And there were many automobile makers in France, even in the depth of the Great Depression. For example, the mid-decade 1935 Paris salon had 27 firms exhibiting passenger cars. Those 27 firms produced only about 170,000 cars that year, and 3/4 of those were from the "big three" -- Renault, Citroën, and Peugeot. The remaining manufacturers averaged about 1,550 cars that year, which makes me wonder how they could afford to keep body designs even halfway fashionable. The largest firm, Renault, produced around 58,000 cars that year, yet marketed ten lines of cars using what seems to be three basic bodies -- which also seems like a small basis for product renewal.
Regardless, French car styling from the 1930s was innovative and varied. Admittedly, this was especially the so for custom-built bodies, but also was the case for factory models. The images below are mostly of standard production cars.
This car was intended to astonish, something it still does 85 years later. It has a underslung chassis, so it sits low. The low stance is further emphasized by the large wheels and extremely long hood. Not to mention the low-headroom passenger compartment.
Many of Gabriel Voisin's designs also astonish. His C 20 and C 22 models feature radically disaggregated components.
This is a pre-production car, but essentially the same as the few that were built. Here Voisin edges towards aerodynamic shaping on his way to the 1936 Aérosport.
The Traction Avant line was introduced for 1934, and its design was virtually unchanged even by 1956, the year before it was replaced. The body is low because it lacks a driveshaft and also a chassis, being of semi-unitized construction. One French styling fashion in the late 30s was the belt line drooping towards the rear, as can be seen here.
Unlike the Citroën, this top-of-the-line Renault is tall. And it also has a somewhat streamlined appearance that's negated by the formidable grille-hood combination. Note especially the the highly-sloped, V'd windshield: advanced for 1935.
The 402 first appeared for the 1936 model year and, like the Renault above, featured a streamlined look. The body aft of the cowling seems inspired by the 1934 Chrysler Airflow. For me, the most intriguing feature is the headlamps buried behind the grille.
By the mid-1930s Hotchkiss' were solid looking cars. Attractive, slightly conservative styling for its bourgeoise clientele. I am especially fond of the grille design that relates well to the fenders.
The ancient firm Panhard et Lavassor developed styling senility in the early 30s with its Panoramique three-piece windshield design that progressed to the strange Dynamic model shown here with its central driving position. "Creativity" does not necessarily produce good results.
Finally a fabulous "Goute d'eau" (teardrop) Talbot-Lago custom that's marred by having spats over the front wheels. Most similar Talbots had exposed front wheels.