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An Overview of General Motors

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An Overview of General Motors

General Motors Corporation, also known as GM is traditionally the world's largest car manufacturer based on annual sales, although exceeded by Toyota for the first quarter of 2007 for the first time. Founded in 1908, in Flint, Michigan, GM employs approximately 284,000 people around the world. With global headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan, GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 33 countries. Their European headquarters is based in Zurich, Switzerland. In 2005, 9.17 million GM cars and trucks were sold globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Daewoo, GMC, Saab Holden, Hummer, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall.

GM is the majority shareholder in GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. of South Korea and has product collaborations with Suzuki Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor Corporation and Isuzu Motors Ltd. of Japan. GM also has advanced technology collaborations with Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan, DaimlerChrysler AG and BMW AG of Germany and vehicle manufacturing ventures with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation of China, AutoVAZ and Avtotor of Russia and Renault of France.

GM Parts and accessories are sold under the GM, GM Performance Parts, GM Goodwrench and ACDelco brands through GM Service and Parts Operations, which supplies GM dealerships and distributors worldwide. GM engines and transmissions are marketed through GM Powertrain. GM's largest national market is the United States, followed by China, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. GM operates a finance company, GMAC Financial Services, which offers automotive, residential and commercial financing and insurance. GM's OnStar subsidiary is a vehicle safety, security and information service provider.

The History of GM

General Motors was founded on Wednesday, September 16, 1908 in Flint, Michigan, as a holding company for Buick, it was then controlled by William C. Durant, and acquired Oldsmobile later that year. The next year, Durant brought in Cadillac, Elmore, Oakland (later known as Pontiac) and several others. In 1909, General Motors acquired the Reliance Motor Truck Company of Owosso, Michigan, and the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company of Pontiac, Michigan, the predecessors of GMC Truck. A Rapid became the first truck to conquer Pikes Peak in 1909. Durant lost control of GM in 1910 to a bankers trust, because of the large amount of debt taken on in its acquisitions around 1.0 million dollars.

Durant left the firm and helped establish the Chevrolet Motor Company in 1911 with brothers Gaston and Louis Chevrolet. After a brilliant stock buy back campaign, he returned to head GM in 1916, with the backing of Pierre S. du Pont. Chevrolet entered the General Motors fold in 1917; its first GM car was 1918's Chevrolet 490. Du Pont removed Durant from management in 1920, and various Du Pont interests held large or controlling share holdings until about 1950.

In 1918 GM purchased the McLaughlin Motor Car Company of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, manufacturer of the McLaughlin-Buick automobile, and renamed it General Motors of Canada Ltd., with R.S. "Colonel Sam" McLaughlin as its first president.

GM surpassed Ford Motor Company in the late 1920s thanks to the leadership of Alfred Sloan. While Ford continued to refine the manufacturing process to reduce cost, Sloan was inventing new ways of managing a complex worldwide organization, while paying special attention to consumer demands. Car buyers no longer wanted the cheapest and most basic model; they wanted style, power, and prestige, which GM offered them. Thanks to consumer financing, easy monthly payments allowed far more people to buy GM cars, while Ford was moralistically opposed to credit.

During the 1920s and 1930s, General Motors assumed control of the Yellow Coach bus company, and helped create Greyhound bus lines. They replaced intercity train transport with buses, and established subsidiary companies to buy out streetcar companies and replace the rail-based services as well with buses. GM formed United Cities Motor Transit in 1932

In 1930, GM also began its foray into aircraft design and manufacturing by buying Fokker Aircraft Corp of America (U.S. subsidiary of Fokker) and Berliner-Joyce Aircraft, merging them into General Aviation Manufacturing Corporation. Through a stock exchange GM took controlling interest in North American Aviation and merged it with its General Aviation division in 1933, but retaining the name North American Aviation. In 1948, GM divested NAA as a public company, never to have a major interest in the aircraft manufacturing industry again.

General Motors bought the internal combustion engined railcar builder Electro-Motive Corporation and its engine supplier Winton Engine in 1930, renaming both as the General Motors Electro-Motive Division. Over the next twenty years, diesel-powered locomotives -- the majority built by GM -- largely replaced other forms of traction on American railroads. During World War II, these engines were also important in American submarines and destroyer escorts. Electro-Motive was sold in early 2005.

In 1935, the United Auto Workers labor union was formed, and in 1936 the UAW organized the Flint Sit-Down Strike, which initially idled two key plants in Flint, but later spread to half-a-dozen other plants including Janesville, Wisconsin and Fort Wayne, Indiana. In Flint, police attempted to enter the plant to arrest strikers, leading to violence; in other cities the plants were shuttered peacefully. The strike was resolved February 11, 1937 when GM recognized the UAW as the exclusive bargaining representative for its workGeneral Motors produced vast quantities of armaments, vehicles and even aircraft during World War II. During the war, the U.S. auto companies were concerned that Nazi Germany would nationalize American owned factories. By the spring of 1939, the the German Government had assumed day to day control of American owned factories in Germany, but decided against nationalizing them.

GM's William P. Knudson served as head of U.S. wartime production for President Franklin Roosevelt who had referred to Detroit as the Arsenal of Democracy. Today, Detroit is the headquarters for the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, known as TACOM.

Nevertheless, while General Motors has claimed that its German operations (Opel) were outside its control during World War II, this assertion appears to be contradicted by available evidence. General Motors was not just a car company that happened to have factories in Germany; GM management from the top down had extensive connections with the National Socialist German Workers' Party, both on a business and personal



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