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Armand Peugeot: The 100th anniversary of car founder's death


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Armand Peugeot: The 100th anniversary of car founder's death

This year marks 100 years ago since the death of Armand Peugeot, the French industrialist who led the company to producing its first motorised vehicle.

Armand, grandson of Jean-Pierre Peugeot who began the family business in 1810, was born into a French industrial dynasty in Gerimoncourt in Eastern France in 1849. Jean-Pierre's company was involved in weaving, a dye works, an oil mill and a grain mill before his two sons, Jean-Pierre II and Jean-Frederic turned it into a manufacturing business that produced saws, spectacle frames, springs and more. They took over ownership of a coffee mill and made salt and pepper grinders too.

When he was around 16 in 1865, Armand – along with his cousin Eugene – became involved in the running of the company. At the time, bicycles had become the next big thing following the invention of the penny-farthing – a type of bicycle with a large front wheel and small back wheel which was invented by Eugene Meyer – another Frenchman – in 1869.

Armand introduced his own version in 1882 as well as other models of bicycles before automobiles attracted his interest following a meeting with German engineer Gottlieb Daimler, who invented the high-speed petrol engine.

Subsequently, the first Peugeot three-wheeled steam-powered car - the Serpollet Peugeot -was produced in 1889 before steam was abandoned in favour of petrol with Peugeot's four-wheeled, petrol-driven vehicle – the Type 2 quadricycle with a Daimler engine, released the following year. 

By 1896 Peugeot was building its own engines and it was in this year that Armand split from his cousin Eugene and formed his own company. The disagreement is said to have been because Armand wanted to increase Peugeot’s car production - much to the ridicule of family members including Eugene - who was not prepared to invest the money.

His company was named Societe Anonyme des Automobiles Peugeot (SAAP) or French Automobile Company Peugeot. Although he married in 1872 – to Sophie Leonie Fallot – and had five children he had no male heir as their only son, Raymond, tragically died, in 1896.

Armand, therefore, merged his company back with Eugene before stepping down in 1913 before the start of World War One. When he quit, Peugeot was said to be producing more than 10,000 cars per year – the largest in France.  He died on January 2, 1915 at the age of 65, near Paris, leaving a lasting legacy with Peugeot now one of Europe’s biggest car producers. He was introduced to the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1999.

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