The History of General Motors: From Buick, Cadillac and Pontiac to Chevrolet

Founded on September 16th, 1908 in Flint, Michigan, the General Motors Company went on to be a leader in the American auto industry for three quarters of a century. Thanks to its consolidation of several car companies such as Buick, Chevrolet, and Cadillac and its addition of overseas operations, it became a dominant figure. The company was never afraid to implement changes to its cars or sales strategies and this led to experimentation and innovations that has maintained the GMC's relevance in today's world. In this video, takes a look at the history of General Motors.

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The General Motors Company was founded on September 16th, 1908 in Flint, Michigan. It began as a holding company for the American automotive brand Buick, which was under the control of William C. Durant.

Along with GM co-founder Charles Stewart Mott, Durant acquired Oldsmobile. The pair also consolidated several other motorcar companies including Cadillac, Elmore and Oakland. In 1909, GM purchased the precursors of GMC Truck: the Reliance Motor Truck Company and the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company.

The next decade was filled with ups and downs. After briefly losing control of GM, Durant started the Chevrolet Motor Car Company. In the meantime, General Motors launched the electric self-starter with the 1912 Cadillac. Upon Durant’s return, he re-organized the company into the General Motors Corporation and released the first GM vehicle under the Chevy brand name: the 1918 Chevrolet 490.

Shortly after Durant’s removal from management, GM relocated its headquarters to Detroit and Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. took his place. GM also created the Pontiac division, and this led to the demise of the Oakland brand.

Thanks to Sloan’s leadership, GM became the most dominant figure in American car manufacturing. The addition of overseas operations quickly turned GM into one of the world’s largest industrial organizations. Sloan also reorganized the company by decentralizing the management of the divisions he created, including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac.

Several of his other changes helped GM overtake current competitor, Ford. These included modifying sales strategies, offering consumers the option of monthly payments and presenting more stylish, powerful and prestigious car models.

During the next few years, GM left its mark on public transportation by helping to establish the Greyhound bus lines. The corporation also made a brief venture in the aircraft manufacturing industry, and began looking into railcars. This led to the creation of the General Motors Electro-Motive Division, and this subsequently built many of the diesel-powered locomotives used on American railroads during the next two decades.

By the early 1940s, GM was responsible for almost half of all the cars being made in the U.S. The company was even involved in some industrial production during World War II. During the next decade, GM introduced its most expensive model of passenger vehicle, the Chevrolet Impala, and the luxury convertible known as the Pontiac Bonneville.

In the 1960s, General Motors created the compact class, and offered cars such as the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird. The intermediate class was then introduced by the Oldsmobile Cutlass. Finally the subcompact class arrived in the 1970s, and this was launched with the Chevrolet Vega.

Despite its success, GM began to downsize its cars. Problems also started to arise with certain models like the Chevrolet Corvair, Vega and Citation, and after the reputations of these cars suffered the company was forced to discontinue them. However, in the mid-1970s GM did find much popularity with the Oldsmobile Cutlass.

In order to compete with Japanese automakers, GM formed the Saturn automotive division to create smaller cars. Nevertheless, GM suffered several losses during the economic recession of the 1990s, and wound up closing plants and laying off employees.

Things turned around a few years later as profits rolled in from the sales of light trucks and SUVs. GM then introduced the first full-sized hybrid pick-up with the Silverado/Sierra in 2004. A few years later, General Motors became affected by the struggles of the auto industry and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

2010 saw the discontinuation of the Pontiac and Saturn brands, as well as a number of new developments. For example, GM formed General Motors Ventures to work on new technologies. The company then made another attempt at an all-electric vehicle with the Chevrolet Volt, and this followed their initial attempts with the Impact back in 1990. GM continued its research and development into bi-fuel and flexible-fuel vehicles through the end of the decade.

With plants and centers making cars, trucks and automotive parts around the globe, General Motors is undoubtedly one of the world’s most important motor-vehicle manufacturers.

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