In 1883, Count Jules-Albert De Dion (1856 - 1946) of a leading French noble family tied up with Engineer Georges Bouton ( 1847 - 1938) and Charles Trepardoux to produce steam vehicles capable of transporting people - the company named De Dion Bouton et Trepardoux.
In 1883 , they produced the first steam car with the layout of engine mounted in the front , driving the front wheels and steering in the rear wheels. This car burned down during the trial run.
1883 - De Dion Bouton et Trapradoux steam car
In the next year , they produced a more refined steam automobile, with the engine driving the rear wheels and steering through the front wheels. This vehicle was operated successfully and was named 'La Marquise" after the mother of Count De Dion.
1884 - La Marquise steam car
incidentally , this 127 year old steam car is still in roadworthy and operable condition. See the video of its operation on roads here - http://youtu.be/riO3UUC9qo0 . This car was auctioned in October 2011 for a record $4.2 million at the Hershey. See the auction video here - http://youtu.be/j9myS-6Kg4s .
During the mid 1890s , De Dion Bouton shifted focus from steam engines to IC Engines. De Dion Bouton IC engines became famous for its reliability & variety and was used by many automobile companies in Europe and America. In the period where IC engines were running around 900 RPM speeds , De Dion Bouton engines could be run at a sustained 2000 RPM and some engine could be taken up to 3500 RPM for short bursts - limited by the carburetor and ignition technology of those times.
By 1900 , De Dion Bouton was the largest producer of cars and engines. De Dion Bouton was known for many innovations including shiftable gearboxes. However, the most famous innovation was the De Dion rear axle which combines the simplicity of a rigid axle and the comfort of an independent suspension. The De Dion rear axle is used even now in some models.
The De Dion Bouton Logo -
De Dion Bouton continued to manufacture cars till 1932, when the brand was retired, unable to compete with cheaper cars.