White Barre Type A.B. from 1912 with four cylinders (2116 cc). Max. speed: 60 km/h

Barré was a French automobile manufacturer established by Gaston Barré at Niort. Some sources give the starting date for the business as 1900, although Barré’s first automobile was presented in December 1899 at the Paris Motor Show. Production ended in 1930.

Gaston Barré

Barré was born in Cholet on 25 June 1864, but in 1888 relocated to nearby Parthenay, where he worked as a gunsmith. Six years later he moved again, establishing himself in 1894 at Niort in the rue Ricard Il, as a manufacturer and renter of cycles. France was in the middle of a massive cycling boom, and business was good. Barré relocated his business several times, but now always staying in Niort. As he amassed his fortune he decided that the future lay not with cycles but with the automobile.

The first car, powered by a Gaillardet engine, was exhibited in December 1899.

Several aspects of Barré’s business distinguish it from the large number of automobile manufacturers being established in France at this time. He created one of the first after-sales service centres, and also integrated into his business model a driving school. Another respect in which Barré anticipated the future of automobile manufacturing was the extent to which his cars were developed as an assemblage of components manufactured by and purchased from specialist outside suppliers.

During the first decade of the twentieth century the manufacturer used engines from Aster, Buchet and De Dion-Bouton. Rather than tooling up to machine and assemble his own axles and gears, Barré also bought in these principal components from companies already equipped to produce them. There were even instances when he bought in a chassis from a competitor auto-maker.

At the World Fair held in Paris in 1900 a Barré voiturette won a gold medal. Business grew, and by 1908 the enterprise had approximately 50 employees, and was registered using the company name G. Barré et Cie.

In 1912 Barré cars won three of the top places in the French Tour de France Automobile, which covered 13 stages over 4,000 kilometres.

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