PSA Peugeot Citroën
peugeot citroen thierry peugeot
Thierry Peugeot, chairman of the supervisory board, PSA Peugeot Citroën

PSA's family ties go all the way back to 1810, when a predecessor company manufactured coffee mills and bicycles. Its lion trademark first appeared in 1858, and Armand Peugeot built the its first internal combustion car in 1890. The family, which holds about 46% of the voting shares, seldom asserts itself, though it unsettled France's sedate corporate world a few years ago when it fired its CEO with a phone call.

Long the second-largest automaker in Europe but little diversified beyond its borders, PSA has suffered mightily this year as Western Europe's car market has shrunk by 7.3%, while the company is said to be burning though $200 million a month. It will close one factory in France this year, but its plan to lay off 8,000 workers has run into opposition from France's powerful unions and the government.

Looking for a life preserver, the Peugeot family recently decided to reduce its holding to 40% as it formed an alliance with General Motors to jointly purchase parts and develop new models with GM's Opel. But new models are several years away, and the worsening economic situation has reportedly forced the two companies to suspend talks about expanding the alliance. Peugeot's future remains murky.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated November 28 2012 06:18 AM ET
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