his grandfather sold lemons

André-Gustave Citroën (1878 – 1935) was a French industrialist. He is remembered chiefly for the make of car named after him, but also for his application of double helical gears.

image found here

The Citroen family moved to Paris from Amsterdam in 1873. Upon arrival, the diaeresis was added to the name, changing Citroen to Citroën (a grandfather had sold lemons, and had changed the consequent name Limoenman “lime man” to Citroen (Dutch for “lemon”)). 

make a battery with a lemon, nail and penny here

Andre’s early childhood was comfortable but sadly due to some complex diamond dealings which went wrong, his father committed suicide in 1884 when Andre was only six.

Andre was a megalomaniac who loved making banquet speeches. Once he gave one in London in English, a language he did not speak; he had had his remarks translated and had memorized them. Nobody understood a word.

Another time he was about to read a speech that was to be broadcast all over France, and he said, “Oh let’s tell funny stories instead“. He was immediately taken off the air.

When he crossed the Spanish border on a motor trip, he was stopped by a customs officer, who asked “Name?” “Citroën,” he replied. “I didn’t ask the car’s name but yours,” said the officer. “Oh,” said the manufacturer, “I’m a Citroën, but it’s an Hispano.”

Hispano found here

He was a master of marketing. He promoted his plant to tourists as “the most beautiful in Europe.” When American pilot Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris in May 1927 after the first solo flight across the Atlantic, he threw a party at the plant. He rented the Eiffel Tower and had his name put up in 125,000 lights: “Citroen” shined over Paris. 

image found here

All that glitter came to an end in 1934. Citroen had amassed massive debts over the years. His largest creditor was the tire maker Michelin, and in 1934 Michelin took over the plant, cut costs and switched off the lights in the Eiffel tower.

image found here

Published in: on November 20, 2011 at 9:03 am  Comments (57)  
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  1. Do you know, it’s popped into my mind from time to time over the decades whether Citroen’s name and brand had anything to do with lemons. And now I know! Thanks!

    • you’re welcome

  2. Ouch. The last para is just so sad. I guess that must have killed him in the following year.

  3. Lets tell funny stories instead. That made me laugh

  4. Citroën cars are wonderfully quirky…unfortunately only two of them were truly great – the Traction Avant and the still space-age looking DS. It could well have been the developments costs of the Traction Avant that brought the company down. To find Mr. Citroën was a tad eccentric is no surprise and very fitting.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citroen_DS

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traction_avant

    • The DS is just lovely, my dream car

  5. Those damn complex diamond dealings have been the ruin of many!!
    Yes, I also found the ending of this post, sad, but I am feeling over tyred.
    Sx

  6. The Hispano is a splendid looking vehicle. I’ve often thought if auto makers today would produce a line of cars in these retro styles, they would have a good market. I’d buy one.

  7. Megalomania certainly makes for an interesting life.
    I could probably use a little. Occasionally feeling omnipotent would be a nice change – although not if accompanied by massive debt… ;)

  8. “He is remembered chiefly for the make of car named after him” A Lemon?? haha That is what we call a poorly made car in America.

  9. I think he started to toy with track vehicles in WWI, but I may be wrong. But I am sure that he built the first production car with front drive. The DS is an icon, maybe the new c6 is a fitting successor to her.
    Damn Bibendum!

    • Perhaps a tracked toy like this…? Apparently he built some for the Danes between wars.

      • I am not sure whether they built half-tracks during WWI. They surely used these vehicles on the Croisière jaune, the yellow expedition. There was a black expedition too.

        http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croisi%C3%A8re_Jaune

      • Interesting links. Thanks guys.

  10. I used to be fabulously rich, but unfortunately because of some very complex sapphire dealings that went horribly wrong, I’m now forced to eat porridge and live in a beach hut. I could tell you some funny stories though….

    • I’d prefer living in a beach hut to living in an igloo. Does the porridge come with brown sugar and cream?

  11. I too had wondered about the origin of the name. Looking at their cars, it is appropriate

  12. Alas, how the mighty fall in the end.

    Oh, and I’m now going to have nightmares after seeing that painted Michelin Tire Man.

    • Do you think he’s scary?

  13. Hey, all kidding (and Jeremy Clarkson commentary aside) Citroen has made some VERY nice cars over the years. I would LOVE to have a C5 Tourer to replace my rapidly aging Buick Century wagon! The 2CV is a classic – a Bug before VW built the Bug, and front-wheel-drive to boot! And yes, 63mago, that glorious airbag-suspension DS! :D
    By the by, I believe they are co-engineering small turbocharged engines with BMW. Not too shabby, eh?

    • I had a 2CV for many years. Great little fun car. And never let me down. In the depths of a Scottish winter when expensive BMWs were skidding all over the road in the deep snow, my little 2CV just sailed past them. Nae bother at a’ :lol:

  14. Michelin Man is channeling Samuel L. Jackson! Can hear him quoting scripture – even with that smile!

  15. I’m interested in whether the megalomania starts before or after the person has does fabulous things. Success must be a powerful stimulant.

  16. Off topic, NM – but I would like to pass you the Liebster Blog Award

    see http://madhatters.me.uk/2011/11/20/liebster-blog-award/

    • Hey thanks Duncan xx

  17. I would have totally gotten along with this guy. Once, I forgot I was supposed to give a presentation during a work meeting, so I just stood at the front of the meeting room and said “Why don’t we just tell jokes instead?”

    • I must attend one of your presentations one day

  18. Citroen made some very interesting and quite advanced cars over the years.

  19. Creative eccentricity is one of the most under-rated skills in civilisation. It is a pity that like most of the creative urges it comes bound up with mental problems.

  20. Border crossing bit is wonderful!

  21. I’m sure the funny stories would have gone down a treat, there’s no accounting for the French lack of humour …

  22. I would never have imagined that he would have had such a sad, pitiful life! You’d expect all car makers to be obscenely rich and annoyingly happy!! Poor thing

    • Sabrina! Welcome back

  23. They used to make Citroens in Slough (west of London). I think I shall take up the idea of telling funny stories the next time I’m talking to the tax man

    • Good luck with that

  24. Not sure how I am supposed to pass this on so I am just going to do this.

    : )

    http://psychowatcher.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/the-liebster-blog-award/

  25. The Citroën DS is one of my favourite classic cars. The hydraulic suspension, the space age look from the ID19 to the DS23… lovely. How appropriate that a car like that should come from such a flamboyant character. Shame about the way it ended for him, though.

    • Hi there Pie. Welcome to the gimcrack

  26. I was curious about the origin of “lemon” to refer to a bad car — according to Wikipedia, it started either with a Volkswagen ad in the 1950s or 1960s or in an economics paper in the 1970s. So it was long after Citroën’s time.

    Also, “Let’s Tell Funny Stories Instead” would be a great blog name.

  27. Reminds me of ‘The Life Aquatic’s’ ‘Hotel Citroen’…

    • I recently bought that dvd at a garage sale. Must watch it soon!

      • I LOVE Wes Anderson films…
        you’ll have to let me know what you thought of it!

  28. Ah…many a happy mile in various Citroens. I have a fondness for the little 2CV Duncanr mentions. Front wheel drive in snow? Nae bother!

  29. What Pie said! We had one and it was my all time favorite magical mobile. I never knew any of this. Thanks!!

    • You’re welcome Tammy

      • You had a DS, Tammy? You lucky, lucky thing!

  30. Being indebted to Michelin brings new meaning to the phrase “burn rubber.”

  31. I too would like to sell lemons!

  32. Must show you the Citroen 2CV that was my first passion wagon …

  33. Geez, and I thought my life sucked.

  34. This totally explains the Citroen brand’s dismal repair record. Thank you VERY much!


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