Peugeots haven't been formally exported to the U.S. since 1991, but elsewhere in the world, the company still stands as a major automotive player. Their automotive production roots can be traced all the way back to 1889. Armand Peugeot built four three-wheeled steam cars that year, but soon abandoned steam for gas, outfitting his vehicles with Daimler-licensed engines built by Panhard et Levassor. Prior to automobiles, the Peugeot family name was already well known in France for manufacturing all manner of things, from bicycles (still produced today), to tools, to coffee grinders, to cotton gins, from as far back as the 18th century. The boxy Type 10, introduced in 1894, is regarded by some as the first station wagon.
Peugeot's three-digit naming system was introduced in 1930 with the Type 201. The first digit referred to chassis size, while the third digit indicated the series of car. The 201 was the cheapest car sold in France that year.
The 202, 302, and 402 of the 1930s bore a clear resemblance to the Chrysler Airflow, with their flowing curves and aerodynamic proportions. Notably, the headlights were mounted behind the front grille. Steady growth would make Peugeot the second-largest automaker in France by the early 1940s.
In 1958, the first Peugeots were exported to the U.S. The Pininfarina-styled, fuel-injected 404 was praised by the automotive press for its nearly silent engine. The 1969 504 earned the European Car of the Year award. Through the 1960s, Peugeot developed a collaborative relationship with Renault, and in the 1970s, they worked with Volvo. A Peugeot/Renault/Volvo-developed engine known as the "PRV" or "Douvrin" was used from 1974 to 1998. The most familiar PRV-powered car on U.S. roads were Volvos. Select cars from the 200 series received PRV engines, though Volvo's reputation for long-running, reliable engines came from their own incredibly durable four-cylinder. The iconic and ill-fated DeLorean DMC-12 also had a PRV under the hood.
Peugeot purchased nearly a third of financially-strapped Citroen in 1974. The resulting company, PSA, was intended to support both brands technologically through the use of shared knowledge while keeping the brands themselves separate and distinct in the marketplace. PSA also acquired the European counterpart of Chrysler in 1978. But none of the mergers proved immediately profitable and Peugeot struggled into the 1980s.
The large cars dominating the Peugeot line at that time were not appealing to the brand's core European market and hampered the brand's image there, but the "supermini" 205 was finally introduced in 1983 to great success. It is considered the car that saved Peugeot. While the model was never imported to the U.S., it sold very well elsewhere. The rally-spec version, called the 205 T16, proved a successful race weapon during the mid-1980s.
The Peugeots most likely to be seen stateside today are the 405, introduced in 1981, and the 505, introduced in 1987. The large sedans fit in well on U.S. highways, and during gas crisis years, the diesel-powered units sold rather well. The 405 was styled by Pininfarina and voted European Car of the Year in 1988 by a significant margin. Its predecessor, the 505, remains a common sight on rough roads in developing countries, where its hardy and smooth-riding suspension is appreciated.... View more