The cars we see on the forecourts of Peugeot dealerships today can trace a rich heritage back more than a hundred years. The company however originally manufactured many other items before it decided to enter the car manufacturing industry. Far removed from cars in dealerships was the manufacture of steel rods that were used to construct crinoline dresses. It was through the manufacture of these circular rods however that eventually led Peugeot into making their first form of transport, the humble bicycle. In fact the nineteenth century saw Peugeot using their knowledge of steel to produce 'Le Grand Bi' more commonly known around the world as the penny farthing.
Once Peugeot had decided to manufacture cars it was under the name of Armand Peugeot. Their first car, rather than utilising internal combustion used steam power as a means of propulsion. This three wheeled car did not however make it to dealerships; only four were ever made making them somewhat of a collector's item today. The preference of steam however did not continue for long, with the help of Gotlieb Daimler the internal combustion engine soon became the power plant of choice.
Always a company to embrace technological advances, the cars in the early Peugeot dealerships were the first to have rubber tyres, created to improve the ride quality of early cars they were severely limited by the fact that instead of being pneumatic, were instead made from solid rubber. Even in this early stage however Peugeot had a clear dispensation for motor sport, entering these early cars into various racing events of the time.
At the turn of century Peugeot had cemented its place in the hearts of the French motoring fraternity. Dealerships began were founded amazingly selling three hundred cars out of a total of twelve hundred sold in France during 1899. Also during this period Peugeot manufactured motorcycles, using the bicycle heritage from previous years. In the four years after 1899 Peugeot became France's favourite car manufacturer, selling more than half of the total cars sold in dealerships across the country.
It was not until the twenties that Peugeot made the decision to divide its bicycle and car manufacturing efforts. The bike company continues until this day producing some of the best bikes on the market while the motoring division continued to court the French public with affordable and reliable cars. During this period, dealerships saw the arrival of the Type 201, the cheapest new car in all of France throughout the twenties. It was with this car that Peugeot tested their retractable roof designs. This theme is still present today with the Peugeot producing the 206 cabriolet, a design harking back to the immensely popular 201.
After the war years Peugeot turned its back somewhat on a French public who struggled to produce disposable income, instead making a concerted effort to open many dealerships in the United States. Not being totally successful in capturing the rather insular American car market it was during this period that collaboration with Renault was established as well as working closely with Volvo on a variety of design aspects.
As a result of great selling figures in Peugeot dealerships during the seventies and with the help of the French government a takeover of rival manufacturer Citroen was launched. The buyout saw many dealerships come under the control of the company making it the largest car manufacturer in France. A situation that continues to this day thanks to the efforts of company chiefs to give each company its own distinct identity.
So what can be drawn from this history? Undoubtedly Peugeot has a rich heritage in manufacturing; also it has proved a dedication to producing affordable and reliable cars not only for the French public but for the entire globe. Who would have guessed that one of the most illustrious car manufacturers of the modern day started their existence manufacturing dresses?
Motor industry expert Thomas Pretty looks into the history and development of Peugeot dealerships and the cars on their forecourts today.