During the last years in the life of the Traction Citroën focused on a market segment for cheaper models, for an entirely new group of buyers, with a basically new philosophy for basic transport.
Several prototypes of the 2CV were built before the war, fitted with an odd looking single headlight. The final model was introduced in 1948. The lightly built car had a remarkable, incredibly supple independent suspension. It gave the 2CV, when driven fast on an uneven road, the daft wobbly ride that asked for the amiable, official nickname in Holland the "Eend" (Duck) .
Drivers new to the 2CV and a bit clumsily, drove off for the first time with light roar and a leap, swaying and swinging. The people who were attracted to drive the duck were not aiming to impress neighbors or colleagues, or they just tried to attain an inverse status. The people who became the happy owners of a 2CV lived a light-hearted and also practical life. In later years the people who were attracted were young academic professionals in the banlieues, and not for farmers in the country. Like the Model T Ford, the 2CV initially was designed to cope with sandy or muddy country lanes, a basket of eggs on the rear seat, or a sheep, or even a pig. It would have to be simple to remove the seats and wash the car out with a hose. The 2CV was not meant to be an object with which to impress the community. The owners perceived the value of polished hubcaps in the gutter in a different way, more and more nonconformist young self-assured, jolly life loving people joined the young Duck drivers.
Citroën's top boss and project leader of development of the 2CV, Pierre-Jules Boulanger, cleverly named the new automobile 'umbrella on wheels'. Marketing wise and concept wise it fit the transport needs for two farmer s with 50 kilos of potatoes or 50 liters of wine. The sheep and the eggs were also noted in the briefing. It also specified that the 2CV had to be economical, trustworthy, cheap and simple to handle, so the farmer's wife could easily drive to the market and drive to church on Sunday while the farmer kept his hat on. There was no brief for the aesthetics.
The original timing was to present a prototype at the Salon de l'Automobile in October, 1939, but the show was cancelled, following the outbreak of the Second World War. After the war and major alterations, the 2CV was presented to the public in 1948. At first sight people reacted to the unorthodox, appearance with disbelief. Citroën had chosen a swan as a mascot, but this ugly duckling was soon called just that, a Duck. In the beginning the Duck didn't sell well, because of its uninspiring appearance. But in time recognition grew for its enigmatic design wonders, such as the speedometer mounted on the A-pillar and the awkwardly formed gear-change lever. The 2CV won the hearts of the non-conformists. In France the waiting list grew longer than three years. For non-conformists the Duck made the perfect statement to counter the status symbol of the stately , beautiful automobile. It had become the car for the young at heart, the lively bon-vivants. A definite and long lasting success: from 1948 through 1990 more than 4 million were built.