|Traded as||Automobiles M. Berliet SA (1917-1942)
Berliet & Cie (1942-1944)
Automobiles M. Berliet (1949-1974)
|Fate||Merged with Saviem into Renault's RVI division in 1978|
|Successor(s)||Renault Véhicules Industriels , now Renault Trucks|
|Key people||Paul Berliet (son of founder)|
|Products||Automobiles, buses, military vehicles, trucks|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2009)|
Berliet was a French manufacturer of automobiles, buses, trucks and other utility vehicles, based in Vénissieux, outside of Lyon, France. Founded in 1899, and apart from a five-year period from 1944 to 1949 when it was put into 'administration sequestre' it was in private ownership until 1967 when it then became part of Citroën, and subsequently acquired by Renault in 1974 and merged with Saviem into a new Renault Trucks company in 1978, and the Berliet marque was phased out by 1980.
Marius Berliet started his experiments with automobiles in 1894. Some single-cylinder cars were followed in 1900 by a twin-cylinder model. In 1902, Berliet took over the plant of Audibert & Lavirotte in Lyon. Berliet started to build four-cylinder automobiles featured by a honeycomb radiator and steel chassis frame was used instead of wood. The next year, a model was launched that was similar to contemporary Mercedes. In 1906, Berliet sold the licence for manufacturing his model to the American Locomotive Company.
Before World War I, Berliet offered a range of models from 8 CV to 60 CV. The main models had four-cylinder engines (2412 cc and 4398 cc, respectively), and there was a six-cylinder model of 9500 cc. A 1539 cc model (12 CV) was produced between 1910 and 1912. From 1912, six-cylinder models were made upon individual orders only.
In 1917, Berliet started to build trucks for the French Army. The company produced 40 trucks a day. Furthermore it also produced full turrets and other major parts for the Renault FT tank. After the war, 12 CV (2613 cc), 15 CV (3308 cc) and 22 CV (4398 cc) were produced.
A new 7 CV (1159 cc) appeared in 1924. From 1925 the manufacturer was producing its own car bodies. New six-cylinder models followed in 1927.
In 1930 Berliet experimentally installed a diesel engines in one of their old CBA trucks, and in 1931 a batch of diesel powered Berliet GD2s was produced.
From 1933, only four-cylinder models (1600 cc and 2000 cc) were offered. The last Berliet sedan, launched in October 1934, was the Berliet Dauphine 11CV powered, by a 2-litre engine. For 1939 Berliet stopped producing car bodies and the last few hundred Berliet Dauphines, produced in the first half of 1939, used the body of a Peugeot 302B with a custom made Berliet hood/bonnet and radiator grille.
WWII and aftermath
Regular passenger car production ceased in 1939 and after World War II, the company produced trucks only, with buses added to the range later. However, more than 20 brand-new sedans were in the factory when the Germans requisitioned it in June 1940, and these were immediately put into service. After the liberation, from late 1944 to early 1945, about 50 sedans were assembled from parts on hand, and in 1946, the last 15 sedans were completed by the Geneva agents. The company was given back to the family in 1949, but to Marius Berliet's son Paul as following the founder's death earlier that year. The Berliet GLR truck became the first new post-war product.
In his 1975 book, Vichy France: old guard and new order: 1940-1944, Robert Paxton contrasted the fate of the Berliet truck factory in Lyon, which remained in Marius Berliet's family possession, despite his having manufactured 2,330 trucks for the Germans. — and the fate of Louis Renault's factories, which had also been seized — suggesting that the Renault factory might have been returned to Louis Renault and his family, had he lived longer. Marius Berliet, who died in 1949, had however "stubbornly refused to recognize legal actions against him after the war."
As it happened, Renault's were the only factories permanently seized by the French government.
Berliet manufactured the largest truck in the world in 1957, the T100 with 600 hp (447 kW) and 700 hp (522 kW) from a Cummins V12 engine. It was designed in 10 months at the factory in Courbevoie, outside of Paris, with a second built in 1958 and two further T100s built in 1959.
Citroën, Renault and demise
In August 1967, it was reported that Berliet had been taken over by Citroën, Berliet share holders receiving Citroën shares in return for their Berliet stock. In 1966, Berliet's final year as an independent, they had produced approximately 17,000 units. Following the take-over the merged company stated that Citroën-Berliet would command 58% of France's market for commercial vehicles above 6 tons. Citroën itself had been owned by Michelin since 1934 following a cash crisis of its own.
By this time, Michelin owned both Citroën and Berliet. However, after the 1973 oil crisis, Michelin decided to divest itself of these two companies in order to concentrate on its tyre business. Thus, in 1974 Berliet was sold to Renault, while Citroën was sold to Peugeot. Renault then proceeded to merge Berliet with Saviem to form Renault Véhicules Industriels in 1978.
After the merger, the Berliet name was phased out and another French marque came to an end by the late 1970s, with the last Berliet bus in production, the 1971 PR100, continuing to be sold as a Renault until 1993. Other products that survived the merger include the 1973 VXB-170 4x4 armoured personnel carrier for the French Army and others.
- "Berliet (Automobiles)". Patrons de France. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
- Monique Chapelle, Berliet, Éditions Le Télégramme, 2005. ISBN 2-84833-139-9
- Vichy France: old guard and new order: 1940-1944, p. 343. Morningside Edition, Robert O. Paxton. 1972, 2001. "Renault's were the only manufacturer whose plants were confiscated permanently by the state, and indeed the Renault works, like the Berliet truck factory at Lyon, might have been returned to private hands, had M. Renault lives as long as M. Marius Berliet who built 2,330 trucks for the Germans but who stubbornly refused to recognize legal actions against him after the war. He died in 1949, and his firm remained in family hands."
- "Biggest Truck Goes To US". British Pathe. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
- "News and Views: Citroën-Berliet". Autocar. 127. nbr 3729: page 54. 3 August 1967.
- http://www.fondationberliet.org/ (in French and English for the most part)
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