In honor of Bastille Day, we’re dreaming of France’s many beautiful contributions to the world, from the striking Eiffel Tower to the simple gastronomic pleasures of a baguette and Brie. Less omnipresent, but decidedly worthy of attention, are French automakers. Take a few minutes during today’s celebration of La Fête Nationale to admire the automotive innovation of iconic French brands from Bugatti to Renault and more.
With over 125 years of automotive experience, Peugeot is a power player in France as well as internationally. This year marks the brand’s youngest product portfolio in its history, with a totally reimagined range. Besides producing vehicles that continue to please in both performance and aesthetics, the range now includes 23 vehicles with the lowest consumption figures in Europe for their classes.
The other half of Groupe PSA in conjunction with Peugeot, Citroën has also expanded well beyond geographical borders to bring its French design to the world at large. Like many other French brands, Citroën manufactures both racing and everyday passenger vehicles. The racing division is especially winning these days, with the Citroën DS3 WRC claiming commendable finishes everywhere from Poland to Abu Dhabi.
Dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, Bugatti’s history covers racing cars (including a first-attempt second place in the 1911 French Grand Prix and numerous subsequent victories), airplane engines, and even a record-setting high-speed rail line. Though the brand was acquired by Volkswagen in 1998, today’s models are still iconically French, and the recipients of effusive international praise. Top Gear even voted the classic Bugatti Veyron the best car of the past 20 years — let’s be honest, Omi didn’t sing about “them curves like a Bugatti” for nothing.
In 1898, Renault unveiled its revolutionary direct-drive transmission in the Voiturette with a groundbreaking drive up the steep Rue Lepic to Montmartre in Paris, and has continued to make auto history in the ensuing years. In 1961, the Renault 4 was launched, with the intention to create the most versatile car on the market, accomplished by a 5-door model with a fold-down rear bench. Though production of this model halted in 1994, the brand continues to focus on producing eminently driveable vehicles, including its most recent 2015 Alaskan show truck.
A luxury brand specializing in electric vehicles, Venturi’s genesis was comparatively recent. The brand was formed just a few decades ago in 1984, and the electric racing vehicles they’re now known for are even more recent. The world’s first all-electric sports car, the Fetish, was released in 2004. Just two years later, Venturi unveiled the Eclectic, a futuristic-looking solar-powered electric vehicle. The brand’s mission to create environmentally friendly vehicles is heartily endorsed by Leonardo DiCaprio, who cofounded the Venturi Formula E team with Venturi’s owner, which entered the 2014/15 electric single-seater championship.
A diversion from France’s renowned racing car industry, Aixam is one of the country’s most popular microcar manufacturers. Arola, which Aixam acquired in 1983, debuted the first quadricycle in 1975, which was gradually developed into the 325 D, Aixam’s first model. Aixam dabbled in sports car production in the ‘90s with the Mega Track and Mega Monte-Carlo, but today focuses on its well-loved microcars, including the City, Crossline, and GTO.