Wondering about Chevrolet history, beginning with the inventor of the Chevy car? This American company has a long and interesting background. Before you head off to the dealer to buy your new GM vehicle, it's fun to learn a few things about the many generations of automobiles that preceded it.
Chevrolet History, Beginning with a Partnership
In 1911, a man named William Durant formed what was originally called the Chevrolet Motor Company. Durant was the founder of General Motors, but he had been forced out of the company in 1910. Using an important partnership with noted racecar driver Louis Chevrolet, Durant used the Chevrolet Motor Company to eventually resume a leading role in General Motors.
Louis Chevrolet Resigns
For Louis Chevrolet, the venture was not quite as successful. Although the company and Chevrolet automobiles still bear his name, he is considered one of the great tragic figures in automotive history. Chevrolet resigned from Chevrolet Motor Company in 1915, selling his stock to Durant when he left. Had he held onto his stake in the company, Chevrolet would have been a multi-millionaire. Instead, he died penniless.
The partnership between Durant and Chevrolet dissolved due to vehicle design. The first Chevrolet was the "Classic Six," an impressive car with a sticker price of $2150. These vehicles were designed for the wealthy and were not something the common man could afford. Durant felt that in order to compete, the company needed to design cars for regular people. Chevrolet disagreed and did not want his name attached to anything but large, impressive automobiles. He left the company at precisely the wrong time.
Chevrolet Joins General Motors
In 1916, Durant had made enough money from Chevrolet Motor Company to purchase a majority share in General Motors. He once again controlled the company he had founded. By 1917, Durant was president of GM, and in 1918, GM acquired Chevrolet Motor Company. Chevrolet became a separate division of GM, and the first Chevy truck was sold that year.
Gains in Popularity and Innovation
In 1920, Chevrolet was the third most popular brand of automobile. While Ford and Dodge still held the top positions in sales, Chevrolet was gaining ground with new designs. In 1925, they created the Chevrolet Superior, which sold for an affordable $650. The first six-cylinder engine was created by Chevrolet engineers in 1929.
The 1930s and 1940s were a time of great innovation for Chevrolet. During this time, they were responsible for many important automotive inventions, including hydraulic brakes, column shifts, independent front suspension, and V-grilles. The company manufactured its first station wagon in 1939. Then, in 1940, they entered the convertible market with an affordable, power top convertible coupe.
World War II
In 1940, Chevrolet joined the war effort. The company received an order from the U.S. War Department to produce 75-mm shells. Chevrolet went on to become one of the most significant suppliers of U.S. goods for the war effort and temporarily ceased production of civilian cars during the war.
1950s: "See the USA in your Chevrolet"
For many American companies, the 1950s were a time of great success. For Chevrolet, they were a time marked by innovation and creativity. The Corvette was introduced in 1953 and was the first production automobile featuring a fiberglass body. The car was a hit with consumers, and it continues to be one of the most popular classic cars among collectors.
Other innovations of this time included an affordable automatic transmission, the small block Chevy V8 engine, and several new car models. At this time, America was singing "See the USA in your Chevrolet," and GM's 50-millionth car rolled off the assembly lines.
Long History of Success
Through the following decades, Chevrolet continued to compete in the automotive market. That market changed drastically as American car companies began to compete with foreign automakers like Toyota and Honda.
Chevrolet history, beginning in 1911 with the partnership between Durant and Chevrolet and continuing into present day, is a statement about success. Despite the serious challenges of the Great Depression, World War II, and shifting consumer demand, the company emerged as one of the great leaders of the 20th century.
In coming years, Chevrolet will be releasing several plug-in hybrid vehicles to help the company remain viable. Automotive consumers have changed what they look for in a car, and Chevrolet is hoping to change along with them. If its long and impressive history is any indication, chances are good that the company will succeed.