General Motors (NYSE: GM) is an auto and truck manufacturer with manufacturing, product development and/or sales operations in most countries in the world. It is headquartered in Detroit, Mich. and was founded in 1908. GM is currently led by Chairman and CEO G. Richard "Rick" Wagoner.
William C. Durant was an enterprising man, but not a terribly lucky one. Two years after founding General Motors as a holding company for Buick -- a brand quickly joined by a whole motor pool full of acquisitions -- he was driven out of the company after racking up massive debts. Durant turned around and co-founded Chevrolet the following year; after five years of buying GM stock, he was back at the helm of the company in 1916. His second and final tenure lasted only until 1920, when he was once again forced out by his financial backer.
Thanks to the brilliant but controversial leadership of Durant's successor, Alfred P. Sloan, GM surpassed Ford to begin a decades-long reign as the United States' and the world's leading automaker. (Along the way, it quietly bought up and dismantled municipal rail systems to make way for the bus lines it also owned and operated. There was also the small matter of GM's enthusiastic and highly profitable World War II sales to both the Allies and, through its Opel factories in Germany, the Nazis. Oops.) Through the 1950s and '60s, GM and its vast array of vehicles ruled the American road, while its Opel and Vauxhall brands enjoyed similar success in Europe.
But GM stayed set in its ways for too long. By the 1970s, it had become notorious for quality control issues in its vehicles, even long after subsequent models had fixed the initial defects. The 1980s brought faltering sales and contentious labor issues; while sales improved in the 1990s, the labor issues didn't. Today, after numerous consecutive quarters of widening losses, numerous layoffs, and increasingly massive pension and health care obligations for its workforce, GM clings to its No. 1 global sales crown. Toyota briefly snatched away the top spot at one point in 2007, and remains avidly at GM's heels.
For all of 2007, GM led global vehicle sales with more than 9.3 million units, but came in second to Toyota in car sales with more than 6.2 million units sold. It ranked ninth in Fortune magazine's 2008 Global 500 list of the world's largest companies.
Brands and Divisions
GM is, to say the very least, an enormous company. Its global car brands include:
- GM Daewoo
In addition, GM runs the OnStar vehicle security and communication service, manufactures and distributes parts and provides service for its vehicles through a multitude of brand names, and pursues various joint ventures with Toyota, Suzuki, Isuzu, Daimler AG, and BMW, among many other auto companies worldwide.
- General Motors Playing Chicken
- Should Taxpayers Cover Detroit's Tab?
- General Motors Will Burn Your Portfolio
Recent Mentions on Fool.com
- Ford Motor Company Was Left in the Dust Last Month
- GM?s Chevy Silverado Is Making Big Gains at Ford's Expense
- Apple Inc.'s Rumored Car -- 4 Reasons I?m Not Buying The Hype
- These 2 Billionaires Just Bought More General Motors Shares: Should You Join Them?
- Can Ally Financial Cope With the Loss of General Motors?