To the typical UK Peugeot or Citroen driver, the name Panhard probably means very little. France's pioneering 19th century car-maker has become, in fact, too distant a prospect for most of us to know about. However, Panhard could be about to make a comeback, as the PSA Group's answer to BMW, Lexus, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.Reports in the French motoring press today have suggested that PSA, parent company of the Peugeot and Citroen brands, is seriously considering a revival of the Panhard name, which Citroen acquired when it bought the company in 1965. PSA appointed a new CEO late last year in former Airbus boss Christian Streiff. Among his objectives are driving up the quality and desirability of the group's cars. According to a quote published by Automotive News Europe, a PSA spokesman said that "going into premium vehicles is one of the options the new management is considering."The same spokesman wouldn't comment on whether the Panhard brand figured in those plans, but did say that "all options are open; there is no taboo.”
A brief history of Panhard
By the time Citroen bought it, Panhard was little more than a relic, but in its prime, it led the automotive world. Some of Panhard's first cars, built five years before the turn of the 20th century, helped define the classic front-engine, rear-wheel drive, front-wheel steer recipe still in use today by the makers of the world's most expensive saloons and coupes. During those early years, Panhard enjoyed more than its fair share of racing success. It was a car jointly developed by Panhard and speed addict Emile Levassor that won the world's first acknowledged motor race, held in 1895 - a 732-mile sprint from Paris to Bordeaux and back again, which Levassor completed in 48 hours and 48 minutes.After the first world war, Panhard concentrated on touring cars powered by sleeve-valve engines. These were some of the most refined and luxurious saloons of their day, being near silent, smooth by the standards of the time, and extremely well built, and it's from this period in its history that the marque gained its upmarket reputation.Panhard stopped making cars in 1967; question is, what odds would you get for a return to prominence fifty years on? After today, perhaps not quite as long as you'd expect.