars for the Renault brand.
Founder: Claude Poiraud, Gérard Godfroy
Owner: Gildo Pallanca Pastor
The main aim of the creation of the brand was to compete in the “Grand Tourisme” market. Despite the little budget, shortage of stuff, and plenty of other difficulties, the company produced its high-quality vehicles until 2000. At that year brand declaring bankruptcy and was bought by Gildo Pallanca Pastor company from Monaco. Now the company is specialized in electric-powered motors but still produces its luxurious cars.
Founded: 2009 (premium sub-marque of Citroën), 2014 (standalone marque of Stellantis)
Headquarters: Rueil-Malmaison, France
The abbreviation of DS can be decoded as Different Spirit or Distinctive Series. This brand was founded in 2009 as a premium automotive marque under the control of a larger Citroën company. However, 5 years ago it became standalone. In the future, in 2005, DS plans completely switch to the production of exclusively electric and hybrid vehicles.
Headquarters: Aix-les-Bains, Savoie, France
Owner: Polaris Industries (44%)
Aixam was founded in 1983 for the production of microcars. Nowadays this brand is a well-known micro car manufacturer in France and even had some appearances at the British International Motor Show.
Founder: Guy Ligier
Headquarters: Abrest, France
Parent: 21 Investimenti Partners
French brand Ligier was initially founded in 1968 by racing driver Guy Ligier for the manufacture and production of sports cars, but gain its popularity on the microcar market. Their first auto was a sports car called the Ligier JS2, which was produced in 1971. Currently, the company produces micro cars and quads.
Founder: Patrick, Gilles and Olivier Prevot
Headquarters: Saint-Christol-lès-Alès, France
Parent: Al-Sayer Group
PGO is a French brand, which was founded in 1980 by three automobile fans: the brothers Patrick, Gilles, and Olivier Prévôt. Their initials – PGO gave the name to the brand. In the beginning, the company produced replicas to the famous brands but very soon started its own range of retro two-seater cars. Even now, the company is very popular among lovers of retro cars, as their vehicles are considered an appropriate solution for connoisseurs seeking individuality and style. The latest model was presented in 2008 at Paris Motor Show and gained the name “Hemera”.
All in all, French engineers have played a very important role in the birth and further development of the global automotive industry. They were the first, who created a model equipped with an internal combustion engine in 1883. Elegant French car models are popular all over the world and are in great demand not only in France but in other countries too.