General Motors Milestones – The First 100 Years

From a loose collection of start-ups to perhaps the most influential car company in the world came ten decades – 100 years – of history-making events. Here we recount the key markers on GM’s century-long ride. Below is our list of more than 100 GM milestones.

1908 William Durant filed organization papers in New Jersey on September 16. Buick, Olds, and GMC forerunner Reliance are added later this year.

1909 Cadillac and Oakland were purchased.

1910 Cadillac introduced closed bodies and Buick built its first truck.

1911 GM was the first car company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

1912 Electric starter replaced hand cranks on all Cadillacs.

1915 The first mass-produced V-8 engine introduced by Cadillac.

1916 GM’s incorporation papers were filed October 13 in Delaware.

1918 Chevrolet, DELCO, and other car related enterprises were added to the fold.

1919 The 1-millionth GM vehicle was sold and GMAC credit was established.

1920 William Durant’s reign terminated by losses attributable to recession.

1921 Construction of GM Building in Detroit was completed.

1922 Cadillac introduced the first thermostatic mixture-control carburetor.

1923 Alfred Sloan was appointed president and CEO. Two fruits of GM research were fast-drying lacquer paint and leaded gasoline.

1924 The auto industry’s first proving grounds was established in Milford, Michigan.

1925 GM’s reach was extended to England (Vauxhall), New Zealand, South Africa, and Brazil.

1926 Purchase of Fisher Body was completed.

1927 Harley Earl was recruited to create and head the auto industry’s first in-house design department.

1928 Partial interest in Bendix and Fokker aviation firms were acquired.

1929 The 10 millionth GM vehicle was sold. Cadillac introduced the world’s first V-16 engine 60 days after the Wall Street stock market crashed.

1930 Winton (diesel) Engine Manufacturing and Electro-Motive – key parts of what became GM’s locomotive business – were acquired.

1931 Portions of Holden’s in Australia and Opel in Germany were acquired.

1932 The Oakland brand was renamed Pontiac.

1933 Independent front suspension was introduced by Buick, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile.

1934 GM began front-impact and rollover crash testing. America’s first streamlined passenger train was powered by a GM 2-stroke diesel.

1935 The Electro-Motive division was established to manufacture locomotives with diesel-electric series-hybrid drive.

1937 GM’s Allison division developed the first 1000-hp aircraft engine.

1939 Buick added turn signals.

1940 Oldsmobile introduced Hydra-Matic, the viable automatic transmission.

1942-45 After car and truck production ceased, GM manufactured aircraft, tanks, trucks, engines, and weapons worth $12-billion.

1946 Charles Wilson became president with Sloan retaining CEO title.

1947 Buick’s Dynaflow was the first automatic transmission to use a torque converter.

1948 Cadillac models incorporated the first tail fins.

1949 Cadillac and Oldsmobile introduced high-compression overhead-valve V-8 engines.

1950 The first Motorama Dream Car exhibition opened in New York.

1951 The first automatic transmissions for trucks were offered by GMC.

1952 Power steering was introduced on Buick Roadmasters.

1953 Air conditioning became available in Buicks, Cadillacs, and Oldsmobiles.

1954 The 50-millionth GM vehicle was a gold Chevrolet Bel Air. Mesa, Arizona, proving grounds opened. The GMC Scenicruiser bus was introduced.

1955 Chevrolet introduced its small-block V-8.

1956 GM became the first corporation to report an annual net profit over $1-billion.

1957 Importation of Opels from Germany and Vauxhalls from England began.

1958 Major management shake-up moved Frederic Donner to chairman and CEO. John Gordon became president.

1959 All GM cars displayed radical styling in response to Chrysler‘s 1957 Forward Look.

1960 The Corvair compact was introduced by Chevrolet. GMC trucks offered the first US-built V-6 engines.

1961 The last Motorama visited New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The first emission controls were introduced on GM cars.

1962 GM’ market share of US cars and light trucks peaked at 51-percent.

1963 The first AM/FM radios arrived on Cadillacs.

1964 Pontiac‘s GTO option for the Tempest LeMans kicked off the muscle car era.

1965 GM was the first corporation to earn more than $2-billion in one year.

1966 The Oldsmobile Toronado was the first modern American car with front-wheel drive. Pontiac introduced an overhead-cam six.

1967 One of the first safety devices, an energy-absorbing steering column developed by Saginaw Steering, was provided on all GM cars. GM’s 100-millionth vehicle was built.

1968 The 50-story GM Building opened in New York City.

1969 Fisher Body introduced one of the first child safety seats called Love Seat.

1970 GM purchased a portion of Isuzu Motors.

1971 All GM cars were engineered to run on unleaded gasoline.

1972 The Chevrolet LUV truck manufactured by Isuzu was GM’s first Japanese import.

1974 Air bags for all front seat occupants were introduced for large Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac sedans.

1975 GM was the first manufacturer to fit catalytic converters to its entire car lineup.

1977 Large Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac sedans were downsized in response to the first energy crisis.

1978 Class-action suits erupted over the use of Chevrolet engines in Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs.

1979 GM manufacturing plants were added in Spain and Austria.

1980 Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac introduced the first US compacts with front-wheel drive. Suffering from an 18-percent drop in the US car and truck market, GM reported its first net loss in 59 years.

1981 Roger Smith became chairman and CEO.

1982 Buick Skylark, Cadillac Cimarron, Chevy Cavalier, Oldsmobile Firenza, and Pontiac J-2000 J cars were introduced to stem rising imports. GM’s World of Motion exhibit opened at Florida’s EPCOT Center. GM purchased a 10-percent stake in Suzuki and announced plans for that manufacturer to supply Chevrolet with small cars and SUVs.

1983 A liaison was established with Korea’s Daewoo Motor Company. The $200-million Buick City amalgamation of several Flint, Michigan, plants was announced. GM celebrated its 75th anniversary.

1984 Electronic Data Systems was purchased for $2.5-billion. Founder H. Ross Perot joined GM’s board of directors.

1985 GM and Toyota began manufacturing the Chevrolet Nova and at a Fremont, California, joint-venture plant called New United Motor Manufacturing (NUMMI). Saturn Corporation was formed to combat imports.

1986 Group Lotus was purchased. H. Ross Perot resigned and sold his GM stock.

1987 Cadillac and Pininfarina began manufacturing the Allante two-seat convertible.

1988 Front-drive , Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and Pontiac Grand Prix coupes were introduced as consumer demand shifted towards sedans. GM’s invested over $4-billion in the changeover.

1989 Chevrolet launched the Geo nameplate for small vehicles manufactured by Isuzu, Suzuki, and Toyota. GM purchased a 50-percent interest in Saab.

1990 Robert Stempel replaced Roger Smith as Chairman and CEO. The Impact electric-powered concept car was displayed at Los Angeles auto show and production intent was announced. Third- and fourth-quarter losses totaled $3.7-billion.

1991 Saturn coupes and sedans went on sale. GM stock fell to $27, a four-year low, the result of continued losses, while its US market share held steady at 35-percent.

1992 A top management shakeup resulted in John Smale, a Procter & Gamble retiree, replacing Stempel as chairman. GM losses for the year were a staggering $23.5-billion.

1993 A $2.5-billion profit was reported.

1994 Daytime running lights were voluntarily added to 600,000 GM vehicles following studies that credited them with reducing accidents.

1995 GM and the Shanghai Automotive Industry Group agreed to cooperate on car and powertrain manufacturing in China. President and CEO John Smith became GM’s board chairman.

1996 Large rear-wheel drive Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac models were discontinued. EV1 electric vehicles were leased by 26 Saturn dealers in Arizona and California. This $1-billion program yielded approximately 800 cars in four years, most of which were destroyed following completion of their three-year leases. GM headquarters moved to a Renaissance Center location on the Detroit River.

1997 GM’s Delphi Automotive Systems became the world’s largest automotive supplier.

1998 GM’s US market share dropped below 30-percent for the first time since 1926. Chevy’s Geo brand was dropped. Rick Wagoner became GM’s president and chief operating officer.

1999 and Century manufacturing began in China. Delphi Automotive Systems was spun off and became an independent enterprise. A 20-percent stake in Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru) was purchased. Cadillac’s general manager John Smith sent a letter of apology to Lincoln executive Mark Hutchins for fudging sales figures and claiming luxury car leadership for 1998.

2000 GM took over full ownership of Saab. Honda and GM agreed to swap Honda V6s for Isuzu-built diesels. Rick Wagoner became CEO. GM and Fiat exchanged ownership stakes.

2001 Following September 11 attacks, GM launched a successful ‘Keep America Rolling’ sales campaign. Former Chrysler president Bob Lutz became GM’s vice chairman of global product development.

2002 Large Chevy and GMC pickups offered 4-wheel steering.

2004 Development resources were redirected from cars to pickups and SUVs scheduled for a 2007 model year introduction. Cadillac began exports to China. The final Oldsmobile left a Lansing, Michigan, assembly line, ending 107 years of manufacturing that yielded over 35-million cars and trucks.

2005 Chevrolet sales commenced in China. GM paid Fiat $2-billion to nullify the agreement established in 2000.

2006 Pontiac‘s Solstice sports car was the first volume use of hydroformed-steel body panels.

2007 The Fortune Global 500 list ranked GM as the world’s fifth largest publicly traded firm behind Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP.

2008 Still the world’s largest auto maker in terms of sales, GM employs more than a quarter-million people around the world to manufacture and sell cars and trucks in 35 countries. During the first half of this year, GM’s share of the US market was 20.6 percent.

*Please note that product-related advancements are keyed to MODEL years, not the calendar year they were introduced.

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