On the 10th of September, the granddaddy of all French trucks (and most European trucks as well) turned one-hundred. No, we are not talking about an ancient truck model built with the impeccable style of the back-in-the-day Peugeot or of the gorgeous vintage Citroën parts that retain their beauty even in their modern (and more complex) iterations. Rather, it is the anniversary of a manufacturing plant – and a very special one indeed.
The Sochaux manufacturing plant, belonging to the PSA Peugeout- Citroën, is one of the most ancient active car plants in the world. While its history of production has been rocky and diversified, it was originally commissioned by Thierry Peugeot exclusively for the construction of trucks. This was motivated by the different economic and logistical scenario of France at the beginning of the century, when trucks were in an exceptionally high demand. Back then a car was not exactly an accessible consumer good, being reserved only for the wealthiest classes. Trucks, on the other hand, were very useful at a time when transporting resources from one side of the country to the other was becoming imperative to trade and development, but also increasingly challenging.
It was the dawn of the French truck, and in some ways the situation has not changed much. The role of the truck, even with some of the remarkable new models that are still being produced by Citroen, is essentially the same as it was back then (except, of course, that the present vehicles are much, much bigger!). In the first decades of the century, the truck was in some ways more democratic and proletarian than the car: a farmer living in the countryside would have little use for a small personal vehicle, but he or she could use a truck to bring their goods to the city with much greater speed and efficiency than with a cart. The distance between urban and agricultural spaces suddenly shrank.
Eventually, as the popularity of automobiles exploded in the subsequent decades, the Sochaux plant was put to use in making cars rather than trucks. It saw the passing of generations of Peugeot models: the 201, 402, 203, 403, 404 and the 504, to name but a few. In the contemporary age, it makes the Peugeot 308, 3008 and the 5008, as well as the Citroën model DS5, which requires the high levels of technology for their hybrid engines.
This old truck plant is a glorious institution which still does very much for the French industry. It offers employment to more than 12,000 workers, and it is in the front-line of research and innovation in everything that is related to the cars of the PSA Peugeot- Citroën group. For the entirety of the next month, starting from the 15th of September, a number of expositions and events are going to be held at Sochaux to celebrate its history, along with that of its first trucks and its latest cars. It is the very least, for such an exceptionally important site. Bon anniversaire!