October 26, 1909 – General Motors buys Cartercar

On this day in 1909 the young holding company General Motors acquired Cartercar. This automaker was founded and began production in Jackson, Michigan in 1905, moved to Detroit the next year and finally to Pontiac, Michigan in 1907, where it would remain until the brand was discontinued in 1915. At the time of its acquisition by GM Cartercar was slowly but surely increasing its sales numbers annually. From 101 in 1906 to 325 in 1907. William Durant, founder of GM, said people advised him not to purchase Cartercar, but he had his reasons. On purchasing Cartercar, “They say I shouldn’t have bought Cartercar. Well, how was anyone to know that Carter wasn’t to be the thing? It had the friction drive and no other car had it. How could I tell what these engineers would say next?” The friction drive that Durant was referring to was a sort of precursor to modern constantly variable transmission as they can both offer an infinite number of engine speeds and could be maintained at less than half the cost of regular geared transmissions of the time.  The sale to GM was precursed by the tragic death of Cartercar founder Byron Carter. He was killed when trying to start a stalled car. The hand crank kicked back and struck him in the jaw, which led to a fatal case of gangrene. Carter was a personal friend of Henry Leland, the founder of Cadillac and his death led Leland to push for advancements in the area of self starting automobiles. This led to the introduction of the electric self-starter in 1912. In 1915 GM, now out of control of Durant, decided to discontinue Cartercar as sales numbers were not high enough. The GM board decided to use the factory to produce the Oakland. Pics1909 Cartercar Model H Touring – By Cullen328 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.01912 Cartercar – By Buch-t – Own work, Public Domain1912 Cartercar advertisement

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