General Motors' centenary is September 16. By the time GM reaches its 102nd birthday, it will have survived a rough couple of years as it makes a big, relatively swift transformation from trucks back to cars. Look at everything that has happened to GM since its founding and you'll see that nothing of its current situation is particularly new. So to borrow a Polish toast, stolat! ... may you live 100 years.
September 16, 1908: Attorney Curtis L. Hatheway files articles of incorporation for William C. Durant's General Motors Company of New Jersey which at first, is little more than an empty holding entity. Shortly afterward, Durant sells Buick, which he's owned since late '04, to GM for $3.75 million, mostly in stock.
November 12, 1908: GM buys Olds Motor Works for about $3 million in stock and $17,279 in cash. Then GM buys Cadillac from Henry M. and Wilfred C. Leland for $4.67 million, the largest cash transaction in Detroit to that time. GM also buys Reliance, which later becomes GMC.
1909: Champion Ignition Company of Flint becomes a GM subsidiary, and GM buys Oakland Motor Car Company of Pontiac, Michigan. In its first two years, GM buys, or has substantial interest in 29 companies and factories.
October 26, 1909: A bank turns down Durant for a $2 million loan toward an $8 million purchase of Ford Motor Company.
1910: Cadillac (model year) is the first to offer closed-body cars, standard. 1910 Oldsmobile Limited seven-passenger touring car costs a hefty $4,600, and with its 60-hp, 707 cubic-inch inline six, beats the 20th Century Limited train in a race, earning its name.
September 26, 1910: A recession puts GM in a financial crunch. Bankers underwrite $20 million in loans to GM in return for $4.1 million in preferred and $2 million in common stock. The banking syndicate takes control and Durant is out.
November 3, 1911: Durant incorporates the Chevrolet Motor Company with his former Buick race-driver, Louis Chevrolet, building cars in Detroit. Durant buys Flint Wagon Works, where he builds the Little, competitor to the Ford Model T.
1912: Cadillac wins the Dewar Trophy for the first electric self-starter.
1914: Chevrolet Royal Mail and Baby Grand replace the Little as Durant's low-priced cars. Louis Chevrolet is disappointed the cars bearing his name are no longer big and expensive like his 1911-13 models, and returns to racing.
January 1915: Chevrolet introduces its Four-Ninety at the New York Auto Show. At $550 with electric lights and starter, it competes with the Ford Model T, and when the price is lowered to $490, becomes a major success. Meanwhile over at GM, automotive divisions are slimmed down to Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Oakland and General Motors Truck Company. Durant and several friends, including Pierre S. du Pont, start buying up GM stock and drive up its price.
December 23, 1915: Chevy stockholders vote to increase its capital value from $20 million to $80 million, and purchase controlling interest in GM. Durant is again running the show. Charles W. Nash quits as GM president, buys the Thomas B. Jeffery Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin and renames it Nash Motors.
1916: Durant forms auto parts holding company United Motors, which includes Hyatt and New Departure roller bearing companies, whose president is Alfred P. Sloan. Two years later, United Motors becomes a GM division, and GM Canada is formed.
1919: GM buys Guardian Frigerator, renamed Frigidaire, and buys 60-percent interest in Fisher Body for $5.8 million in cash and $21.8 million in notes.