Short history of Donnet-Zedel

Ernest Zürcher made in 1898 in Swiss Neuchatel motorcycle engines. 
Together with Herman Luthi he founded Zürcher & Luthi & Cie.

Soon the workshop was too small and 1900 the company moved to the neighbouring St. Aubin. 

1901 the company-name got changed to Zedel (phonetic for the initials Z.L.). Within one year they had 130 employees and started export to France (by way of an agreement with the French cycle factory La Victoire).

In order to evade French import duties Zedel started a small shop just over the border, in the French Pontarlier. Soon this shop developed into a factory for engine assembly (for motorcycles and cars), in which worked almost only Swiss. The fast expansion of the company caused liquidity problems, through which a supplier (Samuel Graf) became the possibility to acquire a majority interest in the company. He wanted to switch over to car production, what refused Ernest Zürcher. In 1907 Zürcher was compelled to sell both the parent company at St. Aubin and the French establihment in Pontarlier to Samuel Graf

Zedel SA, Pontarlier remained producing engines, but developed at the same time an automobile. This type 22 B 7/8 cv had a four cylinder engine, an improved version of the type A, which was as a prototype developed by Ernest Zürcher, close before that one's departure. By the law the rights for the engine finally were assigned to the company in Pontarlier. Of this type B were sold circa 100 pieces in one year. 

1908 zedel ce wielerBefore the Great War the range was enlarged with the types CA, CB, CC, CG, CF, DB and DBS. 1910 emerged the much modernised E. Shortly after followed the CI and the H 3563 cc. 
All those cars were meant for wealthy clients. They were exported to England (and from there to the entire Common Wealth), Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Siam (Thailand), Russia, America, etc. 
Overall Zedel sold between 300 and 400 cars before the beginning of the War.

During the War the materials supply malfunctioned and the same happened to the sales. The company was requisitioned by the French government and had to produce shells. Key employees left to Switzerland.

After the War Samuel Graf restarted producing the type CE, using the prewar stock. In 1919 he sold the company to Jérôme Donnet. This Swiss industrialist made a name (and capital) in France during the War by producing hydro planes under the brand names Donnet-Lévêque and Donnet-Denhaut. He started producing a limited series of an improved and more luxurious version of the CE, the CES. In 1920 appeared a complete new model, type P 15cv (torpedo 3176 cc 39 hp 1320 kg 100 km/h), again oriented on fortunated clients.

In 1921 another course was taken. The four cylinder CI-5 was meant to be produced in small series (imitating Citroën). In 1922 the robust and popular CI-6 11cv (4 cyl 2120 cc 34 hp 1100 kg torpedo, limousine and berline souple) followed the CI-5. This was the first Zedel that was really built in big series.

2005.05.019 Donnet Zedel CI62005.05.020 Donnet Zedel CI62005.05.021 Donnet CI6

1924: Donnet-Zedel, Pontarlier
In 1924 the brand name was changed to Donnet-Zedel. At the same time the company searched for (and found) manufacturing capacity in the surroundings of Paris. The production of the CI-6 (now under the new brand name) stayed in Pontarlier. The six cylinder K from october 1926 was a luxurious limousine or cabriolet, which was also built in Pontarlier until october 1928. 

1930 Donnet CI6 017  1930 Donnet CI6 018

1924: Donnet-Zedel, Gennevilliers
In 1924 the type G 7cv was presented. This small four cylinder was launched under the new brand name Donnet-Zedel. The production of engines for the G took place in an old factory in Gennevilliers, whilst the chassis were built in Donnets old hydroplane factory on Ile de la Jatte and the bodies in the main location in Neuilly. On Ile de la Jatte the cars were assembled and stored.

1926 Donnet Zedel Type G cabr 1926 donnet zedel torpedo 012 1926 Donnet Zedel Type G torpedo Sport

1924 : Donnet-Zedel, Nanterre
In augustus 1924 an old storage building with possibilities of extending in Nanterre was achieved. There Donnet started to build a new plant in 1925. This plant (5 floors of 100 x 100 mtr) was intended for "assembly line production" following American example.

1926 : Donnet, Nanterre
May 1926 the company was rebaptized Donnet. The new plant was ready in oktober 1928. Production in Pontarlier was slowly diminished and moved to Gennevilliers. The factory in Pontarlier closed in 1929.

Donnet developed to the fifth car-manufacturer in France, after Renault, Citroën, Peugeot and Mathis, and just in front of Chenard & Walker.

In 1927 Donnet merged with three other French automobile manufacturers: Delahaye, Unic and Chenard & Walker.

Caused by the economic depression of 1929 the CI-7 and CI-10 (like almost all cars in the world) sold badly. The company had to economize as much as possible and many employees had to be fired. Between 1931 and 1933 two new models were presented: the Donnette type 149 with 2 cyl twostroke Violet-engine and a frontwheeldrive designed by Grégoire. But the development of new cars required investments. An attempt to acquire funds on the exchange failed. The old models were rebaptized Donnastar (8 CV), Donnarex (former CI-7), Donnaquatre (11 CV), Donnasix (11 CV) and Donna Super (13 CV); no more torpedo’s, roadsters and coupés were produced, but only coaches and conduites interieures. 

The end of Donnet came december 1934. The factory was bought by Fiat-importer Pigozzi, who used it for producing the Simca-Fiat, and was later possessed by Citroën.

Between 1935 and 1936 supplier Contin sold still a number of 8 CV berlines and coupés from the stock under the brand name Donnet-Contin type D 35.

The makes Zedel, Donnet-Zedel and Donnet produced a total amount of about 100.000 vehicles.