Since 1939, when the Military Arsenal was created, the Limoges industrial site has experienced all the changes in the French defense industrial landscape. The Arquus Limoges site considered today as a center of excellence for the production of new vehicles, has always been able to meet the demanding requirements of the military.
1939: Foundation of the Arsenal
In 1934, it was decided to build an arsenal in Limoges for the Air Force but it did not open until 1939, a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War. It is characterized by very modern buildings made of reinforced concrete. The direction's building is in the shape of an airplane, a reminder of the site's origin. Two water towers and a very high chimney quickly became emblematic in the whole region.
Throughout the war, aircraft engines were built there: Gnome and Rhône and Hispano-Suiza. In 1942, the Germans occupied the plant and manufactured Messerschmitt engines. But the French workers organized numerous sabotage operations and there were several very active resistance fighters on staff. On the 9 February 1944, the factory was bombed twice by the Royal Air Force and suffered several damage.
In the workshops, which were in a sad state, 8000 Sten machine guns were manufactured, some of which were destined for the FFI (Forces françaises de l'intérieur). At the Liberation, the site, repaired, changed its orientation and became the "Atelier Central des Automobiles de l'Armement" - ACAA - which repaired Citroën P45s and the Renault AGK1 truck. Then came the Dodge and the GMC as well as the Tank engines who are also repaired there.
In 1951, the industrial tool is renewed and 800 machine tools are installed. The production diversified: it included items of the Delahaye Jeep, the engine for the AMX 13 tank, as well as spare parts and the Panhard 12 H engine, which equipped the famous EBR.
But financially, the situation deteriorates and from 1960, it is necessary to consider a sell-off which is carried out in 1964 for the benefit of SAVIEM.
1964: Beginning of the SAVIEM years
The factory is therefore a key contact for the French defense procurement agency (DGA) for all matters concerning military mechanics. But it also works for engines and powertrains for civilian vehicles. The industrial tool is modernized and can thus work on the program of the kinematic chain of the VAB with the SEDEMS (subsidiary company specialized in the study of vehicles for the army created in 1969).
1974 is an important year in the history of SAVIEM as it marks the beginning of the VAB production. Indeed, the Haute-Vienne factory manufactured the kinematic chain of the VAB. All the parts were produced on site. In total, more than 5,000 VABs were manufactured for numerous armies throughout the world.
1978: Saviem merges with Berliet to create RVI
After the merger of Berliet and Saviem in 1978 leading to the creation of Renault Véhicules Industriels, the Limoges site changed its name again in 1992 to Renault VI. In 1995, the French Army extended the life of the VAB until 2020. Limoges was then entrusted with a contract to improve the reliability of the braking system, followed by a complete modernization of the vehicle. 2,500 VABs will be retrofitted in Limoges.
2000: the arrival of Volvo
On 1 January 2000, the foundations were laid for the creation of a business unit dedicated to armaments. Between 2005 and 2006, the general management of Renault Trucks changed and the military affairs department was created and named Renault Trucks Defense.