Today, General Motors celebrates another trip around the sun. The U.S. automaker is now 110 years old after William C. Durant founded the company in Flint, Michigan, on September 16, 1908.
Durant founded GM to consolidate a group of automakers at the time: Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Oakland, Ewing, Marquette, Reliance and Rapid trucks. Ten years later, Chevrolet was brought into the fold as was Delco Products. Fisher Body Company became part of GM in 1919 followed shortly thereafter by Frigidaire. Perhaps you weren’t aware GM sold appliances until 1979 when it sold the division.
Although Durant is the man behind General Motors, it wasn’t until Alfred P. Sloan took over in 1920 that GM became more of what we know today. After Durant’s ouster from the automaker, Sloan reorganized GM into just five main divisions: Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, Cadillac and Oldsmobile. Sloan allowed each division to work under an unheard of amount of autonomy for the time, though each company worked under a set of corporate guidelines at GM. Sloan also pioneered yearly design changes for vehicles and made strides in helping the public finance automobiles.
Just as the roaring twenties came to a close, GM boomed globally. The automaker added England’s Vauxhall in 1925 and Opel in 1929. Australia’s Holden joined the GM portfolio in 1931 and the Yellow Truck & Coach Manufacturing Co. (GMC) was organized into its own division in 1925.
Throughout the 20th century, GM absolutely boomed to become one of the largest industrial corporations in the world by 1941. At its peak, GM made 44 percent of all cars in the U.S. in 1941.
The latter part of the 20th century wasn’t nearly as kind to GM, and the automaker eventually spiraled into Chapter 11 bankruptcy on its 101st birth year in 2009.
Today, GM is a shadow of its former global self. It’s shed many of the brands that helped define the company last century, but a leaner automaker has emerged. In the future, America’s largest automaker could also be known as an early pioneer of self-driving cars.