1903 - 1955

Hotchkiss

Information about Hotchkiss

Hotchkiss et Cie, a company established by American gunsmith Benjamin B. Hotchkiss, transitioned from arms manufacturing to automobiles at the dawn of the 20th century. Initially set up in France in 1867 for arms production, Hotchkiss moved into automotive territory with its first car debuting in 1903. This early model was a 17 CV four-cylinder, hinting at the company’s enduring affinity for robust engineering, a characteristic underscored by their adoption of features like the Hotchkiss drive—a type of power transmission system.

Over the years, Hotchkiss gained a reputation for luxury and reliability, often reflected in their participation in and victories at events like the Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo during the 1930s. However, the advent of World War II saw a shift in production to military needs, a pivot that significantly impacted the company’s automotive output.

Post-war, the company struggled to regain its pre-war glory. The late 1940s and early 1950s saw a gradual decline in car production, with the introduction of models like the Hotchkiss Anjou and the Hotchkiss-Grégoire, neither of which managed to revitalize the brand. Production dwindled until the automotive branch ceased in 1955, after which the company merged with Brandt in 1956, eventually disappearing into the broader conglomerations of French industry by the mid-1960s.

The tale of Hotchkiss is one of pioneering beginnings, wartime adaptations, and a gradual sunset as the world around it evolved, leaving behind a legacy marked by innovation and luxury in automotive history.

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