The car venture that Armand Peugeot created in 1895 has one remarkable characteristic: the staying power of its founding family. Of all the family businesses that built four-wheel boxes powered by steam or oil engines in the late 19th century, the Peugeots have been around the longest. Fiat's Agnelli dynasty arrived in 1899, the Fords in 1905, and the Toyodas in 1935.
Armand Peugeot was born to a family of industrialists in eastern France. Since 1810, the family had manufactured practical goods ranging from corset bones and coffee grinders to spectacle frames and carts. After graduating from an engineering school in Paris, Armand visited Leeds, the heart of manufacturing Britain, and came back convinced that the future of horses as transport was limited.
Within the family firm, he first manufactured tricycles and bicycles, some with Daimler engines. In 1894, he fielded several cars in France's first motor race, the 1,200km Paris-Bordeaux-Paris contest -- and took three of the top four places.
Armand decided to build an in-house engine, but his cousin Eugene, the family firm's largest shareholder, balked. So Armand created Société Anonyme des Automobiles Peugeot and opened a plant in 1897 in Audincourt.
Restless, Peugeot tinkered with boat engines and created a delivery car rental company. The ventures foundered and Armand's business was saved only by the lightweight Bebe Peugeot model in 1905.
When Armand stepped down in 1913, Peugeot had become France's largest carmaker with a 20 percent market share in France, double that of Renault.