General Motors was founded by William C. Durant on September 16, 1908, as a holding company for Buick. In 1909, GM purchased the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company, forming the basis of the General Motors Truck Company, from which the "GMC Truck" brand name was derived. (Rapid was established on December 22, 1901, by Max Grabowsky. The company developed some of the earliest commercial trucks ever designed, and utilized one-cylinder engines.) The Reliance Motor Car Company (another independent manufacturer) was also purchased that same year by GM. Rapid and Reliance were merged in 1911, and in 1912 the marque "GMC Truck" first appeared on vehicles exhibited at the New York International Auto Show. Some 22,000 trucks were produced that year, though GMC's contribution to that total was a mere 372 units. GMC had some currency within GM referring to the corporate parent in general. Later "GMC" would become distinct as a division brand within the corporation, branding trucks and coaches; in contrast, the abbreviation for the overall corporation eventually ended up as "GM".
In 1925, GM purchased a controlling interest in Yellow Coach, a bus manufacturer based in Chicago, Illinois which was founded by John D. Hertz. After purchasing the remaining portion in 1943, GM renamed it GM Truck and Coach Division. The Division manufactured interurban coaches until 1980. Transit bus production ended in May 1987. The Canadian plant (in London, Ontario) produced buses from 1962 until July 1987. GM withdrew from the bus and coach market because of increased competition in the late 1970s and 1980s. Rights to the RTS model were sold to Transportation Manufacturing Corporation, while Motor Coach Industries of Canada purchased the Classic design.
In 2002, GMC released a book entitled, GMC: The First 100 Years, a complete history of the company.
GMC and Chevrolet trucks are virtually identical except for the grilles and nameplates, though their differences have varied over the years. While Chevrolet vehicles are sold exclusively at Chevrolet dealerships, GMC light trucks have been made currently available to Buick and Cadillac dealerships with previous Pontiac and Oldsmobile dealerships also having similar arrangements, and separate franchises exist for medium and light-duty models as well. This crossover allowed GM dealers that did not sell Chevrolets to offer full lineups of both cars and trucks by offering GMC's trucks alongside "non-truck" divisions. Between 1962 and 1972, most GMC vehicles were equipped with quad-headlights, while their Chevrolet clones were equipped with dual-headlights. In 1973, with GM’s introduction of the new "rounded line" series trucks, GMC and Chevrolet trucks became even more similar, ending production of GMC’s quad-headlight models, and setting the standard for the Chevrolet/GMC line of trucks for over thirty years. During this period, the companies' sister models (Silverado/Sierra, Blazer/Jimmy, Tahoe/Yukon, etc.) shared everything except for trims and prices. GM has recently begun a divergence in design between the two lines with the 2007 model Silverados and Sierras, which have some differences in sheet metal and style.
In 1996, GM merged GMC with the Pontiac division in order to give Pontiac dealerships a line of trucks mainly to allow Pontiac dealers to compete with Chevrolet, who offered a full lineup of vehicles. While many GMC and Chevrolet trucks are mechanically identical, GMC is positioned as a premium offering to the mainstream Chevrolet brand, with luxury vehicles such as the Denali series. The profitability of the GMC brand helped its survival in 2009 during the General Motors Chapter 11 reorganization, and after the discontinuation of the Pontiac brand, many Buick franchises also sell GMC light-duty vehicles in the United States and Canada.
In 2007 GMC introduced the Acadia, a crossover SUV, which was the division's first unibody vehicle whose predecessor, the GMT-360 based Envoy, was discontinued with the closure of GM's Moraine, Ohio plant on December 23, 2008. In 2009 GMC introduced the Terrain, a mid-size crossover SUV based on GM's Theta platform which slots below the Acadia as GMC's smallest crossover, replacing the Pontiac Torrent and sharing no sheetmetal with the Chevrolet Equinox.