History of General Motors

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  • Topic: General Motors, Opel, Vauxhall Motors
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History of General Motors

The Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan, is General Motors' world headquarters. General Motors Corporation, also known as GM or GMC, is the world's second largest car manufacturer based on annual sales. Founded in 1908, in Flint, Michigan, GM employs approximately 284,000 people around the world. With global headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan, USA, GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 33 countries. Their European headquarters is based in Zurich, Switzerland. In 2005, 9.17 million GM cars and trucks were sold globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Daewoo, Holden, Hummer, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall.

Early history

General Motors was founded on Wednesday, September 16, 1908, in Flint, Michigan, as a holding company for Buick (then controlled by William C. Durant), and acquired Oldsmobile later that year. The next year, Durant brought in Cadillac, Cartercar, Elmore, Ewing, and Oakland (later known as Pontiac). In 1909, General Motors also acquired the Reliance Motor Truck Company of Owosso, Michigan, and the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company of Pontiac, Michigan, the predecessors of GMC Truck. A Rapid became the first truck to conquer Pikes Peak in 1909. In 1910, Welch and Rainier were added to the ever-growing list of companies controlled by GM. Durant lost control of GM in 1910 to a bankers trust, due to the large amount of debt (around $1 million) taken on in its acquisitions. Durant left the firm and helped establish the Chevrolet Motor Company in 1911, with brothers Gaston and Louis Chevrolet. After a brilliant stock buy back campaign, he returned to head GM in 1916, with the backing of Pierre S. du Pont. Chevrolet entered the General Motors fold in 1917; its first GM car was 1918's Chevrolet 490. Du Pont removed Durant from management in 1920, and various Du Pont interests held large or controlling share holdings until about 1950. In 1918 GM purchased the McLaughlin Motor Car Company of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, manufacturer of the McLaughlin-Buick automobile, and renamed it General Motors of Canada Ltd., with R.S. "Colonel Sam" McLaughlin as its first president. In 1925, GM bought Vauxhall Motors of England, and then in 1929 went on to acquire an 80% stake in German automobile manufacturer Adam Opel AG. Two years later this was increased to 100% and the company remains the core of GM Europe to this day. In 1931, GM acquired Holden of Australia. GM surpassed Ford Motor Company in sales in the late 1920s thanks to the leadership of Alfred Sloan. While Ford continued to refine the manufacturing process to reduce cost, Sloan was inventing new ways of managing a complex worldwide organization, while paying special attention to consumer demands. Car buyers no longer wanted the cheapest and most basic model; they wanted style, power, and prestige, which GM offered them. Thanks to consumer financing via GMAC (founded 1919), easy monthly payments allowed far more people to buy GM cars, while Ford was moralistically opposed to credit. (Nevertheless, Ford did offer similar credit arrangements with the introduction of the Model A in the late 1920s but Ford Credit did not exist until 1959.)

1933 - 1958

During the 1920s and 1930s, General Motors assumed control of the Yellow Coach bus company, and helped create Greyhound bus lines. They replaced intercity train transport with buses, and established subsidiary companies to buy out streetcar companies and replace the rail-based services as well with buses. GM formed United Cities Motor Transit in 1932 (see General Motors streetcar conspiracy for additional details). In 1930, GM also began its foray into aircraft design and manufacturing by buying Fokker Aircraft Corp of America (U.S. subsidiary of Fokker) and Berliner-Joyce Aircraft, merging them into General Aviation Manufacturing Corporation. Through a stock exchange GM took controlling interest in North American Aviation and...
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