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André Citroën built armaments for France during World War I; after the war however, he realised that, unless he planned ahead he would have a modern factory without a product. There was nothing automatic about his decision to become an automobile manufacturer once the war was over: the automotive business was one that Citroën knew well, thanks to a successful six-year stint working with Mors between 1908 and the outbreak of war. The decision to switch to automobile manufacturing was evidently taken as early as 1916, which is the year when Citroën asked the engineer Louis Dufresne, previously with Panhard, to design a technically-sophisticated 18HP automobile for which he could use his factory once peace returned. Long before that happened, however, he had modified his vision and decided, like Henry Ford, that the best post-war opportunities in auto-making would involve a lighter car of good quality, but made in sufficient quantities to be priced enticingly. In February 1917 Citroën contacted another engineer, Jules Salomon, who already had a considerable reputation within the French automotive sector as the creator, in 1909, of a little car called Le Zèbre. André Citroën's mandate was characteristically demanding and characteristically simple: to produce an all-new design for a 10 HP car that would be better equipped, more robust and less costly to produce than any rival product at the time.

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