If you look at the automotive industry in its infancy, of the nearly 1,000 companies that tried to build and sell motor vehicles prior to 1927. Less than two hundred automakers continued in business long enough to even offer a commercially suitable vehicle; General Motors was one of them.
General Motors, founded by William Durant in 1908, was initially a holding company for Buick. The latter part of the year saw the company acquiring Oldsmobile, followed by the possession of Cadillac, Oakland and Elmore in the very next year. Chevrolet became part of the corporation in 1918 and by 1920, General Motors had acquired over 30 companies.
Most of the companies that comprised the young General Motors Company were weak, in debt, and their operations were uncoordinated. By bringing them under one umbrella, GM managed to strengthen the lot with this new concept of management. But the key to General Motor’s success was not due to how they produced cars, it was how they were sold – they gave consumers an array of brands, models and colors from which to choose.
Innovative sales and management concepts aren’t the only ways General Motors changed the automotive industry. GM introduced important breakthroughs, including automatic transmissions, power steering, power brakes and fuel-injected engines. General Motors was once the largest corporation in the US and the single largest employer in the world.
This Great American Company was an impressive success story and produced some of the most beloved automobiles in the nation like the Corvette, Pontiac GTO, Camaro and Trans Am. But something happens to a company when they get this big and this successful – they feel safe and fail to stay innovative. Maybe that explains the Vega, Chevette, Citation and the most recent lack of judgment, the Atzek.
By November of 2005, GM booked a $4 billion loss, laid off about 30,000 employees and closed 12 plants. And although they started making better cars in the last decade than they had in the last thirty years, it was just too late. In the first quarter of 2009, the auto giant posted a $6 billion loss and said it burned through $10.2 billion of cash in the first three months of the year as revenue plummeted by $20 billion.
Whether General Motors makes a come back or not, there are countless car enthusiasts, such as ourselves, that are passionate about a car that this now bankrupt company once produced. Our particular favorite is a 1950's Chevy Bel Air. This car was given GM's first V8, and it needed the power with all its chrome, broad grills and fabulous finned rear-ends. The Bel Air wasn't the sexiest car on the street, but to us, it's truly representative of what the fifties were all about.
So what is your favorite General Motors Automobile, and why?