Banner Vehicles July 2019

What do you know about General Motors?

General Motors (GM) was started by a guy named William C. Durant working as a carriage maker. His business was called Durant-Dort Carriage Company and was considered the largest carriage maker at that time.

William DurantHe started the company in Michigan in 1886, then took over a small firm in 1903 and began to manufacture Buick motorcars. He brought together several automotive manufacturers to form the General Motors Company in September 1908, but financial problems 2 years later cost him control of the company.

With Louis Chevrolet he then established the Chevrolet Motor Company, which acquired control of General Motors in 1915. From that base with Durant as president, the General Motors Corporation was created and they launched a successful expansion program.

GM LogoHowever post World War I difficulties again forced him out of GM during 1920, and he formed a new firm, Durant Motors, Inc, in 1921. This and later ventures, some of which were large, were generally unsuccessful. When he made the move to create General Motors in 1908, he had about $2,000 of capital.

Today there would be no American who doesn’t know about the GM brand and the vehicles it produces, as it has been, and still is popular throughout America. Currently, GM produces vehicles in many countries around the world, although no longer in Australia, as we all know.

Following is a list of interesting facts and firsts relating to GM over the past 110 plus years:

  1. In 1907 William Durant attempted to buy out rival carmaker Henry Ford.
  2. In 1955 GM was the first car maker to reach $1 billion in vehicle sales.
  3. GM were the first to use air conditioning systems in their vehicles.
  4. Also, the same is true with automatic transmissions.
  5. First also to use turn signals (indicators) installed in their vehicles.
  6. GM have the first female CEO in Mary Barra appointed in 2014.
  7. GM was responsible for the Lunar Roving Vehicle (Moon Buggy) during the Apollo 15 mission.
  8. The first Hybrid came from GM in 2004 running on electric and petrol-powered engines.
  9. Rollover Testing was introduced in 1934 to increase safety for all GM vehicles.
  10. Somewhat disputed, GM claim that Electric Fuel Injection was their invention in 1979.
  11. GM also developed the ABS (anti-lock braking system) in 1972, another first.
  12. Vehicle brands currently under the GM umbrella, Buick, Chevrolet, Wuling, GMC, Cadillac and Holden.
  13. In the believe it or not column, GM manufactured two trains in the 1950’s.
  14. Since 1944 until today, GM have donated over $23 million in cash and vehicles to charities
  15. During World War II, GM dedicated all its production to the Allied War effort.
  16. The war in the Pacific and Europe, GM manufactured aeroplanes, tanks, marine diesel engines, shells, machine guns and trucks.
  17. In 1952 GM developed a Mechanical Heart, it made possible the world’s first open heart surgery.
  18. The 2008 GFC and car sales in a free fall, GM was losing billions and running out of cash.
  19. GM closed its books in 2008 and was deep in the red by a staggering $30.9 billion.
  20. The then GM CEO led an auto delegation to Washington seeking government funding.

GM in ChinaThe changing markets and fortunes for GM

The biggest market for GM vehicle sales today is China. Sales in the US market are no longer where they used to be, however that is true for most car makers.

In China, GM has become the best-selling foreign automaker. For the Chinese market, they manufacture three brands of cars which are only available to the Chinese market. These brands include Baojun, Jiefang, and Wuling.

GM’s most recent peak was in 2016 when global sales volume hit a record 10.01 million units, then a steady decline to 8.38 million by 2018.

Since taking the helm eight years ago, CEO Mary Barra has followed a strategy referred to as one of strategic retrenchment. The company has now abandoned a number of once-critical markets, including Western Europe, India and most recently, Russia.

GM are still sitting in the top five car companies by revenue behind VW, Toyota, Daimler and Ford.

September 2020


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