General Motors Company (GM) is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Detroit, Michigan that designs, manufactures, markets, and distributes vehicles and vehicle parts, and sells financial services, with global headquarters in Detroit's Renaissance Center. It was founded by William C. Durant on September 16, 1908, as a holding company, and the present entity was established in 2009 after its restructuring. The company is the largest American automobile manufacturer and one of the world's largest automobile manufacturers.
|Formerly||General Motors Corporation|
S&P 100 Component
S&P 500 Component
|Founded||September 16, 1908 (original company)|
July 10, 2009 (present company)
Number of locations
|396 facilities on six continents|
|6,829,000 vehicles (2020)|
|Revenue||US$122.485 billion (2020)|
|US$6.634 billion (2020)|
|US$6.427 billion (2020)|
|Total assets||US$235.194 billion (2020)|
|Total equity||US$49.677 billion (2020)|
Number of employees
|155,000 (December 2020)|
|Footnotes / references|
At its peak, GM had a 50% market share in the United States and was the world's largest automaker from 1931 through 2007. As of 2020, General Motors is ranked number 18 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.
General Motors manufactures vehicles in several countries; its four core automobile brands are Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac. It also either owns or holds a significant stake in foreign brands such as Wuling, Baojun, and Jiefang. Annual worldwide sales volume reached a milestone of 10 million vehicles in 2016.
In addition to its twelve brands, General Motors holds a 20% stake in IMM, and a 77% stake in GM Korea. It also has a number of joint-ventures, including Shanghai GM, SAIC-GM-Wuling, and FAW-GM in China, GM Uzbekistan, General Motors India, General Motors Egypt, and Isuzu Truck South Africa. General Motors employs 212,000 people and does business in more than 140 countries. General Motors is divided into four business segments: GM North America (GMNA), GM International Operations (GMIO), Cruise, and GM Financial.:12, 13
General Motors led global annual vehicle sales for 77 consecutive years from 1931 through 2007, longer than any other automaker, and is still among the world's largest automakers by vehicle unit sales.
General Motors acts in most countries outside the U.S. via wholly owned subsidiaries, but operates in China through ten joint ventures.:18, 96 GM's OnStar subsidiary provides vehicle safety, security and information services.
In 2009, General Motors shed several brands, closing Saturn, Pontiac, and Hummer, and emerged from a government-backed Chapter 11 reorganization. In 2010, the reorganized GM made an initial public offering that was one of the world's top five largest IPOs to date, and returned to profitability later that year.
William C. Durant's Durant-Dort Carriage Company, of Flint, Michigan, had become the leading manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles in the United States by 1900. Durant was averse to automobiles, but fellow Flint businessman James H. Whiting, owner of Flint Wagon Works, sold him the Buick Motor Company in 1904. Durant formed the General Motors Company in 1908 as a holding company, with partner Charles Stewart Mott, borrowing a naming convention from General Electric. GM's first acquisition was Buick, which Durant already owned, then Oldsmobile on November 12, 1908. In 1909 Durant brought in Cadillac, Elmore, Welch, Cartercar, Oakland (predecessor of Pontiac), and the Reliance Motor Truck Company of Owosso, Michigan and the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company of Pontiac, Michigan (predecessors of GMC). Durant, with the board's approval, tried acquiring Ford Motor Company in 1909. Durant over-leveraged the fledgling company in making these acquisitions, and was removed by the board of directors in 1910 at the behest of the bankers who backed the loans to keep GM in business. The action of the bankers was partially influenced by the brief Panic of 1910–1911 that followed the earlier enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
Durant re-entered the automotive industry the following year by co-founding the Chevrolet Motor Company with Swiss race car driver Louis Chevrolet (who left the company bearing his name in 1915). In 1916 GM was reincorporated in Detroit as General Motors Corporation. By 1917 the Chevrolet Motor Company had become successful enough that Durant, with the backing of Samuel McLaughlin and Pierre S. du Pont, reacquired a controlling interest in GM. Chevrolet Motor Company was consolidated into GM on May 2, 1918. Only two years later du Pont orchestrated the removal of Durant once again and replaced him with Alfred P. Sloan.
Sloan established annual styling changes, making previous years' models "dated". He also implemented the pricing strategy that all car companies use today. The pricing strategy had Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac priced from least expensive to most, respectively.
General Motors grew in prominence surpassing Ford Motors selling just over 50% of car sales in 1962. With the prominence of the company, president of General Motors, Charlie Wilson said it best - “What’s good for General Motors is good for America”.
Their industrial dominance was displayed as they manufactured products other than cars and trucks such as aircraft (North American Aviation), construction equipment (Terex), trains (Electro-Motive Diesel), Farm tractors (Samson Tractor/Janesville Machine Co.), Truck and boat engines (Detroit Diesel and Allison Engine Company, and appliances (Frigidaire).
Chapter 11 bankruptcy
General Motors filed for a government-backed Chapter 11 reorganization on June 8, 2009. On July 10, 2009, the original General Motors sold assets and some subsidiaries to an entirely new company, including the trademark "General Motors". Liabilities were left with the original GM, renamed Motors Liquidation Company, freeing the companies of many liabilities and resulting in a new GM.
Through the Troubled Asset Relief Program the United States Department of the Treasury invested $49.5 billion in General Motors and recovered $39 billion when it sold its shares on December 9, 2013, resulting in a loss of $10.3 billion. The Treasury invested an additional $17.2 billion into GM's former financing company, GMAC (now Ally). The shares in Ally were sold on December 18, 2014, for $19.6 billion netting $2.4 billion. A study by the Center for Automotive Research found that the GM bailout saved 1.2 million jobs and preserved $34.9 billion in tax revenue.
Also in 2009, General Motors of Canada Limited was not part of the General Motors Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company shed several brands, closing Saturn, Pontiac, and Hummer, while selling Saab Automobile to Dutch automaker Spyker, and emerged from a government-backed Chapter 11 reorganization. In 2010, the reorganized GM made an initial public offering that was one of the world's top five largest IPOs to-date, and returned to profitability later that year. GM started negotiations but did not complete the sale of Saturn and Hummer to Penske and Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industry respectively.
Based on global sales in 2012, General Motors was ranked among the world's largest automakers in January 2013. Headquartered at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, GM employed approximately 180,000 people around the world as of December 2017. However, in 2018, GM cut approximately 14,000 jobs. In 2009, General Motors sold 6.5 million cars and trucks globally; in 2010, it sold 8.39 million.
As of April 2019, Mary Barra is the chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of the board and Mark Reuss is the president. The head of design, Edward T. Welburn, was the first African American to lead a global automotive design organization, and was the highest ranking African American in the US motor industry in 2014. On July 1, 2016, he retired from General Motors after 44 years. He was replaced by Michael Simcoe.
As part of the company's advertising, Ed Whitacre announced the company's 60-day money-back guarantee and repayment of a $6.7 billion loan from the government ahead of schedule. Mary Barra, 51, executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, was elected by the board of directors to become the next CEO of the company succeeding Dan Akerson on January 15, 2014. Barra also joined the GM board. From June 2009 to March 2011, the company had three chief executive officers and three chief financial officers.
The company has reported annual profits since 2010. It can carry forward previous losses to reduce tax liability on future earnings. It earned $4.7 billion in 2010. The Wall Street Journal estimated the tax break, including credits for costs related to pensions and other expenses, can be worth as much as $45 billion over the next 20 years.
In 2010, General Motors ranked second on the list with 8.5 million units produced globally. In 2011, GM returned to the first place with 9.025 million units sold worldwide, corresponding to 11.9% market share of the global motor vehicle industry. The top two markets in 2011 were China, with 2,547,203 units, and the United States, with 2,503,820 vehicles sold. The Chevrolet brand was the main contributor to GM performance, with 4.76 million vehicles sold around the world in 2011, a global sales record.
In May 2013, during a commencement speech, then CEO Dan Akerson suggested that GM was on the cusp of rejoining the S&P 500 index. GM was removed from the index in 2009, prior to its bankruptcy.
On April 24, 2014, CNNMoney reported that GM profits fell to $108 million for the first three months of 2014. GM now estimates the cost of their 2014 recall due to faulty ignition switches, which have been linked to at least 124 deaths, at $1.5 billion. Shares of GM were down 16% for the year before the new announcement of GM's lower profits.
On January 4, 2016, Fortune reported that GM led a $1 billion equity financing in the transportation network company (TNC) Lyft.com. This was GM's first investment in the ride-sharing ventures and its reported participation ($500,000,000) in the round is considered to be indicative of its efforts towards the future of transportation, which it believes will be "connected, seamless and autonomous".
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in July 2020, the company reported a $758 million net loss for the Q2 of 2020. Despite profit decline, it was less than financial analysts predicted as a consequence of pricey pickup trucks sales. In September 2020, GM and Honda announced an alliance that proposes cooperation on purchasing, research, and vehicle development.
After being criticized for not advertising enough in Black-owned media, General Motors said in April 2021 that it will spend 2% of 2021's advertising budget in Black-owned media and 4% in 2022 until reaching 8% in 2025.
Board of Directors
- Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors
- Joseph Ashton, former Vice President of the International Union at United Automobile Workers
- Linda Gooden, former Vice President of Information Systems and Global Solutions at Lockheed Martin
- Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis
- Jane Mendillo, former President and CEO at Harvard Management Company
- Michael Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- James Mulva, former CEO, President, and Chairman at ConocoPhillips
- Patricia Russo, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise
- Thomas Schoewe, former CFO of Wal-Mart Stores
- Theodore Solso, former CEO and Chairman of Cummins
- Carol Stephenson, former dean at Ivey Business School
General Motors Canada Limited is the Canadian allied subsidiary of General Motors. The employees are not all Canadian, as some salaried personnel are from the U.S. and work for the company. GM products focus primarily on its four core divisions — Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC. The GM restructuring has resulted in a lower break-even point for annual sales and renewed profits because of the loss of millions of jobs.
In mid-2005, GM's corporate chrome power emblem "Mark of Excellence" began appearing on all recently introduced and all-new 2006 model vehicles produced and sold in North America. However, in 2009 the "New GM" reversed this, saying that emphasis on its four core divisions would downplay the GM logo.
In May 2012, GM recorded an 18.4% market share in the U.S. with stock imported. In November 2018, GM announced it would lay off more than 14,000 employees in North America, comprising 15% of its workforce and 25% of its executive staff in the region. The company plans to cease production in three assemblies (Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Michigan and Oshawa The first GM Corporation in North America 1918 in Canada) and two engine/transmission (White Marsh, Maryland, and Warren, Michigan) plants during 2019. Employees from those plants would also be made redundant.
In 2008 the third-largest individual country by sales was Brazil with some 550,000 GM vehicles sold. In that year Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela sold another 300,000 GM vehicles, suggesting that the total GM sales in South America (including sales in other South American countries such as Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, etc.) in that year were at a similar level to sales in China.
The Chevrolet brand was reintroduced in Europe in 2005, selling mostly rebranded Daewoo cars acquired by GM Korea. After having lost approximately $18B over 12 years, GM began phasing out mainstream sales of Chevrolet in Europe in late 2013, and finished by late 2015, to focus on Opel/Vauxhall. Chevrolets continue to be sold in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, through the GM Uzbekistan joint venture. Chevrolet still has a limited presence in Europe through imports of the Corvette and Camaro, while Cadillac maintains a limited presence as well.
In 2012, PSA Peugeot Citroën and General Motors formed an alliance, which involved General Motors acquiring seven percent of the PSA Group. The ownership was soon divested on December 13, 2013, generating "gross proceeds of €0.25 billion." By 2017, Groupe PSA considered taking over Opel from GM, after GM reported a loss of $257 million from its European operations in 2016, the sixteenth consecutive loss-making year for GM in Europe, bringing its total losses in Europe since 2000 to more than US$15 billion. On March 6, 2017, the sale of Opel and Vauxhall to the PSA Group for $2.3 billion was confirmed.
The company manufactures most of its China market vehicles locally. Shanghai GM, a joint venture with the Chinese company SAIC Motor, was created with Canadian Regal in 1990 on March 25, 1997. The Shanghai GM plant was officially opened on December 15, 1998, when the first Chinese-built Buick came off the assembly line. The SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile joint-venture is also successfully selling microvans under the Wuling brand (34 percent owned by GM). Much of General Motors' recent growth has been in the People's Republic of China, where its sales rose 66.9 percent in 2009, selling 1,830,000 vehicles and accounting for 13.4 percent of the market.
Buick is strong in China from early Introduction by the Canadian Buick sold to the last Emperor of China, later being led by the Buick Regal 1990 subcompact. The last emperor of China owned a Buick. The Cadillac brand was introduced in China in 2004, starting with exports to China. GM pushed the marketing of the Chevrolet brand in China in the mid-2000s as well. As part of this push, GM transferred Buick Sail to that brand as an attempt to appeal to Chinese middle-class buyers looking for small and affordable cars.
General Motors vehicle sales in China rose 28.8 percent to a record 2,351,610 units in 2010. GM set up an auto research center as part of a US250 million corporate campus in Shanghai to develop 'gasoline-hybrid cars, electric vehicles and alternative fuels, engines and new technologies'. The company plans to double its sales from 2010 to about 5 million units in China by 2015.
SAIC-GM-Wuling established the low-cost Baojun brand to better compete with domestic rivals, Chery, Geely and BYD for first-time buyers of cars priced around US$10,000. It is estimated that such a market in China is about 5 million vehicles a year, larger than the auto market in France and Britain combined. However, some are worried that 'local brands like Baojun could eventually become threats to their parent brands if they compete more against established models over time'. Shanghai-GM-Wuling sold 1.23 million vehicles in 2010, mainly commercial vans and trucks, of which about 700,000 units were a van called Sunshine.
GM maintains a dealership presence in Japan, called GM Chevrolet Shop, previously known as GM Auto World Shop. Current GM Japan dealerships were either former Saturn dealerships or Isuzu dealership locations. GM products are also currently sold by the company Yanase Co., Ltd. since 1915.
In August 2011, GM announced plans to reactivate its plant that previously produced rebadged Chevrolet Blazer as Opel as well as Brazilian Blazer, and also build a new plant in Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia, which would produce 40,000 passenger cars per year for the Southeast Asian market. It is the third plant in Southeast Asia, after the Rayong plant, Thailand, and the Hanoi plant, Vietnam.
In October 2011, the South Korea Free Trade Agreement opened up the South Korean auto market to American made cars. GM owns (per December 31, 2011) 77.0% of its joint venture in South Korea, GM Korea.:p.96
On March 11, 2013, GM opened a new 190,300 square-foot manufacturing plant in Bekasi, Indonesia. GM closed the Bekasi plant by the end of June 2015, and stopped production of the Sonic in Thailand by mid-year.
In 2017, GM exited the Indian market, which it had entered for the second time in 1996. The first time was in 1928 when it became the first car maker to manufacture cars in India. GM would, however, continue to manufacture cars from its Talegaon, Maharashtra plant for the export market. This plant has a capacity of 160,000 units annually. The older Halol, Gujarat plant with a capacity for 50,000 units stopped production on April 28, 2017. It will be sold, with GM in talks with China's SAIC Motor Corporation Ltd. The India arm's domestic sales for April 2016 – March 2017 declined to 25,823 units from 32,540 the previous year and market share contracted from 1.17 percent to 0.85 percent for the same period. However, exports surged 89 percent during the same period to 70,969 units. GMTC-I, GM's technical center in Bengaluru, India will continue doing its global work. About 400 employees, 8 percent of GM's total Indian work-force, would be affected by the pull-out. Weak product line-up and below par service quality were the reasons for the poor showing by GM in India. It will also affect 10,000 employees working with about 120 Outlets/Dealership of GM in India.
In February 2018, comments by CEO Mary Barra that GM's Korean operations' cost structures had "become challenging" fuelled speculation that the company might divest GM Korea, followed by a market exit. GM is currently negotiating a $2.8 billion investment plan for its Korean operations from the South Korean government, to be dispersed over the next decade. Furthermore, the company approached the Korea Development Bank to participate in a $2.7 billion debt swap issued by its Korean subsidiary.
According to the South Korean unit of General Motors, its domestic sales for March dropped by 58 percent, which is more than half compared to the past year. In February 2018, General Motors had said to shut down one factory and then decide what lies ahead for the remaining three plants in South Korea during rising losses there. In recent years, the US automaker pulled its Chevy brand from Europe which wedged GM Korea's exports since it was a major market for the Korean firm.
GM has a long history in Egypt which began in the 1920s with the assembly of cars and light pickup trucks for the local market. In the mid of the 1950s, GM withdrew from the Egyptian market. Some years later, the Ghabbour Brothers began to assemble Cadillac, Chevrolet and Buick models up to the 1990s. Since 1983 GM and Al-Monsour Automotive Company have owned General Motors Egypt, which is currently the only manufacturer of traditional GM branded vehicles in Egypt.
In the 1920s Miller Brothers Nigeria was founded as an importer of commercial vehicles of the Bedford brand into the country. In 1949, the company opened its own assembly plant and operated under the name Niger/Nigeria Motors. In 1965 the plant and its distribution network were split into different companies and renamed as Federated Motors Industries. In 1991 the company was taken in by a joint venture between General Motors and UACN of Nigeria.
Another manufacturing base of the GM for the African markets is the Industries Mécaniques Maghrébines headquartered in Kairouan, Tunisia, which assembles Isuzu and Mazda models for the Maghreb region.
Formed in 1975, General Motors East Africa (GMEA) was the largest assembler of commercial vehicles in the region exporting them from Kenya to East and Central African countries including Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi. Its facility located in Nairobi assembled a wide range of Isuzu trucks and buses including the popular Isuzu N-Series versatile light commercial vehicle, TF Series pick-ups and Isuzu bus chassis. In addition to assembly, GMEA also marketed the Chevrolet products Spark and Optra. Selling entire GM's 57.7 per cent stake in General Motors East Africa to Isuzu was announced on February 28, 2017. After finishing the sale, GMEA was renamed to Isuzu East Africa Limited, effective from August 1, 2017.
General Motors began operating in South Africa in 1913 through its wholly owned subsidiary, General Motors South Africa and was a market that briefly had its own local brand, Ranger. Following the passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act in 1986, GM was forced to divest from South Africa, and GMSA became the independent Delta Motor Corporation. GM purchased a 49% stake in Delta in 1997 following the end of apartheid, and acquired the remaining 51% in 2004, reverting the company to its original name. By 2014 it was targeting the production of 50,000 cars a year but was being hampered by national labor unrest, strikes, and protests. GM exited the South Africa market in 2017 by selling part of the business to Isuzu as it looked for a buyer for the rest of the business.
In New Zealand, GM was represented by locally assembled Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Pontiac vehicles from 1926, and Vauxhall cars from 1931. After World War II, the local production of Chevrolet and Vauxhalls resumed followed by Pontiac again in 1959.
In 1954 sales of fully imported Holden vehicles into New Zealand began. New Zealand assembly of Holdens began in 1957 and by the end of the 1960s Holdens replaced all Chevrolets and Pontiacs (both in 1968), and most Vauxhalls. Opel, Bedford, and Isuzu, vehicles were assembled or imported at different times during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. All local General Motors assembly plants in New Zealand closed by 1990. GM New Zealand was renamed Holden New Zealand in 1994.
In Australia, GM formed an Australian subsidiary in 1926, General Motors (Australia) Limited, which imported, distributed and assembled General Motors products. The bodies were manufactured at an Adelaide-based family business, Holden's Motor Body Builders, which had built up its operations with the help of tariff protection and amicable relations with trade unions. During the Great Depression, Holden's Motor Body Builders collapsed, which allowed General Motors to acquire Holden, becoming General Motors-Holden [GMH] in 1931. Inheriting an Australian identity, GMH amassed nationalist appeal, which was capitalised on in 1948 when the first fully manufactured Australian car, the Holden 48-215 was released to great fanfare amongst the Australian public. It was marketed as "Australia's Own" Holden, and became an iconic feature of post-war Australian culture.
On December 10, 2013, GM announced that Holden would cease manufacturing operations in Australia by the end of 2017. Holden's Australian presence now only consists of a national sales company, a parts distribution centre and a global design studio. Holdens from then on were sourced from GM's Korean and North American operations, and PSA.
In 2020, GM exited the Australian, and New Zealand markets, and confirmed that the Holden badge would cease to exist by 2021. The global design center and Lang Lang (Victoria) test track are set to be closed, with the remaining 200 staff catering for warranty-related claims for up to 10 years. Despite its announcement, GM will continue to have some presence in Australia, as they plan to export some Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC vehicles through a new entity called General Motors Specialty Vehicles, as plans are still on track to bring American-built brands to the region, which was announced before Holden's shutdown.
GM participated in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) from 2004 to 2012, and has also participated in other motorsport championships, including 24 Hours of Le Mans (however, it did not compete in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns), NASCAR, SCCA and Supercars Championship.
GM's engines were successful in the Indy Racing League (IRL) throughout the 1990s, winning many races in the small V8 class. GM has also done much work in the development of electronics for GM auto racing. An unmodified Aurora V8 in the Aerotech, captured 47 world records, including the record for speed endurance in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Recently, the Cadillac V-Series has entered motorsports racing.
GM has also used many cars in the American racing series NASCAR. Currently the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is the only entry in the series, but in the past the Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Chevrolet Lumina, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Chevrolet Impala, and the Chevrolet SS were also used. GM has won a total of 40 NASCAR Cup Series manufacturer's championships, including 34 with Chevrolet, the most of any make in NASCAR history, 3 with Oldsmobile, 2 with Buick, and 1 with Pontiac. GM leads all other automobile manufacturers in races won in NASCAR's premier series at 1,011. Chevrolet leads individual makes with 677 wins.
In Australia, there is the Supercars Championship which is battled out by the two main rivals of (GM) Holden and Ford. The current Holden cars are based on the Holden Commodore and run a 5.0-litre V8-cylinder engine producing 635 bhp (474 kW). These cars have a top speed of 298 km/h (185 mph) and run 0–100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. The Holden Racing Team, now known as Walkinshaw Andretti United is Australia's most successful team in Australian touring car history. In 2006 and 2007, the drivers' championship was won by the closely linked (now defunct) HSV Dealer Team. With Holden's demise in 2020, GM is expected to make the exported Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 the successor-in-line to the Holden Commodore once existing deals are completed.
Research and development
Research and development (R&D) at General Motors began organically as the continuation of such R&D as the various divisions (e.g., Cadillac, Buick, Olds, Oakland) were already doing for themselves before the merger. Its character was entirely empirical; it was whatever key people in each company had been competent enough to organize and pursue. R. S. McLaughlin's Carriage Company in 1876 was designing and inventing Carriage Gear. The McLaughlin Companies became General Motors of Canada Limited. Charles F. Kettering's Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco), at Dayton, Ohio, was still an independent firm at this time. Its work was well known to GM central management through its relationship as a supplier and consultancy to Cadillac and Buick.
In 1916, Durant organized the United Motors Corporation as an amalgamation of parts suppliers, supplying GM and other OEMs but independent of GM. Alfred P. Sloan, head of the newly acquired Hyatt Roller Bearing Corporation, became United Motors' CEO. United Motors acquired Delco, and Kettering began his association with Sloan. United Motors also acquired at this time the original Remy corporation (called the Remy Electric Company), a competitor of Delco. In 1918 General Motors bought United Motors. Various entities grew out of the original Delco and Remy, including the Dayton Metal Products Corporation, the General Motors Research Corporation, the Delco Division and Remy Electric Division of GM, Delco Remy (now Remy International, Inc.), ACDelco, Delco Electronics, and others. Today's main successor corporation is Delphi Automotive, which nowadays is an independent parent corporation.
The General Motors Research Corporation, at Dayton under Kettering, became a true automotive research center. During the next few decades, it led to the development of:
- Many electrical-appliance features for cars and trucks
- In 1911, Charles F. Kettering, with Henry M. Leland, of Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (DELCO) invented and filed U.S. Patent 1,150,523 for the first electric starter in America.
- In 1921, General Motors patented the use of Tetraethyllead as an antiknock agent because ethanol could not be patented. This led to the development of higher compression engines resulting in more power and efficiency. The public later realized that lead in gasoline was harmful to various biological organisms including humans. Evidence shows that corporate executives understood the health implications of TEL from the beginning.
- In 1937, Jominy & Boegehold of GM invented the Jominy end-quench test for hardenability of carbon steel, a breakthrough in heat treating still in use today as ASTM A255.
- In 1939, GM introduced the world's first automatic transmission the Hydra-matic for the 1940 Oldsmobile and would be adopted by the auto industry later.
- In 1962, GM introduced the first turbo charged engine in the world for a car in the Oldsmobile Cutlass Turbo-Jetfire.
- In 1971, the Lunar Rover, a partnership between GM's Delco Defense Electronics Division and Boeing traversed the surface of the Moon.
- In 1972, GM produced the first rear wheel Anti-lock brake system in the world for two of their cars: the Toronado and Eldorado.
- In 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado was the first retail sold car with a passenger airbag.
- In 1984, Robert Lee of GM invented the Fe14Nd2B permanent magnet, fabricated by rapid solidification.
- Dichlorodifluoromethane refrigerant for HVAC and refrigeration applications. Also known as Freon or R-12, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) such as dichlorodifluoromethane are banned globally as a major cause of Ozone Layer Depletion.
- Commercially practical two-stroke diesel engines
- Better transmissions for track-laying vehicles
Although GM R&D (as it is known in colloquial shorthand) began as an organization largely built around one man (Kettering), it eventually evolved into a more modern organization whose path is shaped by individuals but not dominated entirely by any of them. World War II was a turning point wherein military affairs, after mingling with the technologies of applied science for some 80 years, first started to become fundamentally reinvented by them. Civilian life, too, changed in this direction. By the 1950s, corporations such as GM and many others were facing a new era of R&D, different from earlier ones. Less about genius inventors and individual inventions, and more about organizational progress and integrated systems, it raised new questions about where the capital for R&D would come from in an era of limitless demand for R&D (although not necessarily for production). Alfred Sloan, longtime CEO of GM (1920s to 1960s), discussed in his memoir (also considered a seminal management treatise) the relationships between government, academia, and private industry in the areas of basic science and applied science, in light of this new era. The views he laid out reflected (and influenced) wide consensus on these relationships that persists largely to today.
Today, GM R&D, headquartered in Warren, Michigan, is a network of six laboratories, six science offices, and collaborative relationships in over twelve countries including working relationships with universities, government groups, suppliers, and other partners from across the globe.
On September 7, 2014, at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Detroit GM disclosed it would be introducing auto-pilot features into certain 2017 models of its cars. The "super cruise" or vehicle-to-vehicle V2V technology is likely to be first introduced to the Cadillac range, enabling drivers to switch in and out of semi-automated mode. In December 2016, General Motors began testing self-driving vehicles on public roads in Michigan after Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of bills legalizing the operation of autonomous vehicles.
In March 2016, General Motors bought Cruise Automation, a San Francisco self-driving vehicle start-up, to develop self-driving cars that could be used in ride-sharing fleets.
In October 2017, General Motors acquired Strobe, a solid state LIDAR company. Strobe's prototypes produce brief "chirps" of frequency-modulated (FM) laser light, where the frequency within each chirp varies linearly. Measuring the phase and frequency of the echoing chirp allows the system to directly measure both the distance and the velocity of objects in the road ahead. Strobe, Cruise and GM will work together to develop the technology for future self-driving cars.
In November 2017, two self-driving Chevy Bolt EV cars were seen during a media event by Cruise Automation, GM's autonomous car unit, in San Francisco, California, U.S. The automaker is already operating self-driving Chevy Bolts in San Francisco as part of a beta test run by the company's subsidiary.
In October 2018, Honda invested $2.75 billion in GM's self-driving car unit. The firm announced an initial investment of $275 million initially, followed by $2 billion within the year.
Small car sales
From the 1920s onward, General Motors always maintained an internal dialog about what its economy-car and small-car policies should be. The economy and size considerations often naturally overlapped, although a strong distinction was always drawn in the 20th century between policies for the U.S. market and policies for other markets. Economy (in some form) always had good demand anywhere, but its definition in the U.S. was long considered different from that in other markets. In this view, "economy" in the U.S. did not mean "small" in the sense of what qualified as "small" outside the U.S. The policy discussion often focused on topics like the higher demand for truly small cars in non-U.S. markets than in the U.S., and whether it made more sense to import a car into a certain country or to build it domestically within that country, either as some variant of knockdown or with truly extensive domestic sourcing. GM's acquisitions of Vauxhall Motors Ltd (UK, 1925) and Adam Opel AG (Germany, 1929), rather than starting new domestic companies to compete against them, were based on analyses that convinced GM managers that acquiring an existing domestic manufacturer was a better business decision.
Although GM since the 1920s has always offered economy models in the U.S. market (relative to that market's definition in any given decade) and had done research and development in the 1940s and 1950s in preparation for any potential rise of strong demand for truly small cars in the U.S. market, it has also been criticized over the decades for not doing enough to promote fuel efficiency in the U.S. market in the 1970s through 1990s. GM's response has been that it has always responded to market demands and that most Americans, despite anything they said to the contrary, did not actually demand (at purchasing-decision time) small size or fuel efficiency in their vehicles to any great or lasting extent. Although some U.S. consumers flocked temporarily to the ideal of fuel economy whenever fuel supply crises arose (such as 1973 and 1979), they flocked equally enthusiastically to SUVs when cheap fuel of the 1980s and 1990s temporarily shielded them from any downside to these choices.
Since the return of high fuel prices in the 2000s and 2010s, GM's interest in truly small-car programs for the U.S. market has been renewed. As part of General Motors Company's development, the firm revived one of its idled U.S. factories for the production of a small car in Orion, Michigan, with the creation of 1,200 jobs. This was the first time that GM produced a sub compact car in the United States since the Chevrolet Chevette ended production in 1986. Production started in late 2011 with the Chevrolet Sonic. GM ended production of the Sonic at Orion Assembly on October 19, 2020, with no direct replacement.
General Motors has published principles regarding the environment and maintains an extensive website to inform the public. In 2008, General Motors committed to engineering half of its manufacturing plants to be landfill-free. In order to achieve its landfill-free status, production waste is recycled or reused in the manufacturing process.
The world's largest rooftop solar power installation was installed at General Motors Spanish Zaragoza Manufacturing Plant in late 2008. The Zaragoza solar installation has about 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2) of roof at the plant and contains about 85,000 solar panels. The installation was created, owned and operated by Veolia Environment and Clairvoyant Energy, who lease the rooftop area from General Motors. In 2011, General Motors also invested $7.5 million in solar-panel provider Sunlogics, which will install solar panels on GM facilities.
GM has long worked on alternative-technology vehicles, and has led the industry with ethanol-burning flexible-fuel vehicles that can run on either E85 (ethanol) or gasoline. The company was the first to use turbochargers and was an early proponent of V6 engines in the 1960s, but quickly lost interest as muscle car popularity increased. They demonstrated gas turbine vehicles powered by kerosene, an area of interest throughout the industry, but abandoned the alternative engine configuration in view of the 1973 oil crisis. In the 1970s and 1980s, GM pushed the benefits of diesel engines and cylinder deactivation technologies with disastrous results due to poor durability in the Oldsmobile diesels and drivability issues in the Cadillac V8-6-4 variable-cylinder engines. In 1987, GM, in conjunction with AeroVironment, built the Sunraycer, which won the inaugural World Solar Challenge and was a showcase of advanced technology. Much of the technology from Sunraycer found its way into the Impact prototype electric vehicle (also built by Aerovironment) and was the predecessor to the General Motors EV1.
GM supported a compromise version of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard increase from 27 to 35 mpg‑US (8.7 to 6.7 L/100 km; 32 to 42 mpg‑imp), the first such increase in over 20 years. GM hinted that they will not introduce more Volt-based plug-in hybrids.
The company is committed to investing heavily in electric cars. According to GM's executive vice president of global development, Mark Reuss, GM's vehicle lineup will feature 20 electric car models by 2023. In November 2020, GM committed to increased capital investment in electric vehicles to over half of new capital expenditures — totalling to $27 billion over five years.
In April 2021, GM announced that it is planning to sell emissions-free cars by 2035 and that it is planning, alongside with LG, to build a new $2.3 billion plant to build batteries for electric vehicles.
Hybrid electric vehicles
In May 2004, GM delivered the world's first full-sized hybrid pickups, the 1/2-ton Silverado/Sierra. These mild hybrids did not use electrical energy for propulsion, like GM's later designs. In 2005, the Opel Astra diesel Hybrid concept vehicle was introduced. The 2006 Saturn Vue Green Line was the first hybrid passenger vehicle from GM and is also a mild design. GM has hinted at new hybrid technologies to be employed that will be optimized for higher speeds in freeway driving.
GM offered the 2-mode hybrid system in the 2008–2013 Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon/Cadillac Escalade, and 2009–2013 GM 1/2 half-ton pickups. This hybrid technology, co-developed with DaimlerChrysler and BMW, was first used by GM in a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain (manufactured by Allison Transmission) for transit buses, starting in 2004.
Extended-Range Electric Vehicle
Within the framework of its vehicle electrification strategy, GM introduced the Chevrolet Volt in 2010 as an Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (EREV), an electric vehicle with back-up generators powered by gasoline, or series plug-in hybrid. The production Chevrolet Volt was available in late 2010 as a 2011 model with limited availability. GM delivered the first Volt during December 2010. The second-generation Volt was launched in the U.S. and Canada in October 2015. The second generation has an upgraded drivetrain and improved battery system that increased the all-electric range from 38 to 53 miles (61 to 85 km). GM ceased Volt production in March 2019.
As of October 2018, global Volt/Ampera family sales totaled about 177,000 units since its inception in December 2010, including over 10,000 Opel/Vauxhall Amperas sold in Europe up to December 2015. The Volt family of vehicles ranked as the world's all-time top-selling plug-in hybrid as of September 2018, and it is also the third best selling plug-in electric car in history after the Nissan Leaf (375,000) and the Tesla Model S (253,000), as of October 2018 . The Chevrolet Volt is also the U.S. all-time top-selling plug-in electric car with 148,556 units delivered through October 2018.
General Motors was the first company (in the modern era) to release an all-electric automobile. In 1990, GM debuted the "Impact" concept car at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It was the first car with zero-emissions marketed in the US in over three decades. The Impact was eventually produced as the EV1 for the 1996 model year. It was available through dealers located in only a few regions. Vehicles were leased, rather than sold, to individuals. In 1999 GM decided to cease production of the vehicles. When the individual leases had expired, they declined to renew the leases or allow the lessors to purchase them. All of the EV1s were eventually returned to General Motors and, with the exception of a few which were donated to museums, all were destroyed. The documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car? covered the EV1 story.
The EV1's cancellation had disappointed supporters of electric vehicles. In 2010, GM debuted the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with back-up generators powered by gasoline (range-extended electric vehicle). General Motors built a prototype two-seat electric vehicle with Segway. An early prototype of the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility vehicle—dubbed Project P.U.M.A. – was presented in New York at the 2009 New York International Auto Show.
In October 2011, General Motors introduced the Chevrolet Spark EV, an all-electric version of the third generation Chevrolet Spark, with availability limited to select U.S. and global markets. GM Korea started making and selling the Spark EV domestically in 2013. The production version was unveiled at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. Within the framework of GM's vehicle electrification strategy, the Spark EV is the first all-electric passenger car marketed by General Motors in the U.S. since the EV1 was discontinued in 1999. The Spark EV was released in the U.S. in selected markets in California and Oregon in June 2013. Retail sales began in South Korea in October 2013. GM also plans to sell the Spark EV in limited quantities in Canada and select European markets.
GM began production of the Chevrolet Bolt EV in October 2016, the first ever mass market all-electric car with a range of more than 200 miles (320 km). The battery pack and most drivetrain components are built by LG and assembled in GM's Lake Orion plant.
In March 2019, the company announced that it would begin production of a new EV model in Lake Orion but declined to provide details about the vehicle at that time. In May 2019, General Motors received pushback on its plan to release a fleet of up to 2,500 modified Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles. The company planned to release these vehicles by Q4 of 2019 as part of their initiatives to build a controlled self-driving fleet.
In January 2020, GM announced the return of the Hummer nameplate as a series of electric vehicles to be sold from within the GMC portfolio, known as the GMC Hummer EV. The first vehicle, a pickup truck variant, will go on sale in late 2021 with over 1,000 horsepower, to be followed by an SUV sometime in 2022–2023.
In September 2020, GM announced a partnership with Nikola Corporation to engineer and manufacture their Nikola Badger Vehicle. The partnership allowed GM to acquire an 11% equity stake in the public company, worth $2 Billion dollars of the newly issued stock. The Badger would be sold, marketed, and branded as a Nikola Product. However, it would utilize GM's Ultium battery technology, as well as make GM an exclusive fuel cell supplier for all of Nikola's class 7/8 trucks. Although later, following fraud allegations from short-seller Hindenburg Research, in relation to the mechanical capabilities of the Badger pickup truck, along with separate sexual misconduct allegations involving former CEO Trevor Milton, GM decided to scale back its investment with Nikola in a smaller revised deal.
As part of its push into electric vehicles, GM revealed its new logo in January 2021 which used negative space to create the idea of an electric plug in the "M" of the logo. At the January 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, GM launched its new all-electric commercial vehicle marque BrightDrop.
On January 28, 2021, GM announced that it will end production and sales of fossil-fuel vehicles (including hybrids and plug-in hybrids) by 2035 as part of its plan to become carbon-net zero by 2040. This also comes after President Joe Biden introduced legislation to rejoin the UN Paris Agreement and implement stringent vehicle emission standards. This will allow General Motors to transition into becoming a leading electric vehicle manufacturer and become a leading participant in Joe Biden's ambitious climate plans to fight climate change.
Battery packs for electric vehicles
GM builds battery packs in southern Michigan. GM also established an automotive battery laboratory in Michigan. GM will be responsible for battery management systems and power electronics, thermal management, as well as the pack assembly. An existing GM facility at Brownstown Township was chosen to be upgraded as battery pack plant. LG Chem's U.S. subsidiary, Compact Power of Troy, Michigan, has been building the prototype packs for the development vehicles and will continue to provide integration support and act as a liaison for the program.
The 1966 GM Electrovan is credited with being the first hydrogen fuel cell car ever produced. Though fuel cells have been around since the early 1800s, General Motors was the first to use a fuel cell, supplied by Union Carbide, to power the wheels of a vehicle with a budget of "millions of dollars". In 2002, it was reported that GM spent about $100 million a year in research and development of fuel cell vehicle. In June 2007, Larry Burns, vice president of research and development, said he was not yet willing to say exactly when hydrogen vehicles would be mass-produced, but he said it should happen before 2020, the year many experts have predicted. He said "I sure would be disappointed if we weren't there" before 2020.
On July 2, 2013, GM and Honda announced a partnership to develop fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage technologies for the 2020 time frame. GM and Honda are leaders in fuel cell technology, ranking No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in total fuel cell patents filed between 2002 and 2012, with more than 1,200 between them according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index.
GM produces several flexible-fuel vehicles that can operate on E85 ethanol fuel or gasoline, or any blend of both. Since 2006 GM started featuring a bright yellow gas cap to remind drivers of the E85 capabilities.
GM is the leader in E85 flex fuel vehicles, with over 6 million FlexFuel vehicles on the road in the U.S. In 2010, GM pledged to have more than half of their annual vehicle production be E85 or biodiesel capable by 2012. As of 2012, GM offers 20 ethanol-enabled FlexFuel cars and trucks in the US, and offers more FlexFuel vehicles models than any other automaker.
Hydrotec Military Vehicles
GM Defense is the GM division leveraging GM's advanced technology propulsion systems, including Hydrotec Fuel Cell and Jouletec batteries for a variety of military applications including autonomous electric platforms and flex-fuel cell pickups converted for military use.
In 1996, GMC partnered with the fashion industry as a part of the GM/CFDA Concept: Cure, a collaboration between General Motors and the Fashion industry bringing awareness to and raising funds for breast cancer. The program involved five designers, each lending their artistic talents to customize five different vehicles. Nicole Miller, Richard Tyler, Anna Sui, Todd Oldham, and Mark Eisen were tasked with transforming a Cadillac STS, Buick Riviera, GMC Yukon, Oldsmobile Bravada and Chevrolet Camaro Z28, respectively. The cars were then auctioned with the proceeds presented to the Nina Hyde Center at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show in 1997.
Through 2002, the PACE Awards program, led by GM, EDS, and SUN Microsystems, has given over $1.2 billion of in-kind contributions which includes computers to over 18 universities to support engineering education. In 2009, the GM led group has helped the Pace Awards program worldwide.
On March 21, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, General Motors began working with Ventec Life Systems to produce ventilators. GM's CEO Mary Barra stated, "We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic." According to the statement, Ventec will borrow GM's resources and use their expertise to rapidly build new ventilators.
|Brand||Year founded||Year began making autos||Year joined GM||Markets served today|
|Chevrolet||1911||1911||1918||Americas, China, Middle East, CIS, South Korea, Philippines|
|Buick||1903||1903||1908||China, North America|
|GMC||1912||1912||1919||North America, Middle East|
|Cadillac||1902||1902||1909||North America, Middle East, China, Japan, South Korea, Europe|
As it emerged from bankruptcy and company reorganization in 2010, GM structured its brand portfolio (brand architecture). Some nameplates like Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, and service brands like Goodwrench were discontinued. Others, like Saab, were sold. The practice of putting the "GM Mark of Excellence" on every car, no matter what the brand, was discontinued in August 2009. The company has moved from a corporate-endorsed hybrid brand architecture structure, where GM underpinned every brand to a multiple brand corporate invisible brand architecture structure. The company's familiar square blue "badge" has been removed from the Web site and advertising, in favor of a new, subtle all-text logo treatment on its U.S. site; the Canadian site still retains the blue "badge". In 2011, GM discontinued the Daewoo brand in South Korea and replaced it with the Chevrolet brand. GM holds about 96% of GM Korea (2011–present) which mainly designs and produces Chevrolet and Holden branded vehicles. GM holds about 25% of GM Uzbekistan (2008–present) which produces Ravon, Chevrolet and Daewoo branded vehicles.
In 2020, GM began phasing out the Holden brand in Australia and New Zealand, due to poor reception and sales of the Opel built ZB Holden Commodore. Cars ceased to be sold in mid-2020, finally going defunct from January 1, 2021. Operations, such as servicing and extended warranties will be honoured for the next ten years. GM also pulled the Chevrolet brand from Thailand.
Flint sit-down strike
The 1936–1937 Flint sit-down strike against General Motors changed the United Automobile Workers (UAW) from a collection of isolated locals on the fringes of the industry into a major labor union and led to the unionization of the domestic United States automobile industry.
After the first convention of UAW in 1936, the union decided that it could not survive by piecemeal organizing campaigns at smaller plants, as it had in the past, but that it could organize the automobile industry only by going after its biggest and most powerful employer, General Motors Corporation, focusing on GM's production complex in Flint, Michigan.
Organizing in Flint was a difficult and dangerous plan. GM controlled city politics in Flint and kept a close eye on outsiders. According to Wyndham Mortimer, the UAW officer put in charge of the organizing campaign in Flint, he received a death threat by an anonymous caller when he visited Flint in 1936. GM also maintained an extensive network of spies throughout its plants. This forced UAW members to keep the names of new members in secret and meeting workers at their homes.
As the UAW studied its target, it discovered that GM had only two factories that produced the dies from which car body components were stamped: one in Flint that produced the parts for Buicks, Pontiacs, and Oldsmobiles, and another in Cleveland that produced Chevrolet parts.
While the UAW called for a sit-down strike in Flint, the police, armed with guns and tear gas, attempted to enter the Fisher Body 2 plant on January 11, 1937. The strikers inside the plant pelted them with hinges, bottles, and bolts. At the time, Vice President John Nance Garner supported federal intervention to break up the Flint Strike, but this idea was rejected by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The president urged GM to distinguish a union so the plants could re-open. The strike ended after 44 days.
That development forced GM to bargain with the union. John L. Lewis, President of the United Mine Workers and founder and leader of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, spoke for the UAW in those negotiations; UAW President Homer Martin was sent on a speaking tour to keep him out of the way. GM's representatives refused to be in the same room as the UAW's, so Governor Frank Murphy acted as a courier and intermediary between the two groups. Governor Murphy sent in the U.S. National Guard, not to evict the strikers, but rather to protect them from the police and corporate strike-breakers. The two parties finally reached agreement on February 11, 1937, on a one-page agreement that recognized the UAW as the exclusive bargaining representative for GM's employees who were members of the union for the next six months.
Tool and die strike of 1939
The tool and die strike of 1939, also known as the "strategy strike", was an ultimately successful attempt by the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) to be recognized as the sole representative for General Motors workers. In addition to representation rights, the UAW, working jointly with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), sought to resolve existing grievances of skilled workers.
United Auto Workers (UAW) strike of 1945–1946
From November 21, 1945, until March 13, 1946 (113 days), CIO's United Automobile Workers (UAW), organized "320,000 hourly workers" to form a US-wide strike against the General Motors Corporation, workers used the tactic of the sit down strike. It was "the longest strike against a major manufacturer" that the UAW had yet seen, and it was also "the longest national GM strike in its history." As director of the UAW's General Motors Department (coordinator of union relations with GM), Walter Reuther suggested to his colleagues the idea of striking the GM manufacturing plants with a 'one-at-a-time' strategy, which was "intended to maximize pressure on the target company." Reuther also put forth the demands of the strikers: a 30 percent increase in wages and a hold on product prices. However, the strike ended with the dissatisfaction of Walter Reuther and the UAW, and the workers received only a 17.5-percent increase in wages.
2007 General Motors strike
The 2007 General Motors strike was a strike from September 24 to 26, 2007, by the United Auto Workers against General Motors.
On September 24, 2007, General Motors workers represented by the United Auto Workers union went on strike against the company. The first US-wide strike against GM since 1970 was expected to idle 59 plants and facilities for an indefinite period of time. Talks broke down after more than 20 straight days of bargaining failed to produce a new contract. Major issues that proved to be stumbling blocks for an agreement included wages, benefits, job security and investments in US facilities.
Within hours, the ripple effect was felt in Canada with closures of two car assembly plants in Oshawa, Ontario, and a transmission facility in Windsor on September 25. However, on September 26, a tentative agreement was reached, and the strike's end was announced by UAW officials in a news conference at 4 a.m. By the following day, all GM workers in both countries were back to work.
2019 General Motors strike
On the morning of September 15, 2019, the United Auto Workers announced in a press conference that General Motors employees would begin striking at 11:59 PM after talks broke down to renew their contract, which expired earlier that day at 12:01 AM. This strike shut down operations in nine states, including 33 manufacturing plants and 22 parts distribution warehouses. After 40 days, the "longest strike by autoworkers in a decade" (and the longest against GM since 1970) came to an end on October 25, 2019, as United Auto Workers members voted to approve a new deal with GM. The strike cost GM more than $2bn, while Union members were reduced to a salary of $275 a week in strike pay.
Between 1938 and 1950, General Motors (GM) monopolized the sale of buses and supplies to National City Lines (NCL) and its subsidiaries. It has been alleged that this was part of a deliberate plot to purchase and dismantle streetcar systems in many cities in the United States as an attempt to monopolize surface transportation.
Ralph Nader and the Corvair
Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader, published in 1965, is a pioneering book accusing car manufacturers of being slow to introduce safety features, and reluctant to spend money on improving safety. The subject for which the book is probably most widely known, the rear-engined GM Chevrolet Corvair, is covered in the first chapter. It relates to the first (1960–1964) models that had a swing-axle suspension design which was prone to 'tuck under' in certain circumstances. In substitution for the cost-cutting lack of a front stabilizer bar (anti-roll bar), Corvairs required tire pressures that were outside of the tire manufacturer's recommended tolerances. The Corvair relied on an unusually high front to rear pressure differential (15 psi front, 26 psi rear, when cold; 18 psi and 30 psi hot), and if one inflated the tires equally, as was standard practice for all other cars at the time, the result was dangerous over-steer.
In early March 1966, several media outlets, including The New Republic and The New York Times, alleged that GM had tried to discredit Ralph Nader, hiring private detectives to tap his phones and investigate his past, and hiring prostitutes to trap him in compromising situations. Nader sued the company for invasion of privacy and settled the case for $425,000. Nader's lawsuit against GM was ultimately decided by the New York Court of Appeals, whose opinion in the case expanded tort law to cover "overzealous surveillance". Nader used the proceeds from the lawsuit to start the pro-consumer Center for Study of Responsive Law.
A 1972 safety commission report conducted by Texas A&M University concluded that the 1960–1963 Corvair possessed no greater potential for loss of control than its contemporary competitors in extreme situations. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a press release in 1972 describing the findings of NHTSA testing from the previous year. NHTSA had conducted a series of comparative tests in 1971 studying the handling of the 1963 Corvair and four contemporary cars — a Ford Falcon, Plymouth Valiant, Volkswagen Beetle, and Renault Dauphine — along with a second-generation Corvair (with its completely redesigned, independent rear suspension). The 143-page report reviewed NHTSA's extreme-condition handling tests, national crash-involvement data for the cars in the test as well as General Motors' internal documentation regarding the Corvair's handling. NHTSA went on to contract an independent advisory panel of engineers to review the tests. This review panel concluded that 'the 1960–63 Corvair compares favorably with contemporary vehicles used in the tests [...] the handling and stability performance of the 1960–63 Corvair does not result in an abnormal potential for loss of control or rollover, and it is at least as good as the performance of some contemporary vehicles both foreign and domestic'.
Former GM executive John DeLorean asserted, in his book On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors, that Nader's criticisms were valid.
Journalist David E. Davis, in a 2009 article in Automobile Magazine, noted that despite Nader's claim that swing-axle rear suspension were dangerous, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen all used similar swing-axle concepts during that era.
Ignition switch recall
In May 2014 the NHTSA fined the company $35 million for failing to recall cars with faulty ignition switches for a decade, despite knowing there was a problem with the switches. General Motors paid compensation for 124 deaths linked to the faulty switches. The $35 million fine was the maximum the regulator could impose. General Motors are also facing 79 customer lawsuits asking for as much as $10 billion for economic losses attributed to the recall. As well as the Cobalts, the switches of concern had been installed in many other cars, such as the Pontiac G5, the Saturn Ion, the Chevrolet HHR, the Saturn Sky, and Pontiac Solstice. Eventually the recall involved about 2.6 million GM cars worldwide.
- History of General Motors
- Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
- Crucible Industries
- General Motors EV1
- General Motors Hy-wire
- General Motors streetcar conspiracy
- GM people
- GM vehicles by brand
- List of automobile manufacturers of the United States
- List of GM engines
- List of GM factories
- List of GM platforms
- List of GM transmissions
- United States Council for Automotive Research
- VIA Motors
- Maven (car sharing)
- Cruise (autonomous vehicle company)
- Sales of General Motors Company and associated companies, not its actual production volume.
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