Armand Peugeot was a third-generation entrepreneur, having had the good fortune to be born into a family who already had considerable business interests.

Based in the small town of Valentigney in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France, France, the Peugeots had been active in the field of commerce for most of the 19th century, involved in such as varied interests as importing coffee, manufacturing coffee and salt grinders, dressmaking, producing umbrellas and carpentry tools.

As was the tradition of those times Armand began to work in the Peugeot conglomerate as a teenager, taking some time out to earn his engineering degree at the prestigious École Centrale Paris.

After graduating in 1881, Armand set off on a short fact-finding tour to the UK where he was instantly impressed with the new craze sweeping London, the bicycle, in particular, the “ Penny-farthing” variety.

Just 32 and already an experienced businessman, Armand Peugeot saw that bringing the bicycle to France offered tremendous potential and a way to stamp his personality on the company, where he shared the joint management with several cousins.

To his great personal satisfaction, Armand’s baby the "Le Grand Bi" penny-farthing introduced in 1882, proved to be the great commercial success he had hoped for, allowing him to develop a complete range of bicycles, all of which sold very well.

With his bicycle business established and profitable, Armand Peugeot began to turn his attention to the “ next best thing”- the automobile.

Not one to let the grass grow under his feet Peugeot spent a few months researching this new industry, travelling to Germany to meet up with Europe’s leading auto industry pioneer, Gottlieb Daimler among a few others to learn how to get a foothold in the new and exciting world of the automobile.

It looked like nothing could stop Peugeot’s remarkable growth, with the company commanding 40% of the total domestic market in France at that time.

There were, however, dark clouds on the horizon, first, the instability in Europe that led to the outbreak of World War One, meaning that all forms of domestic car production would be suspended for the good of the war effort.

The second and possibly larger cloud was Armand Peugeot’s deteriorating health. Armand passed away early in 1915, but not before he had ensured the continuity of the company, passing ownership on to Peter, Robert and Julius,as well as his second cousin Eugene Peugeot.

Armand had traditionally enjoyed a warmer relationship with Eugene than many of his other family members.

At the end of the war, the three cousins Eugene succeeded in getting the Peugeot plants back into action very quickly.

The fourth-generation Peugeot brothers obviously had a taste for the better things in life, as,during the early part of their watch, Peugeot seemed to be steadily moving upmarket, producing larger and more luxurious cars, although considerably more expensive.

Thanks to post-war stability and the gradual rise in prosperity that it brought, the demand for Peugeot's increased steadily throughout the Twenties. Having the three brothers running the company was also taking its toll, especially when it came round to the decision-making process.

In 1926, the brothers did make a significant decision to separate the bicycle division from the automobile production sector. From then, both the units would trade, and successfully, as separate financial entities.

As the end of the Twenties approached, years which had been very good years for Peugeot, someone at the company saw the writing on the wall, and reached a decision to enter more deeply into the mass market, with fewer models and the general adoption of mass production methods that were working so well for American and UK plants.

Their timing could not have been better when as they introduced their first “ low cost” vehicle, the Great Depression began.

While Peugeot suffered as much as any other car manufacturer during this period, thanks to the 201 they held their own, simply because they could offer this well designed, technologically advanced and inexpensive car to a public that were counting their centimes, down to the last one.

What the arrival of the 201 did for Peugeot, during the difficult years of the Thirties, was to allow the company to define their brand image clearly.

After its relatively successful introduction, Peugeot began to produce three models geared towards three specific sectors- entry-level ( the 200 series) mid-range ( the 300 series) and the middle to top-end sector ( the 400 series).

The three models that the company produced to meet the market demands of the Nineteen Thirties were the Peugeot 202, Peugeot 302 and the Peugeot 402. As far as eye appeal was concerned, the undisputed winner was the 402 BL Eclipse décapotable, which Peugeot claimed was the World’s first convertible with a hydraulically retractable roof.

The 202 was far and away Peugeot’s best-seller, the entry-level model that had replaced the 201 in 1938, remaining in production till 1942, when all domestic production was suspended during World War Two.

In 1945, at the end of all hostilities, Peugeot found themselves in a better position than most of their European contemporaries in the car manufacturing industry, with the factories reasonably intact and enough spare parts and raw materials to almost immediately resume production of the 202.

The company pressed their advantage as best they could by introducing the much larger but still utilitarian 403 in 1955. The 403 was a real workhorse available in a number of combinations from saloon to station wagon from convertible to pickup truck.

The 403 remained in production till 1965, selling close to 1.2 million units, making for the first million-selling Peugeot. The van and pickup combinations of the 403 even remained in production almost five years after the 404, its replacement, was released in 1960.

Peugeot survived the Fifties basically with only two models in production, remarkable feet.

The Sixties saw them return to their pre-war formula of having three model distinctions- the 200 entry-level series, the 300 mid-range series and the 400 mid to top range series.

The Peugeot 404 remained in production till well into the Seventies, although a slightly heavier model category, the 504 was introduced in 1968.

Peugeot continued to consolidate and grow during the Seventies, building enough impetus to be able to acquire one of their most significant rivals, Citroen, in 1975.

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