General Motors

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General Motors Company
Traded as
Industry Automotive
Founded General Motors Corporation
September 16, 1908
General Motors Company[1]
August 11, 2009
Headquarters Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Number of locations
396 facilities on six continents[2]
Area served
Worldwide (except North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria)
Key people
Tim Solso
Mary Barra
Dan Ammann
Production output
Increase 9,714,652 vehicles (2013)[3]
  • Vehicle financing
Revenue Increase US$ 155.929 billion (2014)[4]
Decrease US$ 3.141 billion (2014)[4]
Decrease US$ 3.949 billion (2014)[4]
Total assets Increase US$ 177.677 billion (2014)[4]
Total equity Decrease US$ 36.024 billion (2014)[4]
Number of employees
216,000 (2015)[2]
Divisions Buick
Footnotes / references

General Motors Company,[1] which is commonly known as GM, is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, that designs, manufactures, markets and distributes vehicles and vehicle parts and sells financial services. The current company, General Motors Company LLC, ("new GM"), was founded in 2009, after the bankruptcy of the General Motors Corporation ("old GM"). The new, smaller, company purchased many of the assets of "old GM", including the name "General Motors". The old company changed its name to Motors Liquidation Company and was liquidated. The new company retained four of its major brands: Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick, 3600 out of 6000 of its US dealerships, and some of its US plants, eliminating the jobs of 20,000 of its 80,000 current employees.[6]

Business units[edit]

General Motors produces vehicles in 37 countries under thirteen brands: Alpheon, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Holden, HSV, Opel, Vauxhall, Wuling, Baojun, Jie Fang, UzDaewoo.[7][8] General Motors holds a 20% stake in IMM, and a 77% stake in GM Korea. It also has a number of joint-ventures, including Shanghai GM, SAIC-GM-Wuling and FAW-GM in China, GM-AvtoVAZ in Russia, Ghandhara Industries in Pakistan, GM Uzbekistan, General Motors India, General Motors Egypt, and Isuzu Truck South Africa. General Motors employs 212,000 people and does business in more than 120 countries.[2] General Motors is divided into five business segments: GM North America (GMNA), Opel Group, GM International Operations (GMIO), GM South America (GMSA), and GM Financial.[9]:12, 13

General Motors led global vehicle sales for 77 consecutive years from 1931 through 2007, longer than any other automaker, and is currently among the world's largest automakers by vehicle unit sales.[10]

General Motors acts in most countries outside the U.S. via wholly owned subsidiaries, but operates in China through 10 joint ventures.:18, 96[9] GM's OnStar subsidiary provides vehicle safety, security and information services.

In 2009, General Motors shed several brands, closing Saturn, Pontiac, and Hummer, and emerged from a government-backed Chapter 11 reorganization. In 2010, the reorganized GM made an initial public offering that was one of the world's top five largest IPOs to date and returned to profitability later that year.[11]


The company was founded on September 16, 1908, in Flint, Michigan, as a holding company for McLaughlin Car Company of Canada Limited and Buick, then controlled by William C. Durant.[12] At the beginning of the 20th century there were fewer than 8,000 automobiles in America and Durant had become a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles in Flint before making his foray into the automotive industry.[13] GM's co-founder was Charles Stewart Mott, whose carriage company was merged into Buick prior to GM's creation. Over the years Mott became the largest single stockholder in GM and spent his life with his Mott Foundation which has benefited the city of Flint, his adopted home. GM acquired Oldsmobile later that year. In 1909, Durant brought in Cadillac, Elmore, Oakland and several others. Also in 1909, GM acquired the Reliance Motor Truck Company of Owosso, Michigan, and the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company of Pontiac, Michigan, the predecessors of GMC Truck. Durant lost control of GM in 1910 along with R. S. McLaughlin to a bankers' trust, because of the large amount of debt taken on in its acquisitions coupled with a collapse in new vehicle sales.[14]

The longest-lived continuous automobile nameplate still in production in the world is the Chevrolet Suburban[citation needed]

The next year, Durant started the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in 1911 in the U.S. in Canada in 1915 and through this he secretly purchased a controlling interest in GM. Durant took back control of the company after one of the most dramatic proxy wars in American business history. Durant then reorganized General Motors Company into General Motors Corporation in 1916 Merging General Motors of Canada Limited as an ally in 1918. Shortly after, he again lost control, this time for good, after the new vehicle market collapsed. Alfred P. Sloan was picked to take charge of the corporation and led it to its post-war global dominance when the seven manufacturing facilities operated by Chevrolet before GM acquired the company began to contribute to GM operations. These facilities were added to the individual factories that were exclusive to Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Oakland, and other companies acquired by GM. This unprecedented growth of GM would last into the early 1980s when it employed 349,000 workers and operated 150 assembly plants.

GM led global sales for 77 consecutive years from 1931 through 2007, longer than any other automaker. In 2008, 2009 and 2010, GM has ranked as the second largest global automaker by sales. The company regained its position as the world's largest automaker, by vehicle unit sales, in 2011.[10]

General Motors led global vehicle sales for 77 consecutive years from 1931 through 2007, longer than any other automaker, and is currently among the world's largest automakers by vehicle unit sales.[10]

General Motors acts in most countries outside the U.S. via wholly owned subsidiaries, but operates in China through 10 joint ventures.:18, 96[9] GM's OnStar subsidiary provides vehicle safety, security and information services.

In 2009, General Motors shed several brands, closing Saturn, Pontiac, and Hummer, and emerged from a government-backed Chapter 11 reorganization. In 2010, the reorganized GM made an initial public offering that was one of the world's top five largest IPOs to date and returned to profitability later that year.[11]

As of 2011, General Motors produces vehicles in 37 countries under thirteen brands: Alpheon, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Holden, HSV, Opel, Vauxhall, Wuling, Baojun, Jie Fang, UzDaewoo.[7][8] General Motors holds a 20% stake in IMM, and a 77% stake in GM Korea. It also has a number of joint-ventures, including Shanghai GM, SAIC-GM-Wuling and FAW-GM in China, GM-AvtoVAZ in Russia, Ghandhara Industries in Pakistan, GM Uzbekistan, General Motors India, General Motors Egypt, and Isuzu Truck South Africa. General Motors employs 212,000 people and does business in more than 120 countries.[2] General Motors is divided into five business segments: GM North America (GMNA), Opel Group, GM International Operations (GMIO), GM South America (GMSA), and GM Financial.[9]:12, 13

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy[edit]

On July 10, 2009, General Motors emerged from government backed Chapter 11 reorganization after an initial filing on June 8, 2009.[15][16] Through the Troubled Asset Relief Program the US Treasury invested $49.5 billion in General Motors and recovered $39 billion when it sold its shares on December 9, 2013 resulting in a loss of $10.3 billion. The Treasury invested an additional $17.2 billion into GM's former financing company, GMAC (now Ally). The shares in Ally were sold on December 18, 2014 for $19.6 billion netting $2.4 billion.[17][18] A study by the Center for Automotive Research found that the GM bailout saved 1.2 million jobs and preserved $34.9 billion in tax revenue.[19] In the reorganization, Hummer, Pontiac and Saturn were closed.[20] After initially moving to shut down the Swedish brand Saab, GM eventually sold it to Dutch automaker Spyker.[21]

Corporate governance[edit]

Based on global sales, General Motors is routinely among the world's largest automakers.[22] Headquartered at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, GM employs approximately 202,000 people around the world. In 2009, General Motors sold 6.5 million cars and trucks globally; in 2010, it sold 8.4 million.

As of 2015, Theodore (Tim) Solso is the non-executive chairman of the board of directors, Mary Barra is the chief executive officer (CEO) and Daniel Ammann is the president.l[23][24] The head of design, Edward T. Welburn, was the first African American to lead a global automotive design organization, and as of 2014 the highest ranking African American in the US motor industry.[25][26]

As part of the company's advertising, Ed Whitacre announced the company's 60-day money-back guarantee and repayment of $6.7 billion loan from government ahead of schedule.[27] On December 12, 2013, GM announced that Mary Barra, 51, executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, was elected by the board of directors to become the next CEO of the company succeeding Dan Akerson on January 15, 2014. Barra also joined the GM board.[28] From June 2009 to March 2011, the company had three chief executive officers and three chief financial officers.[29][30]

Financial results[edit]

The company has reported annual profits since 2010. It can carry forward previous losses to reduce tax liability on future earnings. It earned $4.7 billion in 2010. The Wall Street Journal estimated the tax break, including credits for costs related to pensions and other expenses can be worth as much as $45 billion over the next 20 years.[31]

In 2010, General Motors ranked second on the list with 8.5 million units produced globally.[32] In 2011, GM returned to the first place with 9.025 million units sold worldwide, corresponding to 11.9% market share of the global motor vehicle industry. The top two markets in 2011 were China, with 2,547,203 units, and the United States, with 2,503,820 vehicles sold. The Chevrolet brand was the main contributor to GM performance, with 4.76 million vehicles sold around the world in 2011, a global sales record.[33]

In May 2013 during a commencement speech, CEO Dan Akerson suggested that GM was on the cusp of rejoining the S&P 500 index. GM was removed from the index as it approached bankruptcy in 2009.[34]

On April 24, 2014, CNNMoney reported that GM profits fell to $108 million for the first three months of 2014. GM now estimates the cost of their 2014 recall due to faulty ignition switches, which have been linked to at least 13 deaths, at $1.3 billion. Shares of GM were down 16% for the year before the new announcement of GM's lower profits.[35]

World presence[edit]

Year U.S. sales
1998[36] 4,603,991
1999 5,017,150 Increase9.0%
2000[37] 4,953,163 Decrease1.3%
2001 4,904,015 Decrease1.0%
2002 4,858,705 Decrease0.9%
2003 4,756,403 Decrease2.1%
2004[38] 4,707,416 Decrease1.0%
2005 4,517,730 Decrease4.0%
2006[39] 4,124,645 Decrease8.7%
2007[40] 3,866,620 Decrease6.3%
2008[41] 2,980,688 Decrease22.9%
2009[42] 2,084,492 Decrease30.1%
2010[43] 2,215,227 Increase6.3%
2011[44] 2,503,820 Increase13.7%
2012 2,595,717 Increase3.7%
2013[45] 2,786,078 Increase7.3%
2014[46] 2,935,008 Increase5.3%

North America[edit]

General Motors Canada is reported to be in the Superior Court of Ontario, Canada, as a privately owned Canadian company with the corporation as indirect parent. The employees are not all Canadian, as salary personnel are from the U.S. and work for the corporation. GM products focus primarily on its four core divisions – Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC. The GM restructuring has resulted in a lower break even point for annual sales and renewed profits.[47][48]

In the mid-2005, GM announced that its corporate chrome power emblem "Mark of Excellence" would begin appearing on all recently introduced and all-new 2006 model vehicles produced and sold in North America. However, in 2009 the "New GM" reversed this, saying that emphasis on its four core divisions would downplay the GM logo.[49]

GM typically reports as among the largest auto makers in the United States. In May 2012, GM recorded an 18.4% market share in the U.S.[50]

South America[edit]

In 2008 the third largest individual country by sales was Brazil with some 550 thousand GM vehicles sold. In that year the other South American countries Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela sold another 300 thousand GM vehicles, suggesting that the total GM sales in South America (including sales in other South American countries such as Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, etc.) in that year were at a similar level to sales in China.


Opel is the main GM brand name in Europe except in the United Kingdom, where Opel's British subsidiary, Vauxhall, still uses its own "Vauxhall" brand name. The Chevrolet brand was reintroduced in Europe in 2005, selling mostly South-Korean made small cars. In 2012, PSA Peugeot Citroen and General Motors formed an alliance, which involved General Motors acquiring seven percent of PSA Group.

On December 13, 2013, GM announced it had divested itself from the seven percent, generating "gross proceeds of €0.25 billion."[51][52] Also in December 2013, GM announced it would drop the Chevrolet brand in Europe by Q4 2015, to focus on Opel/Vauxhall. Chevrolets will continue to be sold in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. GM lost approximately $18B over the past 12 years in Europe.[53][54]

GM worldwide 2008 vehicle sales[55]
in GM
Location Vehicle
share (%)
1  United States 2,981 22.1%
2  China 1,095 12.0%
3  Brazil 549 19.5%
4  United Kingdom 384 15.4%
5  Canada 359 21.4%
6  Russia 338 11.1%
7  Germany 300 8.8%
8  Mexico 212 19.8%
9  Australia 133 13.1%
10  South Korea 117 9.7%
11  France 114 4.4%
12  Spain 107 7.8%
13  Argentina 95 15.5%
14  Venezuela 91 33.3%
15  Colombia 80 36.3%
16  India 66 4.4%


The company manufactures most of its China market vehicles locally. Shanghai GM, a joint venture with the Chinese company SAIC Motor, was created on March 25, 1997. The Shanghai GM plant was officially opened on December 15, 1998, when the first Chinese-built Buick came off the assembly line. The SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile joint-venture is also successfully selling microvans under the Wuling brand (34 percent owned by GM). Much of General Motors' recent growth has been in the People's Republic of China, where its sales rose 66.9 percent in 2009, selling 1,830,000 vehicles and accounting for 13.4 percent of the market.[56]

Buick is strong in China, being led by the Buick Excelle subcompact. The last emperor of China owned a Buick.[57] The Cadillac brand was introduced in China in 2004, starting with exports to China. GM pushed the marketing of the Chevrolet brand in China in 2005 as well, transferring Buick Sail to that brand.

In August 2009 the joint venture of FAW GM Light Duty Commercial Vehicle Co Ltd was formed that mainly produces Jiefang light-duty trucks.[58]

General Motors vehicle sales in China rose 28.8 percent to a record 2,351,610 units in 2010.[59] GM set up an auto research center as part of a USD250 million corporate campus in Shanghai to develop 'gasoline-hybrid cars, electric vehicles and alternative fuels, engines and new technologies'.[60] The company plans to double its sales from 2010 to about 5 million units in China by 2015.[61]

SAIC-GM-Wuling established the low-cost Baojun brand to better compete with domestic rivals, Chery, Geely and BYD for first-time buyers of cars priced around USD10,000. It is estimated that such market in China is about 5 million vehicles a year, larger than the auto market in France and Britain combined. However, some are worried that 'local brands like Baojun could eventually become threats to their parent brands if they compete more against established models over time'. Shanghai-GM-Wuling sold 1.23 million vehicles in 2010, mainly commercial vans and trucks, of which about 700,000 units were a van called Sunshine.[62]

GM maintains a dealership presence in Japan, called GM Chevrolet Shop, previously known as GM Auto World Shop.[63] Current GM Japan dealerships were either former Saturn dealerships or Isuzu dealership locations. GM products are also currently sold by the company Yanase Co., Ltd. since 1915.

In August 2011, GM announced plans to reactivate its plant that previously produced rebadged Chevrolet Blazer as Opel as well as Brazilian Blazer, and also build a new plant in Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia, which would produce 40,000 passenger cars per year for the Southeast Asian market. It is the third plant in Southeast Asia, after the Rayong plant, Thailand, and the Hanoi plant, Vietnam.[64]

In October 2011, the South Korea Free Trade Agreement opened up the South Korean auto market to American made cars.[65] GM owns (per December 31, 2011) 77.0% of its joint venture in South Korea, GM Korea.[9]:p.96

On March 11, 2013, GM opened a new 190,300 square-foot manufacturing plant in Bekasi, Indonesia.[66] In February 2015, GM announced they will close the Bekasi plant by the end of June and stop production of the Sonic in Thailand by mid-year.[67]


Global locations of General Motors' assembly factories.

GM has a long history in Egypt which began in the 1920s with the assembly of cars and light pickup trucks for the local market. In the mid of the 1950s, GM withdrew from the Egyptian market. Some year later, the Ghabbour Brothers began to assemble Cadillac, Chevrolet and Buick models up to the 1990s.

Since 1983 GM and Al-Monsour Automotive Company have owned General Motors Egypt, which is currently the only manufacturer of traditional GM branded vehicles in Egypt. The Speranza Motors is a big company which started in the 1990s with the SKD assembling of Daewoo cars. Today the main products of Speranza are from the Chinese Chery concern.

Following the passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act in 1986, GM was forced to divest from South Africa, and GMSA became the independent Delta Motor Corporation. GM purchased a 49% stake in Delta in 1997 following the end of apartheid, and acquired the remaining 51% in 2004, reverting the company to its original name. The company began operating in South Africa in 1913 through its wholly owned subsidiary, General Motors South Africa. By 2014 it was targeting the production of 50,000 cars a year but was being hampered by national labour unrest, strikes and protests.[68]

Another manufacturing base of the GM for the African markets is the Industries Mécaniques Maghrébines headquartered in Kairouan, Tunisia, which assembles Isuzu and Mazda models for the Maghreb region. General Motors East Africa (GMEA) located in Nairobi, Kenya assembles a wide range of Isuzu trucks and buses including the popular Isuzu N-Series versatile light commercial vehicle, TF Series pick-ups and Isuzu bus chassis. Formed in 1975, GMEA's facility is the largest assembler of commercial vehicles in the region exporting to East and Central African countries including Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi. In addition to assembly, GMEA also markets the Chevrolet products Spark and Optra.

In the 1920s Miller Brothers Nigeria was founded as an importer of commercial vehicles of the Bedford brand into the country. In 1949, the company opened its own assembly plant and operated under the name Niger/Nigeria Motors. In 1965 the plant and its distribution network was split into different companies and renamed as Federated Motors Industries. In 1991 the company was taken in by a joint venture between General Motors and UACN of Nigeria.


In Australia and New Zealand GM has been represented by the Holden brand since 1948, GM having acquired the company in 1931. In 2012, GM Opel cars began to be imported into Australia as a niche marque under their own brand name.[69] However, as of August 2013, GM has made the decision to remove the Opel brand from Australia noting poor adoption and sales.[70] In the 1980s and 1990s, General Motors New Zealand sold Opel-badged cars, which were later rebadged as Holdens in 1994.

On December 10, 2013,[71] GM announced that Holden would cease engine and vehicle manufacturing operations in Australia by the end of 2017.[72] Beyond 2017 Holden's Australian presence will consist of: a national sales company, a parts distribution centre and, a global design studio.[71]


GM has participated over the years in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), 24 Hours of Le Mans, NASCAR, SCCA, V8 Supercars, and many other world venues.

2008 Chevrolet "Impala" themed NASCAR race car driven by NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson
Chevrolet Cruze in the WTCC
Corvette Racing Team in the American Le Mans Series

GM's engines were highly successful in the Indy Racing League (IRL) throughout the 1990s, winning many races in the small V-8 class. GM has also done much work in the development of electronics for GM auto racing. An unmodified Aurora V-8 in the Aerotech, captured 47 world records, including the record for speed endurance in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Recently, the Cadillac V-Series has entered motorsports racing.

GM has also used many cars in the American racing series NASCAR. Currently the Chevrolet SS is the only entry in the series, but in the past the Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Chevrolet Lumina, Chevrolet Malibu and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo were also used. GM has won a total of 40 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series manufacturer's championships, including 34 with Chevrolet, the most of any make in NASCAR history, 3 with Oldsmobile, 2 with Buick, and 1 with Pontiac. GM leads all other automobile manufacturers in races won in NASCAR's premier series at 1,011. Chevrolet leads individual makes with 677 wins.

In Australia, there is the V8 Supercar Championship which is battled out by the two main rivals of (GM) Holden and Ford. The current Holden Racing Team cars are based on the Holden Commodore and run a 5.0-litre V8-cylinder engine producing 635 bhp (474 kW). These cars have a top speed of 298 km/h (185 mph) and run 0–100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. The Holden Racing Team is Australia's most successful team in Australian touring car history. In 2006 and 2007, the Drivers championship was won by the very closely linked (now defunct) HSV Dealer Team.

Research and development[edit]

Research and development (R&D) at General Motors began organically as the continuation of such R&D as the various divisions (e.g., Cadillac, Buick, Olds, Oakland) were already doing for themselves before the merger. Its character was entirely empirical; it was whatever key people in each company had been competent enough to organize and pursue. R. S. McLaughlin's Carriage Company in 1876 was designing and inventing Carriage Gear. The McLaughlin Companies became General Motors of Canada Limited. Charles F. Kettering's Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco), at Dayton, Ohio, was still an independent firm at this time. Its work was well known to GM central management through its relationship as a supplier and consultancy to Cadillac and Buick.

In 1916, Durant organized the United Motors Corporation as an amalgamation of parts suppliers, supplying GM and other OEMs but independent of GM.[73] Alfred P. Sloan, head of the newly acquired Hyatt Roller Bearing Corporation, became United Motors' CEO. United Motors acquired Delco, and Kettering began his association with Sloan. United Motors also acquired at this time the original Remy corporation[73] (called the Remy Electric Company), a competitor of Delco. In 1918 General Motors bought United Motors.[73] Various entities grew out of the original Delco and Remy, including the Dayton Metal Products Corporation, the General Motors Research Corporation, the Delco Division and Remy Electric Division of GM, Delco Remy (now Remy International, Inc.), ACDelco, Delco Electronics, and others. Today's main successor corporation is Delphi Automotive, which nowadays is an independent parent corporation.

The General Motors Research Corporation, at Dayton under Kettering, became a true automotive research center. During the next few decades it led the development of:

  • many electrical-appliance features for cars and trucks
  • In 1911, Charles F. Kettering, with Henry M. Leland, of Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (DELCO) invented and filed U.S. Patent 1,150,523 for the first electric starter in America.
  • In 1914 Cadillac produced the first mass-produced production V-8 in the world.[74]
  • In 1921, General Motors patented the use of Tetraethyllead as an antiknock agent leading to the development of higher compression engines resulting in more power and efficiency.[75]
  • In 1937, Jominy & Boegehold[76] of GM invented the Jominy end-quench test for hardenability of carbon steel, a breakthrough in heat treating still in use today as ASTM A255.[77]
  • In 1939, GM introduced the world's first automatic transmission the Hydra-matic for the 1940 Oldsmobile and would be adopted by the auto industry later.[78]
  • In 1962, GM introduced the first turbo charged engine in the world for a car in the Oldsmobile Cutlass Turbo-Jetfire.[79]
  • In 1972, GM produced the first rear wheel Anti-lock brake system in the world for two of their cars: the Toronado and Eldorado.[80]
  • In 1984, Robert Lee[81] of GM invented the Fe14Nd2B permanent magnet, fabricated by rapid solidification.
  • dichlorodifluoromethane refrigerant for HVAC and refrigeration applications (Freon, R-12; recognized today as a bad idea environmentally [being a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)], but a technological wonder of its day)
  • commercially practical two-stroke diesel engines
  • better transmissions for track-laying vehicles
  • many other advancements

Although GM R&D (as it is known in colloquial shorthand) began as an organization largely built around one man (Kettering), it eventually evolved into a more modern organization whose path is shaped by individuals but not dominated entirely by any of them. World War II was a turning point wherein military affairs, after mingling with the technologies of applied science for some 80 years, first started to become fundamentally reinvented by them. Civilian life, too, changed in this direction. By the 1950s, corporations such as GM and many others were facing a new era of R&D, different from earlier ones. Less about genius inventors and individual inventions, and more about organizational progress and integrated systems, it raised new questions about where the capital for R&D would come from in an era of limitless demand for R&D (although not necessarily for production). Alfred Sloan, longtime CEO of GM (1920s to 1960s), discussed in his memoir (also considered a seminal management treatise) the relationships between government, academia, and private industry in the areas of basic science and applied science, in light of this new era.[82] The views he laid out reflected (and influenced) wide consensus on these relationships that persists largely to today.

Today, GM R&D, headquartered in Warren, Michigan, is a network of six laboratories, six science offices, and collaborative relationships in over twelve countries including working relationships with universities, government groups, suppliers, and other partners from across the globe.

On September 7, 2014, at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Detroit GM disclosed it would be introducing auto-pilot features into certain 2017 models of its cars, which would go on sale in 2016. The "super cruise" or vehicle-to-vehicle V2V technology is likely to be first introduced to the Cadillac range, enabling drivers to switch in and out of semi-automated mode.[83]

Small car sales[edit]

Chevrolet Aveo Concept, later went into production as the Chevrolet Aveo, UK and the Chevrolet Sonic, US

From the 1920s onward, General Motors always maintained an internal dialog about what its economy-car and small-car policies should be.[84][85] The economy and size considerations often naturally overlapped, although a strong distinction was always drawn in the 20th century between policies for the U.S. market and policies for other markets. Economy (in some form) always had good demand anywhere, but its definition in the U.S. was long considered different from that in other markets. In this view, "economy" in the U.S. did not mean "small" in the sense of what qualified as "small" outside the U.S. The policy discussion often focused on topics like the higher demand for truly small cars in non-U.S. markets than in the U.S., and whether it made more sense to import a car into a certain country or to build it domestically within that country, either as some variant of knockdown or with truly extensive domestic sourcing.[84] GM's acquisitions of Vauxhall Motors Ltd (UK, 1925)[84] and Adam Opel AG (Germany, 1929),[84] rather than starting new domestic companies to compete against them, were based on analyses that convinced GM managers that acquiring an existing domestic manufacturer was a better business decision.[84]

Although GM since the 1920s has always offered economy models in the U.S. market (relative to that market's definition in any given decade), and had done research and development in the 1940s and 1950s in preparation for any potential rise of strong demand for truly small cars in the U.S. market,[85] it has also been criticized over the decades for not doing enough to promote fuel efficiency in the U.S. market in the 1970s through 1990s. GM's response has been that it has always responded to market demands, and that most Americans, despite anything they said to the contrary, did not actually demand (at purchasing-decision time) small size or fuel efficiency in their vehicles to any great or lasting extent. Although some U.S. consumers flocked temporarily to the ideal of fuel economy whenever fuel supply crises arose (such as 1973 and 1979), they flocked equally enthusiastically to SUVs when cheap fuel of the 1980s and 1990s temporarily shielded them from any downside to these choices.

Since the return of high fuel prices in the 2000s and 2010s, GM's interest in [truly-]small-car programs for the U.S. market has been renewed. As part of General Motors Company development, GM revived one of its idled U.S. factories for the production of a small car in Orion, Michigan, with the creation of 1,200 American jobs. This will be the first time ever that a large manufacturer produces a supermini vehicle in the United States. This retooled plant will be capable of building 160,000 cars annually, including both small and compact vehicles. Production started in late 2011 with the Chevrolet Sonic.[86]

Environmental initiatives[edit]

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in electric vehicle.

General Motors has published principles regarding the environment and maintains an extensive website to inform the public. In 2008, General Motors committed to engineering half of its manufacturing plants to be landfill-free. In order to achieve its landfill-free status, production waste is recycled or reused in the manufacturing process.

The world's largest rooftop solar power installation was installed at General Motors Spanish Zaragoza Manufacturing Plant in fall 2008. The Zaragoza solar installation has about 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2) of roof at the plant and contains about 85,000 solar panels. The installation was created, owned and operated by Veolia Environment and Clairvoyant Energy, who lease the rooftop area from General Motors.[87][88][89] In 2011, General Motors also invested $7.5 million in solar-panel provider Sunlogics, which will install solar panels on GM facilities.[90]

GM has long worked on alternative-technology vehicles, and has led the industry with ethanol-burning flexible-fuel vehicles that can run on either E85 (ethanol) or gasoline. The company was the first to use turbochargers and was an early proponent of V6 engines in the 1960s, but quickly lost interest as muscle car popularity increased. They demonstrated[91] gas turbine vehicles powered by kerosene, an area of interest throughout the industry, but abandoned the alternative engine configuration in view of the 1973 oil crisis. In the 1970s and 1980s, GM pushed the benefits of diesel engines and cylinder deactivation technologies with disastrous results due to poor durability in the Oldsmobile diesels and drivability issues in the Cadillac V8-6-4 variable-cylinder engines. In 1987, GM, in conjunction with AeroVironment, built the Sunraycer, which won the inaugural World Solar Challenge and was a showcase of advanced technology. Much of the technology from Sunraycer found its way into the Impact prototype electric vehicle (also built by Aerovironment) and was the predecessor to the General Motors EV1.

GM supported a compromise version of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard increase from 27 to 35 mpg-US (8.7 to 6.7 L/100 km; 32 to 42 mpg-imp), the first such increase in over 20 years.[92] GM announced they will introduce more Volt-based plug-in hybrids.

Hybrid electric vehicles[edit]

Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

In May 2004, GM delivered the world's first full-sized hybrid pickups, the 1/2-ton Silverado/Sierra. These mild hybrids did not use electrical energy for propulsion, like GM's later designs. In 2005, the Opel Astra diesel Hybrid concept vehicle was introduced. The 2006 Saturn Vue Green Line was the first hybrid passenger vehicle from GM and is also a mild design. GM has hinted at new hybrid technologies to be employed that will be optimized for higher speeds in freeway driving.

GM currently offers the 2-mode hybrid system used by the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon/Cadillac Escalade, and GM 1/2 half-ton pickups and will later be used on other vehicles.[93]

Within the framework of its vehicle electrification strategy,[94] GM introduced the Chevrolet Volt in 2010, an electric vehicle with back-up generators powered by gasoline. The production Chevrolet Volt was available in late 2010 as a 2011 model with limited availability.[95] GM delivered the first Volt during December 2010.

The GM Magic Bus is a hybrid-powered bus.[96]

All-electric vehicles[edit]

General Motors was the first company (in the modern era) to release an all-electric automobile.[94] In 1990, GM debuted the "Impact" concept car at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It was the first car with zero-emissions marketed in the US in over three decades. The Impact was eventually produced as the EV1 for the 1996 model year. It was available through dealers located in only a few regions (e.g., California, Arizona, Georgia). Vehicles were leased, rather than sold, to individuals. In 1999 GM decided to cease production of the vehicles. When the individual leases had expired, they declined to renew the leases or allow the lessors to purchase them. All of the EV1s were eventually returned to General Motors and, with the exception of a few which were donated to museums, all were destroyed. The documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car? covered the EV1 story.

The EV1's cancellation had disappointed supporters of electric vehicles. In 2010, GM debuted the Chevrolet Volt, an electric vehicle with back-up generators powered by gasoline.[97] General Motors has announced that it is building a prototype two-seat electric vehicle with Segway. An early prototype of the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility vehicle—dubbed Project P.U.M.A. – was presented in New York at the 2009 New York International Auto Show.[98] In October 2011, General Motors announced the production of the Chevrolet Spark EV, an all-electric version of the third generation Chevrolet Spark, with availability limited to select U.S. and global markets. In October 2012, GM Korea announced it will start making and selling the Spark EV domestically in 2013.[99] The production version was unveiled at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show.[100] Within the framework of GM's vehicle electrification strategy,[94] the Spark EV is the first all-electric passenger car marketed by General Motors in the U.S. since the EV1 was discontinued in 1999.[101] The Spark EV was released in the U.S. in selected markets in California and Oregon in June 2013.[102] Retail sales began in South Korea in October 2013.[103] GM also plans to sell the Spark EV in limited quantities in Canada and select European markets.[104][105]

Battery packs for electric vehicles[edit]

GM builds battery packs in southern Michigan.[95] GM also established an automotive battery laboratory in Michigan.[106] GM will be responsible for battery management systems and power electronics, thermal management, as well as the pack assembly. An existing GM facility at Brownstown Township was chosen to be upgraded as battery pack plant.[95] LG Chem's U.S. subsidiary, Compact Power of Troy, Michigan, has been building the prototype packs for the development vehicles and will continue to provide integration support and act as a liaison for the program.

Hydrogen initiative[edit]

Sequel, a fuel cell-powered vehicle from GM

The 1966 GM Electrovan is credited with being the first hydrogen fuel cell car ever produced.[107] Though fuel cells have been around since the early 1800s, General Motors was the first to use a fuel cell to power the wheels of a vehicle.[108] The economic feasibility of the technically challenging hydrogen car, and the low-cost production of hydrogen to fuel it, has also been discussed by other automobile manufacturers such as Ford and Chrysler. In June 2007, Larry Burns, vice president of research and development, said he's not yet willing to say exactly when hydrogen vehicles will be mass-produced, but he said it should happen before 2020, the year many experts have predicted. He said "I sure would be disappointed if we weren't there" before 2020.[109]

On July 2, 2013, GM and Honda announced a partnership to develop fuel cell systems and hydrogen storage technologies for the 2020 time frame. GM and Honda are leaders in fuel cell technology, ranking No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in total fuel cell patents filed between 2002 and 2012, with more than 1,200 between them according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index.

Flexible-fuel vehicles[edit]

GM produces several flexible-fuel vehicles that can operate on E85 ethanol fuel or gasoline, or any blend of both. Since 2006 GM started featuring a bright yellow gas cap to remind drivers of the E85 capabilities,[110][111][112][113] and also using badging with the text "Flexfuel/E85 Ethanol" to clearly mark the car as an E85 FFV.[114][115]

GM is the leader in E85 flex fuel vehicles, with over 6 million FlexFuel vehicles on the road in the U.S. In 2010, GM pledged to have more than half of their annual vehicle production be E85 or biodiesel capable by 2012.[116] As of 2012, GM offers 20 ethanol-enabled FlexFuel cars and trucks in the US, and offers more FlexFuel vehicles models than any other automaker.[117]


Since 1994, General Motors has donated over $23 million in cash and vehicles to the Nature Conservancy, and funding from GM supports many conservation projects.[118]

In 1996, GMC partnered with the fashion industry as a part of the GM/CFDA Concept: Cure, a collaboration between General Motors and the Fashion industry bringing awareness to and raising funds for breast cancer. The program involved 5 designers, each lending their artistic talents to customize 5 different vehicles. Nicole Miller, Richard Tyler, Anna Sui, Todd Oldham and Mark Eisen were tasked with transforming a Cadillac STS, Buick Riviera, GMC Yukon, Oldsmobile Bravada and Chevrolet Camaro Z28, respectively. The cars were then auctioned with the proceeds presented to the Nina Hyde Center at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show in 1997.[119]

Furthermore, since 1996, the GM Foundation has been the exclusive source of funding for Safe Kids USA's "Safe Kids Buckle Up" program, a national initiative to ensure child automobile safety through education and inspection.[120][121]

Through 2002, the PACE Awards program, led by GM, EDS, and SUN Microsystems, has given over $1.2 billion of in-kind contributions which includes computers to over 18 universities to support engineering education.[122] In 2009, the GM led group has helped the Pace Awards program worldwide.[123]

In 2004, GM gave $51,200,000 in cash contributions and $17,200,000 in-kind donations to charitable causes.[124]

The General Motors Foundation (GM Foundation) receives philanthropic bequests from General Motors. It is a 501(c)(3) foundation incorporated in 1976.[125]

Brand reorganization[edit]

As it emerged from bankruptcy and company reorganization in 2010, GM reorganized the content and structure of its brand portfolio (its brand architecture).[126] Some nameplates like Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, and service brands like Goodwrench were discontinued. Others, like Saab, were sold.[127] The practice of putting the "GM Mark of Excellence" on every car, no matter what the brand, was discontinued in August 2009.[128] The company has moved from a corporate-endorsed hybrid brand architecture structure, where GM underpinned every brand to a multiple brand corporate invisible brand architecture structure.[129] The company's familiar square blue "badge" has been removed from the Web site and advertising, in favor of a new, subtle all-text logo treatment on its U.S. site;[126] the Canadian site still retaines the blue "badge".[130] In 2011, GM discontinued the Daewoo brand in South Korea and replaced it with the Chevrolet brand.[131]

GM describes their brand politics as having "two brands" which "will drive our global growth. They are Chevrolet, which embodies the qualities of value, reliability, performance and expressive design; and Cadillac, which creates luxury vehicles that are provocative and powerful. At the same time, the Holden, Buick, GMC, Baojun, Opel and Vauxhall brands are being carefully cultivated to satisfy as many customers as possible in select regions."[7][9]:p.182

Brand Year founded Year began making autos Year joined GM Markets served today
South Korea Alpheon 2010 2010 2010 South Korea
China Baojun 2010 2010 2010 China
United States Buick 1899 1903 1908 North America, China
United States Cadillac 1902 1902 1909 North America, Europe, Middle East, China, Japan, South Korea
United States Chevrolet 1911 1911 1917 Global, except Australia and New Zealand
United States GMC 1901 1901 1909 North America, Middle East
Australia Holden 1856 1908 1931 Australia, New Zealand
China Jiefang 2011 2011 2011 China
Germany Opel 1862 1899 1929 Europe (except the United Kingdom), North Africa, South Africa, Middle East, Singapore, Chile
Uzbekistan UzDaewoo 1992 1996 1992 Central Asia, Russia
United Kingdom Vauxhall 1857 1903 1925 United Kingdom
China Wuling 2002 2002 2002 China

Discontinued brands[edit]

(Note on dates: the dates below are the years each brand existed, which are not always the same as the dates they were part of GM.)

Former subsidiaries[edit]

Current affiliates[edit]

  • South Korea GM Korea (2011–present), GM currently owns 96% of the company. The company mainly designs and produces Chevrolet and Holden branded vehicles.

Former affiliates[edit]

  • Italy Fiat (2000–2005), GM owned 20 percent at one time with put option.[136] The two companies continue to work together on sharing automotive platforms.
  • Japan Fuji Heavy Industries, manufacturer of Subaru (1999–2006), GM owned 20 percent at one time[137]
  • Japan Isuzu (1971–2006), GM owned 49 percent at one time.[138] The two companies continue to work together on various projects.
  • France PSA Peugeot Citroen (2012–2013), GM owned 7 percent of the company at one time. Following heavy losses from PSA Peugeot Citroen along with restructuring at Opel, GM sold its entire stake in 2013 with PSA Peugeot Citroen intending to partner with Dongfeng Motor. The two companies will continue to work together on sharing automotive platforms.
  • Japan Suzuki (1981–2008), GM owned over 20 percent at one time.[139] General Motors continues to sell some Suzuki models under the Chevrolet brand.



Ralph Nader and the Corvair[edit]

In early March 1966, several media outlets, including The New Republic and The New York Times, reported that GM had tried to discredit Ralph Nader, hiring private detectives to tap his phones and investigate his past, and hiring prostitutes to trap him in compromising situations.[140][141] Nader sued the company for invasion of privacy and settled the case for $425,000. Nader's lawsuit against GM was ultimately decided by the New York Court of Appeals, whose opinion in the case expanded tort law to cover "overzealous surveillance".[142] Nader used the proceeds from the lawsuit to start the pro-consumer Center for Study of Responsive Law.

Labor Practices[edit]

General Motors has often been plagued by controversy for its labor practices abroad, its steady outsourcing of production from the United States, and its demands for concessions from its workers. In a recent and ongoing scandal, the General Motors plant in Colombia reportedly fired roughly 200 workers after they were injured on the assembly line, and in August 2012 negotiations refused to cover even the workers' medical costs or pension benefits.[143] In protest, a group of the workers has been living in tents outside the U.S. Embassy in Colombia since August 2011, and the president of the workers' association, ASOTRECOL, went on a 72-day hunger strike from late 2012 to early 2013. General Motors has refused to enter new negotiations with the workers, with GM spokesperson Katie McBride saying that the company's stance had been "very generous."[144]

Environmental Record[edit]

General Motors' environmental record has also drawn heavy criticism from advocates of public health and a sustainable planet. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts have both cited General Motors as a particularly bad polluter of the environment.[145] General Motors has also been sued by the United States Department of Justice for environmental destruction.[146]

General Motors has also come under criticism for bogus fuel efficiency claims. Consumer Reports performed independent tests on the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze, showing that the 1.4 litre engine used the equivalent of 9.05 litres (2.39 US gal) of gas per 100 kilometres (62 mi) in combined city/highway tests, which is one third more than the combined city/highway results that GM Canada claims.[147]

Use of ambient temperature switches[edit]

In 1973 General Motors along with Chrysler, Ford Motor Company, Toyota, and Volkswagen had to remove ambient temperature switches which affected emissions, though the companies denied intentional cheating and said that strategies like enriching fuel mixture during cold engine warm-up periods could reduce overall pollution.[148][149][150] The switches were ordered removed from production but cars already on the road did not have to be recalled, and fines were relatively modest.[149][150]

Disengaging of emission controls with ECU software[edit]

In 1996 General Motors had to pay a near-record fine of $11 million, and recall 470,000 vehicles, because of ECU software programmed to disengage emissions controls during conditions known to exist when the cars were not being lab tested by the EPA.[151] The model year 1991–1995 Cadillacs were programmed to simply enrich the engine's fuel mixture, increasing carbon monoxide (CO) and unburned hydrocarbon (HC) pollution, any time the car's air conditioning or heater was turned on, since the testing protocol specified they would be off.[151]

Defective ignition system investigation[edit]

In May 2014 the NHTSA fined the company $35 million for failing to recall cars with faulty ignition switches for a decade, despite knowing there was a problem with the switches. Thirteen deaths were attributed to the faulty switches during the time the company failed to recall the cars. The $35 million fine was the maximum the regulator could impose. Congress is considering increasing the maximum fines the regulator can impose from $35 million to $300 million.[152] General Motors has announced that they are also facing 79 customer lawsuits asking for as much as $10 billion for economic losses attributed to the recall.[153] As well as the Cobalts, the switches of concern had been installed in many other cars, such as the Pontiac G5, the Saturn Ion, the Chevrolet HHR, the Saturn Sky, and Pontiac Solstice. Eventually the recall involved about 2.6 million GM cars worldwide.[154]

On August 18, 2014, Emma Verrill, a paraplegic (who has touch sensation in her lower extremities, but unable to sense temperature) from Yarmouth, Maine, filed a lawsuit against GM, claiming that the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban she was riding in was equipped with heating seats that was generating temperatures so extreme she was unaware of the third-degree burns she was suffering, and did not discover the burns until the following day. This resulted in a skin graft that left her in bed under her parents' care for 3 months. The lawsuit claims that GM did not test the car seat heaters prior to being assembled on the vehicles, thereby allowing them to reach "dangerously high temperatures that would burn human flesh." Despite claims from GM that the heaters on the Suburban did not cause Verrill's burns, a US Magistrate has ordered the case to trial, which would start on May 4, 2015.[155]

GM Recalls 1.4 million vehicles that leak oil and catch fire[edit]

In 2015, for the third time in 7 years, GM recalled 1.4 million vehicles for oil leak and catching fire. The recalls spanned autos made as far back as 1997. According to reports, a valve cover gasket can erode, causing oil to leak. Under hard breaking, oil can seep onto the exhaust manifold and catch fire. Flames can then spread via spark plug and ignite the engine. GM has not decided a remedy, beyond the recall, and could be looking at loses in their fourth quarter earnings.[156]

See also[edit]


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