How Louis Renault changed the car you drive today
Of all the car manufacturers to participate in World War One, Renault was by some margin the most active.
Like Rolls-Royce, Renault did initially contribute to the French war effort by supplying cars to the military. More impressively, every single Renault taxi cab in Paris was temporarily repurposed as a troop transport in 1914, to help counter the German offensive during the First Battle of the Marne.
As important as the commandeered cabbies were, of even more significance to the war was Renault’s FT light tank. Although no-where near as heavily armed or as imposing as the British heavy tanks, their (relative) speed and the sheer quantity of them made this dinky little device a devastatingly effective asset. Renault produced approximately 3,600 of them, and more than half of the tanks used by the Allies during the war were FTs.
Crucially for the firm’s future interests, World War One inadvertently gave Renault the tools it needed to create commercial vehicle off-shoots with. Its first tractor, for example, was heavily based on the FT tank. Renault’s various commercial vehicle sub-divisions still exist today, although most have now been separated from the car company.