The history of GM, the world’s largest automobile manufacturer, saw its beginning in 1908. The company was founded by William Durant in 1902. As a shrewd businessman, Durant realized that the future lay ahead. cars and not carriages. Initially, the company was founded as a Buick holding company. The latter part of the year saw the company acquire Oldsmobile, followed by the possession of Cadillac, Oakland and Elmore in the next year.
Many of the car companies were in dire straits during the difficult years of the early 20th century. The stock market panic in 1907 put many small businesses in financial trouble. Many of these companies operated on the credit of various bankers. This was a golden opportunity for Durant, who proceeded to buy smaller car builders and companies that made auto parts and accessories. In 1908, these various companies were merged into a single unit, thus creating the new GM entity. This marked the exciting beginning of the true history of GM.
William Durant was a flamboyant businessman whose curious mix of genius and overreach led GM both to his heights and plunged him into financial difficulties. In 1910, the bankers were forced to intervene to prevent GM’s financial collapse, and Durant was removed from the company he had founded. But by 1911, the company had made enough breakthroughs in the international market that General Motors Export Company was established to handle sales outside of the US and Canada.
Durant managed to use another company he formed, Chevrolet, to return to power at GM during 1915, and GM’s history from 1915 to 1920 is full of successes. During this time, the Cadillac was very successful. In 1918, GM bought the operating assets of Chevrolet Motors. But soon America was hit by an energy recession, and in 1920 Durant found himself out of business again.
During the financial boom of the 1920s, GM’s history virtually shone with success. Car sales hit the 4.5 million mark and the auto industry now had three giants: GM, Ford, and Chrysler. GM now had a brilliant engineer-turned-industrialist at the helm. Alfred Sloan, who was later hailed for his marketing genius, had slowly worked his way through the ranks of GM. His marketing genius breathed new life into GM that was beginning to be overshadowed by Ford.
Ford’s philosophy of offering the public the best value for their money offered little variety. But Sloan and GM were interested in giving the public more than a black box. Stylish colors, features and comfort became the new company motto. GM also made an innovative offer: the public could now buy a car on credit. GM’s five brands: Pontiac, Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Chevrolet began to change every year with the focus primarily directed at looks and style. This strategy paid big dividends. Ford was pushed into the back seat again by GM.
The Great Wall Street Crash of 1929 abruptly stopped all of GM’s expansion plans for the time being. GMO stocks fell a lot. But, in the early 1930s, GM bounced back and bought the Yellow Coach bus company. In 1930, GM bought Electro-Motive Corporation, the manufacturer of internal combustion engine wagons. The next 20 years saw GM diesel locomotives on the American railroad. December 31, 1955 is another milestone in GM history. GM became the first company to earn more than $ 1 billion in one year.
There was a time in GM’s history when it was the largest corporation in the United States. The history of GM also shows that there was a time when GM was the world’s largest employer. But of late, GM has been beset by financial troubles. In November 2005, GM posted a loss of $ 4 billion and about 30,000 employees were laid off. 12 plants were closed.