Commemorating André Citroën by Finding an Early Marketing Aspiration

On this 85th anniversary of André Citroën’s death on July 3, 1935, we reach back to the past:

This July 27, 1919 article from the Baltimore American, the city’s longest-running newspaper until it ceased publication in 1986, mentions André Citroën and his association with Renault. It states that André had high hopes to bring the Doble steam car to Europe. Always the visionary and marketing master, Citroën is quoted claiming the Doble steam car would be his foray toward making an impact on the burgeoning automobile era.

This must have been a marketing move on Citroën’s part to promote his fledgling automobile business because years before this article appeared, he had modified his vision and decided, like Henry Ford, that the best post-war opportunities in auto-making would involve a lighter car of good quality, but made in sufficient quantities to be priced enticingly.

The automotive business was one that Citroën knew well, thanks to a successful six-year stint working with the Mors automobile factory between 1908 and the outbreak of WWI.

During WWI, André Citroën built armaments for France with aspiration to get into automobile production. His decision to switch to automobile manufacturing was evidently taken as early as 1916, which is the year when Citroën asked the engineer Louis Dufresne, previously with Panhard, to design a technically-sophisticated 18HP automobile for which he could use his factory once peace returned.

Sunday, July 27, 1919   The Baltimore American Volume: CCXXVI   Section: Part Two   Page: 12C Sunday, July 27, 1919:


Mr. Citroen Says His New Doble Steamer to Be As Popular as Ford.

Mr. Citroen is one of the directors of the French Doble Company, which has recently started on the manufacture of Doble steam cars in France. This company, composed of some of the most prominent men and engineers of the automobile field of that country, made a thorough and painstaking investigation and carried on exhaustive tests in America for two years during the time of America’s participation in the war.

Mr. Citroen is a manufacturing engineer of international reputation and was one of the leading production experts of France during the war. He is a member of the Renault organization, and very prominent naturally in automobile circles of Europe. He expects to make the new car occupy a place in France such as the Ford car occupies in the United States.

Morgan J Hammers, president of the Doble-Detroit Steam Motors Company, Detroit, Mich., was very much gratified some days ago when he opened a publication which reached his desk and found that it was La Vie au Grand Air, of Paris, France, one of the leading motor papers of France, corresponding to a considerable extent to the Scientific American of America. He found that the publication contained a chassis view of the new French car designed by Andre Citroen, and also a diagrammatic view of the Doble steamer.

The Renault reference in the story is interesting stating that Citroen is a member of the Renault organization. Most likely that is just editorial summation due to André Citroën and Louis Renault being friends at the time.

In February 1917 André Citroën contacted another engineer, Jules Salomon, who already had a considerable reputation within the French automotive sector as the creator, in 1909, of a little car called Le Zèbre. Citroën’s mandate was characteristically demanding and characteristically simple: to produce an all-new design for a 10 HP car that would be better equipped, more robust and less costly to produce than any rival product at the time.
The result was the Type A, announced to the press in March 1919, just four months after the guns fell silent.

Thanks to Citroënvie member Karl Petersen for sending along the Baltimore American article.


  1. I think I have went through that season of “La Vie au Grand Air”, but I can’t find the original information about this project. As a matter of fact, I have went through thousands of English lingual newspapers, and some of their statement about André Citroën and his companies does not match any French news articles even with the most liberal way of translation.

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