Panhard has a very rich and lengthy history. Originally called Panhard et Levassor, it was established as an automobile manufacturing concern by René Panhard and Émile Levassor in 1887, thus being one of the first makers of automobiles.
Panhard’s efforts were always highly memorable, advanced, and foreshadowed the cars of today and the future. However most of its cars were out of the mainstream, costly to produce and the company frequently struggled with the lack of financial success.
Post WWII, Panhard developed a distinguished series of ultra-efficient two-cylinder cars (the Dyna series and PL), but by the early 1960’s sales dwindled in the home market and the company couldn’t develop markets in other countries.
By the mid-60’s the firm was gasping for life. Panhard, desperate for cash, was selling off more and more of itself to Citroën and by 1965, Citroën had full control over Panhard. Citroën gave the company one last shot to develop a successful car, the ultimate result being the 24TC.
Panhard was taken over by Citroën in 1967, and the marque was retired from automobile manufacturing, leaving the Panhard name, from 1968 onward, only on armored vehicles that they made.
A well done documentary on the history of Panhard up to the time that Citroën took over can be viewed here:
Subsequent to the release of this Panhard history film, in 2004 the company lost a competition to another manufacturer of military vehicles, Auverland, for the choice of the future PVP (general-purpose armoured 4-wheel drive vehicle) for the French Army. This allowed Auverland to purchase Panhard, then a subsidiary of PSA Peugeot Citroën, in 2005. However, the fame of Panhard being greater, it was decided to retain the name; the PVP designed by Auverland would bear a Panhard badge.
In October 2012, Renault Trucks Defense, division of Swedish Volvo Group since 2001, finalized the acquisition of Panhard for 62.5 million euros.
Today the only use of the name Panhard is in the Panhard rod (also called Panhard bar), a suspension link invented by Panhard that provides lateral location of the axle. This device has been widely used on other automobiles or as an aftermarket upgrade to rear axles for vintage American cars.
As a bonus, view the video produced by Jay Leno about his 1960 Panhard PL 17 with Citroënvie member and President of the USA Panhard Club, John Peterson.