Originally, Émile Mathis was a leading car dealer in Strasbourg, Alsace, handling Fiat, De Dietrich and Panhard-Levassor, among other makes. Two models were designed for him by the young Ettore Bugatti, which were marketed under the brand Hermes (1904 -1905). Current for 1905-06, it was built in 28, 40, and 98 hp forms, all being Mercedes-like cars with chain drives.
Designer and racing-driver Dragutin Esser then created two cars of 2025cc and 2253cc which were built under license from Stoewer. The first "true" Mathis model (8/20 PS) was put on the market in 1910, however the first real success came just before World War I with two smaller models: Babylette had a 1.1 L engine and Baby had a 1.3 L engine. There was also a Mathis-Knight model.
After the war, the firm's production increased quickly and soon became No.4 in France. Mathis attempted to compete with Citroën. The SB model of 1921 was followed by a six-cylinder model (1188 cc) in 1923 and an eight-cylinder in 1925. From 1927, Mathis followed a one-model policy. MY has side-valve four cylinder engine (1.2 L). Not surprisingly, the next year saw Emysix, with a six-cylinder. In 1930 there was an unsuccessful attempt to co-operate with William Crapo Durant (the founder of General Motors in 1908). Their ambitious plan was to make 100,000 cars in Durant's Lansing, Michigan plant. However, Durant ran out of money before production could begin, so Mathis stayed in France.
The short-lived model named FOH in 1931 had a straight-eight cylinder. More modern and successful was Emyquattre (nicknamed "Emy") in 1933, which possessed a synchromesh gearbox. Emyhuit (obviously, an 8-cylinder) came too late to prevent Mathis from a fast decline. Ford Motor Company was quickly expanding its European production, with a modified Ford Y model named Tracford, and in 1934 a joint venture of Ford and Mathis emerged (Sa Française Matford, Strasbourg). Matford, which copied the style of contemporary British Ford models, soon became one of the biggest competitors - the original Mathis factory closed down in 1935. The last models featured a V-shaped windscreen. Matford ceased production in 1939.
Émile Mathis regained his factory just before World War II. Afterwards, the plant of Matford became Ford France (the Ford trademark was used). Mathis tried to find new projects: there was a three-wheeler (333) in 1945 and a front-wheel drive prototype having a flat-six (2.8 L), with a "panoramic" style windscreen. These post-war projects failed to reach success. Mathis ceased as a company in 1950.
His plant was eventually bought by Citroën in 1954.