William Durant founded General Motors in 1908. Initially it was a holding company with only Buick as its flagship. But within a few short years Durant had acquired more than 20 automakers, including Cadillac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Oakland, which is now known as Pontiac. In 1909 GM acquired the Grabowsky Rapid Motor Vehicle Company (GMC). The GMC division still makes high-end trucks and military vehicles for the GM umbrella, but the initials now stand for General Motors Corporation.
For 74 years, General Motors was the largest car maker in the world. Continuously operational since 1908, the company has, according to A Car Place, employed about 317,000 people in 200 different companies. Still providing a wide variety of vehicles from its many different lines, GMC remains competitive and responsive to an ever-changing marketplace.
The GMC line was preceded by two other attempts at a truck division: Rapid and Reliant Trucks. But by 1912 they had all been consolidated into one line, GMC trucks. The first commercial trucks with the GMC logo appeared at the 1912 New York Auto Show.
Like the rest of GM lines, innovation has always come first at GMC. In 1912 GMC offered nine different models of electric trucks, which never caught on with the public.
GMC and Uncle Sam
The company became indispensable to the U.S. military. The army famously used GMC 3/4 trucks to chase Pancho Villa into Mexico in 1916. During World War I, GMC provided more than 8,500 trucks and ambulances to the war effort. In 1942, the U.S. government suspended all commercial truck production and GMC went to work for Uncle Sam full time. GMC produced 21,000 amphibious troop transport vehicles called Ducks, among many other tasks.General Motors was more productive in the war effort than any other automaker. The White House was so impressed that in 1940 President Franklin Roosevelt chose former GM president William Knudsen to chair the new Wartime Office of Production Management.
Leader in change
After the war, GMC eased itself back into commercial production with no-frills "victory trucks" that could be picked up by returning soldiers for a lean price. GMC continued to change with the public and the marketplace in the intervening years. In 1953 the company introduced its "Hydra-Matic" automatic transmission in some trucks models, ranging from five to seven speeds. Power steering became available the following year. In 1958 GMC became a leader in sleeper cab semi tractor manufacture.
In 1968 the main GMC plant in Pontiac, Mich., began building not only its own trucks, but all of Chevrolet's medium and heavy-duty trucks as well. Today, many GMC and Chevrolet trucks are virtually identical except for grille and logos. However, GMC models are available in more dealerships.
GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009 following the great recession. The company was restructured as a leaner umbrella company, with only the four most durable lines remaining: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. Today, GMC manufactures mostly pickup trucks, light-duty trucks, vans and SUVs.