Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cars 100 Years Ago

In Flint, Michigan, on this date one hundred years ago, William C. Durant (1861-1947) founded General Motors (GM). Durant was a leading horse-drawn vehicle manufacturer when he became general manager of Buick in 1904. His horseless carriage business acumen resulted in Buick's success. He was the able to create GM, the multi-brand holding company with Buick and Chevrolet, soon adding Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Cadillac.

Olds Motor Vehicle Company was founded by Ransom Eli Olds (1864-1950) to manufacture the gasoline automobile he built in 1896. Olds had problems getting his company up and going due to poor capitalization and factory fires, but he still managed to accomplish some dramatic firsts in the new American automobile industry.

He was the first -

  • to develop a low-priced car for a mass market, the curved-dash Oldsmobile for $650.
  • to devise "a progressive assembly line system, which contained all the elements of the modern assembly line with the exception of the power conveyor."
Yes, it's true, Olds was first. Ford is best known because he added the "moving assembly line" into practice at Ford Motor Company between 1908 and 1915. Henry Ford (1863-1947) had incorporated the Ford Motor Company in 1903 to build cars for "the multitude." The Model T sold first for $990 and later for only $250.

Ford had his share of other firsts, too. He -
  • designed the first commercial automobile, a delivery wagon for the Detroit Automobile Company in 1900.
  • patented a plastic-bodied car, lighter than metal cars.
  • introduced a one-piece V-8 engine in 1932.

In the beginning of the 20th Century, the American public began a love/hate relationship with the new, burgeoning Automobile Industry. I remember that today, one hundred years after the high-school dropout William C. Durant founded General Motors. He wouldn't recognize it today. I wonder how he would feel about the price of gas?

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