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:: [ A brief History of Andre Citroen and of the 5CV Citroen Model C ] ::
(Written in 2001)

Part 1/.  Brief History of Bozi Mohacek's 1921 Citroen 5CV " L'Escargot "
Part 2/.  Andre Citroen and his introduction to double chevron gears.
Part 3/.  Andre Citroen and his connection with Mors and Munitions
Part 4/.  Formation of the 'S.A. Andre Citroen' Car Company.
Part 5/.  Brief History of the Model C 5CV Citroen

Part 3/.  Andre Citroen and his connection with Mors and Munitions

In 1908 Mors were in trouble. Emile and Louis Mors had commenced manufacture of quality cars in 1895 and quickly established an enviable racing reputation having vanquished the reigning Panhards by 1899. Mors was a very innovative company and sales grew quickly fuelled by their continuing racing successes including wins in the Gordon Bennetts of 1904 and 1905. However by 1908, the Depression had set in in France and sales of Mors cars, which were generally large and expensive, dropped dramatically. Mors withdrew from racing and even though the demand for Mors cars was still there, production dropped to a low of 10 cars a month. 

In view of Andre Citroen's reputation for technical expertise in mass production, Mors President Harbleisher invited Citroen to join Mors and try to turn the company around. Citroen took leave of absence from his gear business and brought with him Georges Haardt from the gear factory. The Citroen style of management and production quickly began to improve Mors' performance and he succeeded in reaching production of 2000 cars by the end of 1909. By 1913 the production was up to a level of 100 cars per month and the Mors future seemed assured.

In the meantime Citroen's gear business was doing well in his absence and, as his work at Mors was done, he returned to running his own company. During the previous year, while still at Mors, he had been to the USA and had inspected the Ford River Rouge plant in Detroit. Unlike Mors where various departments were on different floors, the Ford plant was all on one level with plenty of space and light. This convinced him even more on the benefits of fluid mass production and he decided to expand production at his gear factory even more. To finance the expansion he went public in floating 'Societe des Engrenages A. Citroen'.

In the following year, 1914, the war began and Andre Citroen, who was a captain in the Army Reserves, returned to the Army as a member of an artillery regiment with 75 mm field guns. Early on, the regiment got a pounding to which they could not respond due to a shortage of ammunition. Citroen immediately spotted that here was a requirement and an opportunity to mass produce shells in the same way as he had done with gears. He quickly prepared a business plan which he submitted via an old school friend Louis Loucheur, to the Minister for Armaments Albert Thomas, who rapidly passed it on to the Army's Chief of Artillery, General Baquet. The plan was accepted immediately.

The Ministry of Armaments swiftly supplied Citroen with funds to purchase thirty acres of ground on the Quai de Javel in Paris on which in 1915 was rapidly constructed a massive lightweight factory complex. The Ministry funds also covered the purchase all the requisite new machinery from North America needed to produce 20,000 shells per day. The Quai de Javel complex was massive, impressive, containing everything from production lines to shops, 'cantine electrique', medical and dental clinics, toilets, cloakrooms and all other facilities for employing more than 12,000 workers. 

Citroen was keen on worker benefits which not only made him popular but also ensured stable production. As the war was well under way and men were in trenches, the works were staffed mainly by women, 'munitionettes', and Citroen paid special attention to a support system for women covering pregnancy, birth, and paid leave while nursing. By the height of the war, the Quay de Javel factory was turning out more than 35,000 shells every day, and, in order to integrate national ammunition production, other ammunition factories producing a further 20,000 shells per day were placed under Citroen's control; 55,000 shells per day. It was during this period that Citroen's welfare interests were further nationally recognised in the introduction of the concept of food rationing cards.

As the war drew to a close and the requirement for munitions started to decline, Citroen began to look at other ways of utilising a fully equipped precision manufacturing plant with enormous production capacity. While it was probably inevitable that Andre Citroen would remain within the automobile industry, he was not looking at the automobile as a piece of artistic design nor a suitable means of transport, but as a product with a mass market potential. Had there been some other item which had more marketing potential and which could have been built in his factory, then the Citroen Car might never have existed. 

As it was, the diminishing time frame, his previous experience at Mors and meeting with Henry Ford led him in the direction of investigating manufacture of automobiles. Citroen was not a designer nor knew much about the workings of a car. For this he would need others. His was to provide the concept, the production and the marketing.

It was as early as 1917 that Andre Citroen put out feelers as to who could provide the designs for his car. The first to offer their services were Artauld and Dufresne, who were working for Panhard and who provided a design for a four-cylinder 3-litre 16 hp car. Citroen built three prototypes which underwent extensive testing. It seems however that he was not convinced by the size of the car, anticipating that mass production would be better suited to a smaller more economical vehicle which would appeal to the increasingly wealthy middle class. The prototypes were sold to Gabriel Voisin who developed them further as his own.




Continue with Part 4/.
(Written in 2001)

Copyright MMI, Bozi Mohacek.  Reproduction only by permission from the Author.

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