The Panhard-Levassor business had a history as makers of woodworking machinery going back to the 1840s. The firm gained engine-building experience by making Deutz stationary gas engines and in 1888 began producing German Daimler petrol engines under licence. Some of these V-twin units were sold to Peugeot and in 1890 Emile Levassor began experimenting with motorcars, the first production examples being sold the following year. During 1894 a vertical twin cylinder in-line engine was developed in conjunction with Daimler, with four-cylinder versions appearing in 1896.
Up to 1900 the numerous motor racing successes of Panhard-Levassor created a strong demand for its cars, there was a significant waiting list for new ones, and the shareholders were receiving a 50% dividend each year.
It was a setback when Emile Levassor died in 1897, and other motorcar makers came to challenge Panhard-Levassor's pre-eminent position, but René Panhard and his two sons were prepared to embrace new developments and the business maintained its independence until it merged with Citroën in 1965.