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The American public loves automobiles. It has been a love affair that began with early renditions of cars and later trucks. Numerous startup companies competed to meet the growing public demand for automobiles early in the 20th Century. However, it was the arrival of Mr. William Durant that signaled something was about to happen to please consumers. Known as Billy to all, he founded General Motors (GM) on September 16, 1908.
Billy Durant in Charge
Billy’s innovative spirit and talent guided GM to easily switch from making horse-power carriages to manufacturing smartly designed automobiles. General Motors in a few years acquired over 20 companies that ran the gamut from household vehicle names such as Cadillac and Oldsmobile to the beloved Pontiac.
All the Way with GM from 1910 to 1929
Public demand for vehicle ownership was energized by the design and production of cars that GM manufactured. The company relied on a company philosophy to coin its mission statement phrase of “A Car for Every Purse and Purpose.”
Cars were not being designed only for the elite in society but also for the working man or woman. This was the beginning of its marketing innovative power. Twelve new GM plants were created abroad in this time period. GM had also added Vauxhall and Chevrolet to its production line as well.
Cadillac LaSalle Production
The Cadillac LaSalle was manufactured in 1927. Smooth curves were in and sharp corners were out. The vehicle had a sleek long and low look. Emphasis was then on design and style.
Consumers loved the new design. GM honchos and the designing teams emphasized that LaSalle was a sleek rendition of a very classy and sporty vehicle. They felt that Ford’s boxy Model T could not compete with their LaSalle model.
Challenges During 1930 to 1959
World War II raged and difficulties loomed large, but GM saw the challenges as just something they could overcome with effort in the end. The company was committed to its mission. It carried on with its innovative endeavors. The frontier spirit of America’s people was never daunted. They foresaw a better day coming in the future.
Switching to Production of Wartime Goods
Wartime was an opportunity for GM to switch gears and create products for government wartime use. According to reports, the company delivered $12 billion worth of wartime goods to the government. The products included vital tanks, airplanes and trucks.
Wartime Appointment of GM President by President Roosevelt
President Roosevelt did in fact appoint William Knudsen, the then GM President, as Chairman of the Wartime Office of Production Management in 1940. By 1942, GM was reportedly endorsing the Allied war effort with 100 percent of its productions.
Post Wartime Period
A new optimistic spirit seized consumers when peace returned after World War II. They were quite eager to buy goods that were not affordable or available for such a long time. GM saw how eager consumers were to buy goods once again. The company delivered by creating automobile designs that the public wanted.
Innovative GM Automobile Designs Following World War II
• Unique front wheel suspension vehicles
• One-piece steel roof
• Creation of the 1949 Buick Roadmaster
• Indomitable Chevrolet Corvette
• 1959 Cadillac El Dorado
Dealing with Competition and Satisfying Consumers
Foreign competition entered the industry during the 1960s and 1970s, and GM was forced to change its manufacturing strategies. Making smaller vehicles was important for the company in order to compete with the competition.
GM subsequently reengineered its vehicles and placed emphasis on creating more fuel-efficient and smaller vehicles. They began to manufacture lighter and more sleek-looking vehicles. There was a public demand for vehicles to be environmentally friendly in terms of controlling harmful emissions as well.
General Motors in 1971
The company promoted engines that operated with unleaded gasoline or low-lead gasoline in 1971. It also introduced an air bag feature in a production car. This feature was designed to save lives in the event that accidents occurred. GM also introduced catalytic converters that reduced emissions, which pleased the public.
The Competition Exports Cars to America
Other companies began exporting their cars to America following World War II, and Japan and Germany did so in the name of free trade enterprise.
GM, however, did find it difficult to easily make the necessary transition for its business to successfully compete with the popular foreign vehicles. Its dominance in the car-making business began to slip away.
Globalization Business Success from 1980 to 1989
Reorganization was the keyword, and GM answered the call. First it changed strategies and reinvented itself as a single business unit in North America. It also innovatively opened a new plant in Spain in 1982.
Business began to pick up as the new complex in Spain manufactured the popular Opel Corsa model that was noted for its fuel-efficiency qualities. It was also time to broaden the company’s business to include joint ventures with both India and China.
Big and Successful Year for GM in 1995
• Annual vehicle sales of more than three million units
• Five million vehicles bought in the United States
• Establishment of GM’s first joint venture agreement in China
• Evident global growth realized
New Millennium and Ups and Downs
GM had its ups and downs during the new millennium period and had trouble retaining its share of the market from competitors. It dabbled into electric vehicle technology as well as battery technology. The recession in 2008 found GM needing a bailout from the government. The company was told to arrive at a restructuring of its operations that had stalled over the years.
Thousands of problematic vehicle recalls involving serious manufacturer problems haunt the company, and the recalls are as current as October 2014. GM has a habit of rising like a Phoenix and emerging from the ashes. This American car company has a lot to accomplish to so rise again.