Baron Charles Petiet founded the Sociètè Anonyme Ariès at the age of 24 in 1903, having worked briefly for Panhard et Levassor. Ariès had a capital of 500,000 francs, increased to 1 million by 1905, and a small factory at Villeneuve-la-Garenne, not far from the Aster factory at St Denis which supplied many of its engines.
It employed about 100 men and was best known for commercial vehicles, although cars of good quality were made in small numbers, some sold in England by Sydney Begbie as Asters while others were sold by a firm in Beccles from 1904 to 1906 as Anglians. Initially most had chain drive, although Cardan drive and separate drive shafts above a dead axle were soon adopted. Chain drive persisted on the largest commercials into the 1930’s. Six-cylinder and V4 engined cars were available by 1908 and were joined by the world’s smallest six in 1910.
The firm opened an additional factory at Courbevoie and up to World War 1 made consistent, albeit modest, profits averaging about 100,000 francs a year. Production in 1913 totalled 350 vehicles. Shortly before the war Aster-engined lorries were approved for government subsidy and the company produced 3,000 of these plus searchlight vehicles for the armed services. Hispano-Suiza aeroplane engines were also built.
Cars were promoted with the slogan “Made with the precision of an aero engine and the strength of a lorry”. They continued to play only a small part in the affairs of Ariès. Models produced in the 1920’s included the 5/8, 8/10, 12/15 and 15/20 CV, and in 1931 a new range was designed by H Toutèe, who had been responsible for mid-1920’s Chenard-Walckers.
The company was in severe financial difficulties by 1932 and gave up heavy commercials soon afterwards, although a 10hp chassis, for car or van use and with the unusual feature of a two-speed back axle, remained in production until 1938. The Ariès founder, Baron Petiet, died in 1958.
The source for this blog post is “The World Guide to Automobiles – The Makers and Their Marques”, by Nick Baldwin, Macdonald Orbis Publishing, London, 1987, p. 36.