Petropoulos (the full name of the company is Petros Petropoulos A.E.B.E.) is today a major importer and distributor of vehicles and heavy machinery, having been, at the same time, one of the "historic" Greek engine and vehicle manufacturers.
The Petropoulos family has been involved in metal constructions for generations. Konstantinos Petropoulos was a well known manufacturer of church bells and metal products in the late 19th century, based in Amfissa and, later, in Lamia. According to tradition, there was a supposed well-kept "secret" behind the sound quality of the Petropoulos bells – the bell being today the recognizable company logo.
The company in its present form was founded by Petros Petropoulos in Thessaloniki in 1922. Early activities included sales of commercial vehicles as well as rebuilding of engines and vehicle assembly. This early construction activity invlolved assembly of Ford (1920s) and Willys-Overland (1930s) passenger cars, and Diamond T and International trucks (1930s). The Petropoulos factory was put under German control during the Axis occupation of Greece in WWII. The company resumed business after the war, and in 1948 it moved its headquarters to Athens, where it already had created a subsidiary.
Rebuilding of engines remained a major activity until 1953, when Petropoulos greatly expanded the popularity of the diesel engine in Greece, thanks to its cooperation with British F. Perkins Limited. In 1956 Petropoulos made a bold move, investing in farm tractor production. Model Π-35 introduced in 1956, as well as the more powerful Π-55 that followed shortly, were based on International Harvester designs (powered, though, by Perkins engines). Competitively priced and robust, these tractors became immediate success stories; however, in the early 1960s the company was engaged in a legal dispute over market (competition) rules with Malkotsis, another Greek tractor manufacturer claiming a share in the fast developing tractor market, resulting in production delays that almost bankrupted the company.
The company eventually abandoned production of its own tractor series and focused on engine production and truck and tractor assembly (Petropoulos-assembled trucks and tractors were exported to Europe and the Middle East). In 1974 it engaged into its boldest project, development and production of a new "smart" 4X4 truck family (Unitrak/Polytrak/Militrak models). The trucks sold fairly well to farmers, but the Greek Army ordered only small numbers of the Militrak version. This, and a 1984 change of a law that had made "farm vehicles" economically attractive, lead to termination of production. Once more the company, after heavily investing in an industrial project, was found in a dire financial state.
Decline of the Industrial Division and New Ventures
Petropoulos has developed a variety of other industrial products, including power generators and forklift trucks (most notably the very successful Dynalift family of Diesel- and Electric-powered forklifts). It even made an effort in 1994 to resume truck production, introducing a Swiss (Bucher) – designed vehicle as the Militrak II Duro; however, the vehicle was not adopted by the Greek Army. Nonetheless, the company progressively diversified its activities creating new opportunities for growth and profit.
Since the late 1990s Petropoulos has decisively shifted to imports, trading and services retaining only a limited industrial activity. A number of new commercial ventures has brought new growth, as well as new challenges to the historic company. Memory has not been lost, however, and in the little museum within the company facilities, items including a perfectly restored Π-35 tractor remind visitors of its rich history.
- L.S. Skartsis, "Encyclopedia of Greek vehicles and aircraft", Achaikes Ekdoseis/Typorama, Patras, Greece (1995) ISBN 960-7620-00-3
- L.S. Skartsis, "Greek Vehicle & Machine Manufacturers 1800 to present: A Pictorial History", Marathon (2012) ISBN 978-960-93-4452-4 (eBook)
- Company website