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CitroŽn's Partnerships

Since starting car production in 1919, CitroŽn have gone through many corporate changes, and had many strategic partnerships with other car companies and suppliers. Some have remained constant, others have been short-lived.


Andrť CitroŽn's first forays into car production were before WW1, as chairman of the Mors company. Post-war, he decided to found his own company rather than return to Mors, but only a few years later (1925) the CitroŽn company was already successful enough to purchase Mors, close production down, and move production to their factory.


Perhaps the best-known and longest-lived partnership, the story of CitroŽn would have stopped at the end of the first chapter if it wasn't for Michelin.When the development costs of the Traction Avant drove CitroŽn to bankruptcy in the mid '30s, Michelin - exclusive supplier of wheels, tyres and other rubber components - was their biggest creditor. The rescue package involved CitroŽn coming under the controlling ownership of Michelin - and the stage was set for a long partnership. To this day, Michelin tyres are original fit on the vast majority of new CitroŽns.


Another long-running alliance, "CitroŽn prťfŤre Total" was in the rear window of every new CitroŽn for decades. The origins of the relationship are less well known than those with Michelin, but it is certain that Total's engineers worked very closely with CitroŽns to help develop the hydropneumatic suspension which underpins so many of the marque's most legendary models. The CitroŽn-Total WRC rally team has been the force to beat on special stages for the last few years - to the extent that most works teams were glad of the credit crisis as an excuse to withdraw and save their continued blushes.


One of the very oldest car manufacturers, CitroŽn & Panhard had been working on technically similar vehicles - air-cooled, small capacity flat-twins - through the 1950s. Panhard's business was not proving financially successful, despite huge racing success in the Index of Efficiency at Le Mans. In 1963, after co-operation in distribution for 12 years, CitroŽn purchased Panhard completely. The aim was to use Panhard's expertise in mid-range cars to help fill the gap between the 2cv and the DS. The Dyane, in 1967, was very definitely a result of that - even the name echoed Panhard's long-standing "Dyna" range. Panhard's military vehicle business was unaffected, and continued within PSA until sold to the Portuguese 4x4 & military vehicle manufacturer, Auverland, in 2005.


Another name from the very earliest days of car manufacture, Berliet had settled on building larger trucks by the 1960s. CitroŽn's own large-van/small-truck business was not thriving so when the opportunity to purchase Berliet came up in 1967, it was taken. Apart from a short period where the "K" range was available either as a Berliet, CitroŽn or dual-badged, this was effectively the end of CitroŽn trucks, although the van ranges remain thriving. After the formation of PSA, Berliet was sold to Renault along with Saviem, forming RVI (Renault Vehicules Industriel).


In 1968, CitroŽn purchased 100% of Maserati from the Orsi family. Whether this was to help with developing a sporty version of the DS, a project ongoing for a few years, or whether it was just an opportune purchase, is not known - but it lead directly to the SM and Quattroporte II, as well as to CitroŽn hydraulics being used for various systems in the Merak (which shared the SM’s engine), Khamsin and Bora. Following the creation of PSA and the death of the SM as a result of the oil crisis, Peugeot placed Maserati in the hands of administrators. They were propped up by the Italian Government, then sold to DeTomaso in 1975 - Fiat did not become owners until 1993.


Say "Wankel" to most people and they'll say "Mazda RX7/8". Mazda certainly carries the torch forwards, but they owe a heavy debt to NSU. Or, rather, to Comotor. Comotor was a joint venture between NSU and CitroŽn, initially set up in 1964 as Comobil to develop rotary engine technology, before changing focus in 1969 to engine manufacture. The single rotor motor used in the NSU Sport Spider was also used in the Ami M35, with the twin-rotor version best known through the Ro80 being shared with the GZ  Birotor. The rotary engine had a number of issues - rapid wear on the tip seals; excessive fuel and oil consumption and high emissions – which just couldn't be sorted nearly quickly enough - the Ro80 developed an abysmal reputation, with the oil crisis being the final straw. Comotor was a major contributor to the bankruptcies of both CitroŽn & NSU – with Volkswagen (owner of NSU since 1969) merging the remains with Auto Union to form Audi.

Fiat & Lancia

In 1968, Michelin were looking to sell their interest in CitroŽn - and an agreement was struck with Fiat to transfer the remaining 49% from Clermont Ferrand to Turin. In the same year, CitroŽn purchased 100% of Maserati from the Orsi family - Lancia came into Fiat ownership in 1969. Officially, there was no fruit from that relationship - although rumours persist to this day of the CX & Gamma development taking place in parallel. Whether the CX was intended to have the Gamma's flat-four, and whether some under-skin pressings are shared remains a mystery. 

Relationships between the two persist in various commercial vehicle and people-carrier products. The Sevel project, and two factories (Nord in Valenciennes, France and Sud in Atessa, Italy), are 50/50 joint ventures between PSA and Fiat. Joint-badging for these vehicles has continued from the CitroŽn C32 and C35/Fiat 242 in 1974 through to the current range. The one slight exception to this is theCitroŽn Nemo/Peugeot Bipper/Fiat Fiorino/Qubo - which introduces a third partner who assemble the vehicle in Turkey, Tofas.


A joint venture between the Romanian state and CitroŽn, the Romanians invited foreign motor manufacturers to participate in the technological and financial creation of a car factory.  Three manufacturers expressed interest: CitroŽn, Renault and Volkswagen. CitroŽn proffered Projet TA, Renault offered their 12 and VW offered the yet-to-be launched Golf. VW dropped out, leaving the field to CitroŽn and Renault and in July 1976, after thirteen months of tortuous negotiations with the Romanian government, the CitroŽn-Romanian Agreement was signed. Dacia was the Renault venture, initially building the Renault 12 while the CitroŽn venture was called Oltcit – ‘Olt’ from the Romanian province of Oltenia and ‘Cit” from CitroŽn.  The Oltcit was rebadged as the Axel and sold in a number of countries but thanks to diabolical build quality, was not a success.


The big one. For many years staunch rivals, CitroŽn and Peugeot had a brief discussion about joining purchasing forces, to provide economies of scale, from 1963 to 1965. Nothing came of it, but when the Oil Crisis pushed CitroŽn towards bankruptcy in 1973, it was Peugeot who came to the rescue. Initially buying just under 40% in 1974, the share increased to nearly 90% in 1976 after CitroŽn’s finances continued to worsen. From here on in, then on, the story of CitroŽn changes to be a subset of the story of PSA.

Chrysler Europe
Much more a PSA-centric relationship than a CitroŽn-specific one, PSA purchased the remnants of Chrysler Europe, formerly Rootes Group and Simca, in 1980. This included the Talbot brand - notable primarily as the final resting point of cars such as the Avenger and Alpine (Simca 1501 in Europe) which had passed from Hillman or Simca badging, through Chrysler, to Talbot. The main impact of that, for us, was the final sightings of the Talbot brand in the UK - the Express van, otherwise known as the CitroŽn C25. Mainland Europe had that vehicle as the Peugeot J5, but for some odd reason, our delicate British sensitivities were spared the lion on vans for a few more years.

The Rootes/Chrysler factory at Ryton came, too - and stayed until closure in 2007. However, this never saw a return to the UK for CitroŽn production - Ryton was only ever used by PSA as a Peugeot plant. Whilst primarily a footnote to the CitroŽn story, this episode helps explain the Talbot logo moulded alongside the chevrons and lion on many plastic components of '80s and '90s CitroŽns...

It is rumoured that the Talbot brand is to be revived as a bargain basement range to compete with the Renault-owned Dacia brand.

Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Sdn Bhd

During the early '90s, Proton of Malaysia were starting to expand into European markets. Their products, locally designed mid-size saloon and hatchbacks featuring licence-built Mitsubishi engines, were not the most exciting cars, but were reasonably competent and well built. The Chief Executive of Proton, Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad, felt some distance from Mitsubishi would be of benefit to the product range, and entered talks with PSA. The Proton Tiara was launched in 1996. A lightly restyled AX11, the liaison got no further before Yahaya was killed in a helicopter crash in 1997 and Proton turned back towards Mitsubishi. The Tiara stayed in production until 2000 after some 30,000 units were built.


PSA have been looking at the Chinese market since the mid-80s, when 2,500 CXs were exported in an attempt to gain a foothold and open talks with the government. By 1992, a joint venture was established with Dongfeng. Four years later, the Fukang was launched, a ZX lightly altered to suit local tastes. The Fukang range extended over the next few years, including a three-box saloon. Restyled and renamed to Citroen Elysee in 2002, the ZX-derived cars continue in production (in mid 2010) alongside most of the rest of the current Citroen and Peugeot ranges; some familiar, others modified slightly.

Dongfeng have similar joint-ventures with various other European and Far-Eastern brands, making them the second largest domestic player, and third largest overall, in the world's single highest-volume new car market.


Perhaps the most visible of the current partnerships, PSA and Toyota set up a joint venture in the Czech Republic to develop and produce the B-Zero project which was released as the C1/107/Aygo in 2005. Petrol versions of these cars use a three-cylinder engine originally designed by Daihatsu, whilst diesels use the 1.4HDi seen in larger PSA cars.


To help fill gaps in their respective product ranges, Mitsubishi and PSA joined together to exchange technology. The 2007 C-Crosser/4007 may have just been a rebadged and lightly re-styled Outlander, but all marques contained the 2.2HDi diesel. The CitroŽn CZero/Peugeot iOn may be just a rebadged Mitsubishi i- MiEV, but it continues the limited-production electric vehicle lineage CitroŽn have had since the AX and C15.


As mentioned above, Turkish manufacturer Tofas assembles the CitroŽn Nemo, Peugeot Bipper and Fiat Fiorino/Qubo


Easily the most significant partnership of recent years, the liaison with Ford has seen three basic families of diesel engines developed and manufactured jointly, covering the full CitroŽn range from C1 to C6.

  • 1.4 and 1.6 HDi diesels fall into the DLD range, shared with the Fiesta, Focus and Suzuki SX4 - the SX4's Fiat Sedici sister uses a Fiat diesel.

  • The 2.0 and 2.2 HDi diesels started life as a CitroŽn-designed engine family, the EW/DW, covering petrol and diesel. Development of the diesel variants moved towards the joint-venture, and use of the engine spread to the Mondeo, Galaxy, Volvo V40 and Land-Rover Freelander. They are not related to the 2.0/2.2 "Puma" engine used by Ford in the Jaguar X-type and Transit, amongst other applications.

  • 2.7 and 3.0 HDi V6 "Lion"/DT-family diesels, seen across Jaguar and Land-Rover products as well as the C5 and C6. PSA don't use the 3.6 V8 version of this engine, best known in Europe through the Range Rover TDV8, but also the basis of a 4.4 V8 in the American F-150 pickup.


Another engine joint-venture, the second-generation BMW Mini saw the introduction of the "Prince" family of engines. From a PSA perspective, these engines are replacing the TU series used widely across the smaller end of the CitroŽn range from the AX onwards.


This is a lightly adapted version of an article which first appeared in the CitroŽn Car Club website.    © 2010 Adrian Chapman/Julian Marsh/CitroŽn Car Club/CitroŽnŽt