Top 10 French Car Brands (With Photos)

French automotive companies were quite numerous, but many of them have stopped producing newer vehicles. The automotive companies in France are notable for producing sporty, luxury vehicles across categories.

This article lists the top and most active French car brands; some of these brands are actually owned by foreign marques and companies but have headquarters in France. Bugatti, Renault, Peugeot, and Alpine are among the most famous French auto bands worldwide.

Notwithstanding, there are about 15 active car brands you should know are operating from France. Vehicles from these companies and brands notably last long and offer massive horsepower.

Top French Car Brands

1. Alpine

Photo by harry_nl via Flickr
  • Founding Date: 1955
  • Founder: Jean Rédélé
  • Chairperson: Laurent Rossi
  • Headquarters: Dieppe, France

Société des Automobiles Alpine S.A.S., commonly referred to as Alpine, has been a French manufacturer of performance vehicles since 1955.

Founded by Jean Rédélé, the brand, Alpine, started off as a car marque established in 1954 and produced the first Alpine-badged models. Renault bought Alpine in 1973 and stopped producing Alpine-badged models in 1995.

However, the Alpine brand was revived in 2017 with a new badged model, the Alpine A110. Alpine’s lineup comprises mainly sports/racing car models. The company has a few street-legal models and has remained a notable competitor to racing models from foreign brands such as Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Lamborghini.

2. D.S. Automobiles

Photo from Business Insider
  • Founding Date: 2009
  • Founder: Stellantis
  • Chairperson: Laurent Rossi
  • Headquarters: Dieppe, France         

DS Automobiles is a French car brand that focuses on making luxury vehicle models. It operates as a part of Stellantis since 2021 but has been owned by Peugeot from 2009–2015 and the P.S.A.

Group from 2015–2021. The D.S. brand started with the launch of Citroën DS3, which was based on the Citroën C3 Pluriel concept.

The Citroën DS3 was named 2010 “Car of the Year” by Top Gear Magazine and won pretty other awards. As of 2013, the Citroën DS3 is among Europe’s best-selling premium subcompact cars, controlling about 40% of the market share. Subsequent models from the D.S. brand include DS4 and DS5.

3. Citroën

Photo by harry_nl via Flickr
  • Founding Date: March 1919
  • Founder: André Citroën
  • Chairperson: Vincent Cobée
  • Headquarters: Poissy (New), Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine

Citroën is a French car brand established by André Citroën in 1919. Citroën-branded vehicles were popular in the 1930s due to the brand’s innovative automotive technologies at that time.

The firm is currently based in Poissy (New), Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine; it is currently owned by Stellantis after Peugeot had owned it from 1976 to 2021.

Citroën also produced the world’s first hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension system in 1955. Currently, the brand makes different types of automobiles, including electric vehicles, commercial vehicles, hot hatches, and luxury cars.

Citroen cars are sold worldwide except in Canada, Mexico, North Korea, and the United States.

4. Bugatti

  • Founding Date: 22 December 1998
  • Founder: Ettore Bugatti
  • Chairperson: Mate Rimac
  • Headquarters: Molsheim

The now Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S., simply called Bugatti, is a renewed brand of the original Bugatti Company established by Ettore Bugatti in 1909. Ettore Bugatti’s “Bugatti” brand was founded in Germany as Automobiles Ettore Bugatti as a luxury automobile manufacturer with a focus on the production of luxury hyper sports cars.

The Volkswagen Group re-established the Bugatti brand in 1998 as a subsidiary. In November 2021, the company was made part of Bugatti Rimac and headed by Mate Rimac as the C.E.O.

Popular Bugatti models are the Chiron and Devo. So, Bugatti was a German brand before becoming a French brand under Bugatti Rimac d.o.o.

5. Aixam

Photo by Vauxford via Wikimedia
  • Founding Date: 1983
  • Founder: Ettore Bugatti
  • Chairperson: Mate Rimac
  • Headquarters: Aix-les-Bains, Savoie

Aixam-Mega is a French automobile manufacturer of small cars – microcars. It ran as a private company owned by Axa Private Equity but was acquired by the U.S.-based Polaris Industries on 11 April 2013.

Aixam-Mega has been producing a wide variety of standard-sized cars since 1992 but started making diesel and electric versions of its micro vans and light utility vehicles in 2002.

6. Ligier

Photo by harry_nl via Flickr
  • Founding Date: 1968
  • Founder: Guy Ligier
  • Chairperson: Phillipe Ligier
  • Headquarters: Puteaux, France

Founded by a former racing driver and rugby player Guy Ligier, the Ligier automotive company is a French band that manufactures various microcars.

Ligier cars became popular due to their involvement in the Formula 1 World Championships between 1976 and 1996. The brand collaborated with Automobiles Martini to produce sports prototypes.

The most notable Ligier was the JS2, a mid-engined sports car powered by a Ford V6 engine. In 2008, Ligier Automobiles acquired Beneteau Group’s Microcar division through 21 Investimenti Partners funding; the merger formed Europe’s second largest microcar manufacturer – Ligier-Microcar.

7. Peugeot

  • Founding Date: 26 September 1810
  • Founder: Armand Peugeot
  • Chairperson: Linda Jackson
  • Headquarters: Poissy (new) and Ave de la Grande Armée, Paris

Peugeot is the oldest and still active French automobile manufacturer currently owned by Stellantis.

The brand’s history dates back to 1810 when it was a family-run business established by Armand Peugeot; then, the company produced hand tools, kitchen equipment, and bicycles. The company’s first automobile – a car steam tricycle – was launched in 1889.

Peugeot has received many international vehicle awards, including six European Car of the Year awards.

The brand also has an interesting history in motorsport – a sport it dominated for more than a century, winning multiple rallies, Indies, 24 Hours of Le Mans, World Endurance Championship, and more. Peugeot builds both luxury sports cars and passenger cars (sedans).

8. P.G.O. Automobiles

Photo by Thesupermat via Wikimedia
  • Founding Date: 1985
  • Founder: Gilles and Olivier Prevot
  • Chairperson:
  • Headquarters: Saint-Christol-lès-Alès, France

P.G.O. Automobiles is an automobile manufacturer based in Saint-Christol-lès-Alès, France. The company specializes in producing exclusive sports car series for expert drivers seeking individuality and style.

P.G.O. Auto was established in 1980 by three avid automobile fans, who were also brothers: Patrick, Gilles, and Olivier Prévôt. Hence, the brand name was derived by merging the first letters of their names. Popular P.G.O. models include the Speedster II and Hemera.

9. Renault

  • Founding Date: 1899
  • Founder: Louis Renault, Marcel Renault, Fernand Renault
  • Chairperson: Luca de Meo
  • Headquarters: Boulogne-Billancourt

Groupe Renault (French) or the Renault Group (English) is a notable French multinational automobile manufacturer formed in 1899.

The company produces different models of cars, vans, trucks, tanks, tractors, and other types of automobiles. It was the ninth-biggest automaker worldwide by production volume in 2016.

The company later merged with other foreign multinational automobile manufacturers and formed an alliance called the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, an alliance that became the world’s biggest seller of light vehicles. Currently, the Renault group owns Alpine, Renault Sport, and other automobile brands.

10. Venturi

Photo by Andrew Bone via Flickr
  • Founding Date: 1984
  • Founder: Claude Poiraud and Gérard Godfroy
  • Chairperson: Gildo Pallanca Pastor
  • Headquarters: Monaco

The Monaco-based automobile manufacturer, Venturi, specializes in making sporty luxury cars. It was founded by French engineers Claude Poiraud and Gérard Godfroy – the official name is Manufacture de Voitures de Sport (M.V.S.).

However, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2000 and was bought by the current owner Monegasque Gildo Pallanca Pastor, in the same year.

The Venturi brand now produces electric-powered motors and has developed five innovative concept cars. Venturi still manufactures high-performance electric vehicles to this day.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Bugatti French?

Bugatti started off as a German automobile brand when Ettore Bugatti founded it but went defunct in 1963. The currently popular Bugatti brand is French, owned under Bugatti Rimac d.o.o – after the Volkswagen group revived the brand in 1998.

Is Peugeot a French Car?

Peugeot is French’s flagship automobile manufacturer. It is also the oldest carmaker in the country – founded in 1810. Peugeot vehicles are still being produced in France, where the brand equally has its headquarters.

Are There Any French Sports Cars?

Yeah. A few French car brands produce hot hatches and sports cars used in various motorsport/car racing competitions. Popular French sports cars include the Alpine A110 and Renault 5 Turbo, nicknamed rallying legends.

What Is The Most Popular French Car?

Over many years, various Peugeot and Renault models have dominated the French automobile market in terms of sales volume. Currently (2021), the Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio are the best-selling car models in France.

Conclusion: Car Brands in France

Summarily, these are still-active French car brands with diverse notable models in different markets. French automobile manufacturers produce pretty advanced vehicles with sophisticated technologies and features.

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