French people were always passionate about cars. France hosts the world’s oldest endurance race in the world named in French Les 24h du Mans translated would give the 24h of the Le Mans. For your information, Le Mans is a French city located in the North-west part of France. This race started back in 1923. From the 19th century, there were more than 1000 French car brands.
Nowadays, we can sum up the French car industry to three main active constructors and two smaller ones, that was quite a reduction! If you are curious about French cars, you should like my article about driving in France.
1 – Renault
This is the biggest French car manufacturer in France but also in the world. Established in 1898 by the brothers Louis, Marcel, and Fernand Renault, the French people love to call it “La marque au losange” so translated into English as “The diamond brand”. It belongs now to the international group Renault Nissan Mitsubishi the biggest car seller in the world since 2017 (Bigger than Toyota and Volkswagen).
Before that, since 1999, it was only Renault-Nissan. Renault took some shares in the Japanese company that was struggling at that time. It was a smart move for Renault that became in 2011, with Nissan, the third car seller in the world.
In 2017, Renault bought the Russian car brand Lada in order to reinforce its position in the Russian market. In 2022, Renault sold the Russian brand due to the war in Ukraine.
Renault bought a low-cost Romanian car brand named Dacia in 1999. In Europe, it is manufactured in Romania in order to follow a low-cost production strategy (Also, manufactured in Morocco since 2012). Dacia is an industrial success for Renault in Europe in particular with the Logan model created in 2004. You can find a lot of those cars also in South America, except that the cars will have the Renault logo on them.
The French car brand also participated for 35 years in the Formula 1 competition and won a total of ten constructor prices.
In France, depending on how you see it, the next two French car brands (Peugeot and Citroën) are linked in the same group (PSA) so if you take them separately, Renault would be the biggest car seller in France.
Its market share was in 2019 at 24,81% so 1 out of 4 cars sold in France is a Renault! The bestseller model for Renault is the Clio created in 1990 and that is now in its fifth generation of models (in 2020). Another commercial success is the electric car named Zoé which is number one in its category in France.
The photo cover is one of the big commercial successes of Renault, the Clio model.
Some other models: Espace, Captur, Megane, and Talisman.
2 – Peugeot
Peugeot was created in 1810, but the company started to produce cars only in 1891. As I mentioned in the Renault section, Peugeot belongs to the same constructor group as Citroën named PSA since 1965. Citroën joined the group in 1976. Peugeot uses a Lion as an emblem and besides producing cars, the company produces moppets and bikes. In terms of sales, Peugeot has four models in the top 10 in France.
Model 208 is number one of this top 10 (the second is the Renault Clio) comes in the fourth position, the model 3008, and at the seven and eighth positions are the models 2008 and 308. It is the second car brand after Renault in terms of sales and got 32% of market shares (With Citroën).
Peugeot participated (with Peugeot Sport, the department created in 1981) in many race competitions from the 24 hours of the Mans to WRC World Rally Championship, and edited a video in 2016 to summarize it.
When I think about Peugeot, I can’t help myself thinking about the French movies “Taxi”. There are five in total. Those movies are about a taxi driver driving a Peugeot 406 model that ends up using his driving skills for the police forces.
3 – Citroën (and DS)
This is the last French car brand of the big trio, it belongs to the group PSA. Citroën probably produced the most emblematic French car the model 2 CV (YouTube Video) or 2 Chevaux (2 horses). The car was presented in 1948 at the Paris Motor Show and produced until 1990.
Citroën created its premium car brand named DS Automobiles in 2015 at the Geneva International Motor Show. The name originally comes from a famous car model named DS produced between 1955 and 1975.
The bestseller model in 2019 for Citroën is the C3 III. It is in the third position in terms of sales in France.
Like the two previous French car brands, Citroën participated in many race competitions. For example, they won eight titles at the World Rally Championship between 2003 and 2012. They had the best French rally driver Sébastien Loeb that won nine titles at the WRC.
4 – Alpine
This is a premium French sports car created in 1955 and was bought in 1965 by Renault. This French car company won many car prices in particular at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In 1978 this is the end of Alpine before a comeback at the Geneva International Motor Show in 2017 with the model A110.
5 – Bugatti
Founded in 1909 by the Ettore Buggati is a premium/luxury French car brand that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1936. It was bought by the Volkswagen group in 1998.
In 2016, they introduced the Chiron, a French sports car, at the Geneva International Motor Show, it is the most powerful car manufactured by Bugatti.
The car broke a world record reaching 400 km/h in only 42 seconds (Here is the video).
I hope you liked discovering the history of those French car brands and that you have learned a little about France and French culture.
After reading about French car companies, I invite you to learn more about France by reading this interesting previous article: 11 Mindblowing Fun Facts About France.
Photo Credit @Benjamin Aymond