Monday, 1 April 2013

Simca, Pleine-Selve

Pleine-Selve is a small town of barely more than 200 inhabitants but being along a former Route Nationale, it has its ghost signs too. Two to be precise. Although the one below for car manufacturer Simca is almost parallel to the road, it would still have been noticed by drivers coming from the north as it is located on a slight curve at the bottom of a small descent.

Founded in 1934, Simca (for Société Industrielle de Mécanique et Carrosserie Automobile - Industrial Society of Mechanical and Automotive Body) was the brainchild of Fiat, even if the Italian manufacturer remained hidded behind a façade of French shareholders to get round protectionist measures adopted by France during the Great Depression. High tariffs had made Fiat cars assembled in France using parts made in Italy too expensive and no longer able to compete with French-made vehicles. This was why the decision was taken to undertake the whole production process in France. The new company bought the factory of bankrupt car manufacturer Bonnet in Nanterre, on the outskirts of Paris, and the first cars bearing the name Simca on a Fiat logo emerged in mid-1935. The first two Simca-Fiat models, the 6CV and the 11CV were copies of the Fiat 508 Balilla and the Fiat 518 Ardita respectively. One year later Simca launched the Simca Cinq, again a copy of a Fiat model, the 500 Topolino. Within a few months Simca became France's fourth largest car manufacturer, thanks to the rapid renewal of its offer and to more economic models. In 1938, with the war looming, Simca dropped the Fiat logo and adopted the sparrow as its emblem to match its slogan: "Un appétit d'oiseau" ("A bird's appetite").

After the Second World War, Simca strengthened its position thanks to models like the Simca 9 Aronde launched in 1951 ("aronde" means "sparrow" in Olf French). While the mechanical parts were identical to those of the Fiat 1400, the body was slightly different. Thanks to the benefits generated by sales of the Aronde, Simca bought truck manufacturer Unic in 1951 and in 1954 the French subsidiary of Ford.

In 1958 US company Chrysler acquired 25% of Simca's share. At the end of the same year Simca took over Talbot-Lago. Thanks to an influx of US money Simca, still in cooperation with Fiat, was able to begin on a new project, the Simca 1000. Launched in 1961, this successful model remained in production until 1981. In 1962 Chrysler took control of 63% of Simca. No longer able to control the French company, Fiat decided it was time to withdraw from Simca and, taking advantage of the new rules of the Common Market, created its own subsidiary Fiat France SA in 1964. Under Chrysler ownership Simca's fortunes started to decline. Bad management, an unsuccessful merger with British car manufacturer Rootes under the name Chrysler Europe, and a lack of innovation, together with the growing difficulties of Chrysler in the US explain this downfall. In spite of the success of the Simca 1100, a project initially rejected by Chrysler, Chrysler was forced to sell its European operations in 1978 to avoid its collapse in the US. The French, British and Spanish plants and the Simca brand were bought by French company Peugeot SA. Peugeot kept the Simca brand until 1980, when it decided to replace it with the Talbot one. Simca models continued to be produced until 1986 but under the name Talbot.


Location: D 137, Pleine-Selve, Gironde / Picture taken in May 2012

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