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Mécanique Aviation Traction or Matra was a French company covering a wide range of activities mainly related to automobiles, bicycles, aeronautics and weaponry. In 1994, it became a subsidiary of the Lagardère Group and now operates under that name.
Matra was owned by the Floirat family. The name Matra became famous in the 1960s when it went into car production by buying Automobiles René Bonnet. Matra Automobiles produced successful racing cars and sports cars.
By merging with various companies, Matra's CEO, Jean-Luc Lagardère, built a group around Matra diversified in media, weaponry, state of the art technology, aeronautics and formerly in automobiles and records production and distribution. Matra was privatized in 1988, with Lagardère holding 6% of the stock and by 1992, 25%.
In 1992 the Lagardère Group was radically restructured; acquiring more shares in Matra from Floirat, Daimler Benz and GEC, and Hachette from Floirat, Crédit Lyonnais and Aberly. Lagardère merged Matra and Hachette to form Matra Hachette, of which Lagardère Group held 37.6%. Following a share swap in 1994 Lagardère held 93.3% of Matra Hachette's stock. In 1996 Matra Hachette was formally merged into Lagardère.
Matra Hautes Technologies
Matra Hautes Technologies (MHT) was the defence arm of Matra. The company was involved in aerospace, defence and telecommunications. In February 1999 MHT merged with Aérospatiale to form Aérospatiale-Matra. On July 10, 2000 Aérospatiale-Matra became part of EADS.
Divisions (as of Aérospatiale merger)
- Matra Défense
- Matra Systèmes & Information
- Matra BAe Dynamics (50% British Aerospace), formed in 1996, Matra BAe Dynamics brought together the missile business of BAe (BAe Dynamics) and half of the missile business of Matra Défense. (The other half remained as Aerospatiale Matra Missiles).
- Matra Marconi Space (49% GEC), was the space division of Matra which merged with the space operations of GEC (Marconi Space Systems) in 1989 to form Matra Marconi Space. In 2000, it was merged with the space division of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG (DASA) to form Astrium. This was later renamed to EADS Astrium.
- Matra Nortel Communications (50% Nortel)
- R.511 air to air missiles
- R.530 air to air missiles
- Super 530 air to air missiles
- R.550 Magic air to air missiles
- MICA air to air missiles
- R.422 surface to air missiles
- Mistral anti-aircraft missiles
- Martel anti-radar and anti-shipping missiles in association with Hawker Siddeley
- ARMAT anti-radar missiles
- Otomat anti-shipping missiles in association with Oto Melara
- BLG 66 Belouga cluster bombs
- Durandal anti-runway bombs
- Pods for the SNEB unguided rocket
Matra road cars
The Matra name was first used for road cars with the Renault-powered Matra Djet (pronounced "jet"), which was an update of the Bonnet Jet, the Djet was replaced with the Matra 530, Bagheera, the Murena and the Rancho, an early type of sport utility vehicle (SUV).
After the discontinuation of the Renault Avantime (co-designed and built by Matra), on February 27, 2003, Matra announced its intention to close its automobile factory in Romorantin-Lanthenay a month later.
In September 2003, Pininfarina SpA acquired Matra Automobile's engineering, testing and prototype businesses. The company was subsequently named Matra Automobile Engineering. On January 13, 2009, Pininfarina sold its share in Matra Automobile Engineering to Segula Technologies.
In the mid-1960s Matra enjoyed considerable success in Formula 3 and Formula 2 racing with (especially) its MS5 monocoque-based car, winning the French and European championships. Matra competed as a constructor in Formula One from 1967 to 1972 and as an engine supplier between 1975 to 1982, winning the drivers' and constructors' championships in 1969.
Matra sponsored Racing Club de France in 1987~1989
- Matra produced a home computer, the Matra Alice
- Matra produced a fiberglass 14 ft sailing dinghy with an innovative double bottom, self-bailing hull called the Capricorne. Though several hundred were sold and a class association briefly existed, it never really caught on against the better established International 420.
- Matra created an automatic (driverless) light rubber-tyred metro, the Véhicule Automatique Léger
- Matra attempted, and failed, to produce a personal rapid transit system, Aramis
- Matra makes electric bicycles and electric scooters Matra i-step Runner, Tourer and Force as well as Matra i-flow in Romorantin.