Saturday, February 27, 2021

History of General Motors

In 1904, William Crapo Durant assumed management of Buick, a local car company with great potential but plagued with struggling production and heavy debt.

After he failed to convince Henry Ford and Ransom E. Olds to join him in an organization, Durant decided to form his own holding company, General Motors in the fall 1908.

It began as a holding company for Buick, but grew rapidly from there. In the first year of GM’s existence, it acquired Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Elmore, and Oakland (the precursor to Pontiac). GM was always in the business of buying other companies to incorporate. It believed by bringing in companies with different attributes, then they would be able to reach a broader market.

In 1911, GM formed General Motors Truck (later GMC), and in 1918, it acquired Chevrolet Motor Company and launched GM of Canada. GM introduced the electric self-starter commercially in its 1912 Cadillac.

In 1916, he set up a separate subsidiary called United Motors to buy small, successful parts companies. His first acquisitions included Delco, which held Charles Kettering’s patents to the automotive self-starter.

Durant ultimately bought about 20 supplier companies; his last acquisitions – in 1919, the year before he was ousted as GM’s CEO – was Fisher Body. Durant was forced out of the company in 1920 and was succeeded by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., who served as president and then as chairman of the board of directors.

General Motors ushered in the age of mass consumerism with its installment buying and credit programs for car buyers in the 1920s. Coupled with its expansive lineup of cars – from humble Chevrolet to the mighty Cadillac – and yearly style changes, GM’s approach to selling cars was adapted throughout the industry as the standard for mass marketing durable goods to the U.S consumer.

Unlike Henry Ford who closely monitored nearly every business move made by his many dealers, Durant afforded his distributors a great deal of leeway especially when it came to handling everyday business matters. He only interfered when a dealer no longer generated sufficient profit returns.

After 1930 the company was ranked as the nation’s largest car maker, ahead of rival Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler Corporation.

By 1941 it was making 44 percent of all the cars in the United States and had become one of the largest industrial corporations in the world.

World War II brought more change to General Motors. In 1942, GM supplied over $12.3 billion in war material, including airplanes, engines, trucks, tanks, guns, and shells.
History of General Motors

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