Chevrolet's first 100 years are worth remembering
Who the heck is Louis Chevrolet?
I doubt his name pops up very often in cocktail party conversation -- or any conversation, for that matter.
But it's not a common last name, so you've probably already jumped to the conclusion that it has something to do with the division of General Motors of the same name.
You would be correct.
In 1911, Chevrolet, a well-known race car driver, lent his name to and assumed a role in a new start-up car company formed by Billy Durant after Durant's ouster from the General Motors holding company.
Durant had hired Chevrolet for Buick's racing team four years earlier.
November 3, 1911, was the Chevrolet car company's incorporation date. Durant took aim at Ford, which was gaining sales and success.
But finding the corporate life too restrictive and Durant difficult to work with, Chevrolet quit the company as the first cars bearing his name rolled off the assembly line. He never earned a penny from the brand's sales success.
He returned to racing and building race cars and simply faded away.
Durant managed to regain control of GM and become its president in 1916, when he brought Chevrolet into the GM fold.
The rest, as they say, is history.
In recognizing Chevrolet's 100th anniversary, here are a few facts about the iconic car brand as reported in Automotive News that may surprise you as they did me:
- Early Chevrolets were shipped to dealerships with the frame and chassis separate from the body. The dealers had to assemble them.
- The Frigidaire appliance company was once a sister division within GM.
- Early Chevrolet truck buyers had to supply their own bodies. Not until 1931 did trucks come from the factory with bodies.
- Henry Ford's production manager, William Knudsen, quit his job in 1921. Ten months later, he went to work for GM, where he assumed the job as general manager of the struggling Chevrolet division. He is credited with saving the brand that would eventually be Ford's most dynamic competitor.
- Chevrolet provided a $500 scholarship to the winner of the first Soap Box Derby in Dayton, Ohio, in 1933.
- Chevrolet created the first sport-utility vehicle in 1935, when it introduced the Suburban Carryall.