A heavy-vehicle manufacturer based out of South Bend, Ind., AM General is best known today for its role in the production of the civilian Hummer and military Humvee all-terrain vehicles. During the second half of the 1970s, AM General also produced various types of transit buses.
From Standard Wheel Company to military service
AM General has roots in the Standard Wheel Company, a bicycle manufacturer that entered the automotive market in 1903 with its Overland Automotive Division. Overland was purchased by Willys in 1908, forming Willys-Overland Motors, Inc. During the 1940s, Willys-Overland produced ?America's first 4WD, quarter-ton tactical utility truck,? aka the U.S. Army's Jeep of WWII fame. Kaiser Motors bought Willys-Overland in 1953, changing the company name to Willys Motor Company. A decade later, Willys became Kaiser-Jeep Corporation, and a year after that, Kaiser-Jeep purchased Studebaker's facilities in South Bend.
The South Bend facility housed Kaiser-Jeep's Defense and Government Products Division beginning in 1967. Not long after, American Motors purchased Kaiser-Jeep, which in turn became AM General.
Production of buses, large trucks and Jeeps for industry, military and government use followed. By the late 1970s, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV, or ?Humvee?) for military use became the automaker's primary focus. The right-hand drive Jeep DJ-5 series was used by the U.S. Postal Service.
French interests intervene
In 1982, French automaker Renault purchased American Motors, effectively ending the Humvee creator's independent period. As U.S. government regulations at the time would not allow a foreign government to own a U.S. defense contractor ? the French government partially owned Renault ? American Motors sold AM General to the LTV Corporation, where it became part of the LTV Aerospace and Defense Company. One result was that AM General remained independent after American Motors was purchased by Chrysler.
GM takes Hummer
While still a contractor for the U.S. government and military, AM General sold Hummer brand rights to General Motors in 1999. Production of the Hummer H2 fell under the GM banner, but AM General actually produced the vehicle. Production of the civilian Humvee model continued until June 2006.
Taxis and EVs, please
Two years after Hummer production stopped, AM General teamed with Vehicle Production Group of Troy, Mich. Plans to produce multi-purpose taxis came to fruition by 2010. That year was also marked by AM General being awarded a contract to produce electric drive trains for the Ford Transit Connect at its Livonia, Mich., plant.