France 1959: Citroen overtakes Renault to #1 brand, Dauphine breaks production records


A record 396.000 Renault Dauphine are produced in France in 1959.

1959 puts an end to 5 consecutive record years with new locally-produced vehicle sales down 6.887 from Germany, 3.597 from Italy, 1.568 from the UK and 1.218 from the US. 5.9% to 680.666 units. Imports are up 38.1% to 13.704 including But 1959 is also the year French automotive production truly becomes global, with exports shooting up 61% to 602.594 for total deliveries up 16.9% to an all-time record 1.283.260, only the 2nd year above 1 million. This creates some very interesting contrasts between French sales and overall production.

For starters and for the first time since World War II ended, Renault (-13.6%) isn’t the most popular carmaker at home but Citroen (+8.5%) up to a record 32.1% share vs. 27.8%. Renault however easily retains the title of largest producer as we’ll see further down. Simca (+1.1%) is back above Peugeot (-7.8%) to climb onto the podium while Panhard (-29.3%) is in great difficulty but remains #5.

Citroen is the most popular carmaker in France for the first time since the end of World War II.

Perfectly illustrating this year of contradictions, the Renault Dauphine (-4.1%) skids down at home but retains the models top spot, tilting its share above the symbolic 20% mark. However the Dauphine’s real success this year is overseas with exports skyrocketing 109% year-on-year to 264.221, by far the largest export volume by any French car in history. As a result, global Dauphine sales hit a record 391.477 units out of a 395.910 production, also a record for a French nameplate.

The Citroen 2 CV (+10.9%) continues its uninterrupted progress to almost 120.000 sales, getting closer to the Dauphine at home and adding 27.426 exports. The Simca Aronde 7 CV (-14.1%) remains on the podium but exports a lot more (104.363), ahead of the Peugeot 403 (-5.7%), almost as successful outside of France (64.145). The Citroen ID-DS 19 (+6%) climbs back into the Top 5, also exporting a sizeable 25.829 units. The Panhard PL 17 lands directly inside the Top 10.


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