DETROIT — If the announced merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Groupe of France takes place, it will bring numerous brands together — most of them unfamiliar to Americans — under the same corporate umbrella.
It’s not likely that they’ll suddenly show up on U.S. roads, but just in case you’re interested in knowing what brands could someday coordinate with the likes of Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler, we asked Matthew Anderson, curator of transportation at The Henry Ford, the automotive museum in Dearborn, Mich., for his perspective on some of the brands.
Here’s what he had to say (he even mentioned Fiat, which might still be fairly unfamiliar to most Americans):
• Peugeot: Peugeot is one of the few surviving automotive brands dating back to the 19th century. Its roots in France trace back to 1889. The company has ties to early American racing, with Peugeot cars winning Indy 500 victories in 1916 and 1919. It was a consistent, though certainly not spectacular, seller in the U.S. from 1958 to 1991, when Peugeot pulled out of the American market.
• Citroen. This company will forever be associated with its innovative DS model, introduced for 1955 and widely considered one of the most important cars of the 20th century. More than 60 years after its introduction, the DS still looks futuristic. Citroen is a brand seemingly popular everywhere but the U.S., where the company hasn’t sold cars since the early 1970s.
• Opel. This company may be best known to Americans as General Motors’ German arm. GM was Opel’s sole owner from 1931 to 2017. Its pre-GM history is fascinating, as Opel went into automobiles by way of sewing machines and bicycles — two products that require precision manufacturing methods. Opel’s biggest impact on the U.S. market was with its Kadett compact, introduced for 1964, and its striking GT sports car, introduced for 1969. Both models were distributed in the U.S. by Buick.
• Vauxhall. As Opel was to GM in Germany, Vauxhall was to GM in Britain. General Motors owned the marque from 1925 to 2017. The compact Vauxhall Victor, introduced for 1957 and distributed in the U.S. by Pontiac, benefited here from its distinct American styling. Vauxhall exited the U.S. market in 1962 — in part to prevent the Victor from competing with Pontiac’s own compact Tempest.
• Fiat. Another 19th century veteran, Italy’s Fiat was founded in 1899. The company actually built cars in New York State, for the American market, from 1910 to 1918. It didn’t really compete in the U.S. again until 1957, with Italian-built cars exported to America. By this time, Fiat was one of the largest automakers in the world. The company largely gave up on the U.S. market in the early 1980s — until its parent company purchased that stake in Chrysler in 2009.
And the merger?
This will be an interesting merger — uniting makers from nearly all of the auto industry’s powerhouse nations (with Japan being a notable exception).