May 2, 1918 – General Motors buys Chevrolet

On this day in 1918 General Motors (GM) purchased the Chevrolet Motor Company. In a bit of irony, William C. Durant, founder of Chevrolet, had also founded GM several years earlier, but was kicked to the curb when profits began to fall. Stockholders of GM blamed the issue on Durant and forced him out of the company in 1910. By the end of the next year Durant had teamed up with auto racer Louis Chevrolet to form the Chevrolet Motor Company.

Above: 1912 Chevrolet Classic Six. By Trainguy1 CC BY-SA 3.0
Top: 1918 Chevrolet, from the year of the sale

The company was officially formed on November 3,1911 and by the end of the first prototypes were complete. They created the subsidiary Little to sell lower priced cars as Louis Chevrolet experimented with luxury vehicles for the Chevrolet brand. The following year the big Classic Six, at a whopping $2,500, was rolling off the Chevrolet assembly line. Durant and Chevrolet disagreed about the types of vehicles the brand should make, and Louis left the company to return to racing. In the end, Chevrolet absorbed Little and began producing lower priced vehicles to compete with Ford. For 1914 Chevrolet produced the Royal Mail roadster at $750 and the Baby Grand touring car that cost between $875 and $1475. The rest, as they say, is history.

1914 Chevrolet Baby Grand

While the companies that Durant founded flourished, it wasn’t generally under his watch. After regaining control of GM in the sale of Chevrolet, he was quickly pushed out again by Pierre S. Dupont. Durant had acquired quite a bit of debt and Dupont offered to pay it off as long as he left the General Motors Corporation. He did, and he went on to found Durant Motors in 1921. His new company failed with the onset of the Great Depression, effectively ending Durant’s career in the auto industry.

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