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General Motors, a century of American classics

Text by Emmanuel SAINT-MARTIN

Latest update : 2008-12-10

As General Motors celebrates its 100th anniversary on Tuesday, FRANCE 24 looks back at some of the classics the American automaker has released through the years.

Read also:  Will the Volt be GM's saviour?


General Motors Corp. celebrates its centennial on Tuesday – but it’s not a very happy birthday. Today the venerable automaker is consumed by uncertainty. GM’s hegemony belongs to the past, and now it sees its market share dropping. The company’s losses from the last three years are approaching $70 billion. All hopes are now on the Volt, expected to be unveiled this week.

It was on September 16, 1908 that William Crapo Durant incorporated the five-year-old Buick into General Motors. Twenty-three years later, GM’s US sales passed those of Ford. In 1962, the GM's domestic market share peaked, at 51%, its integrity threatened even then by antitrust laws. Then came the gas crisis of the 1970s, the onset of Japanese competitors and ballooning pension costs for GM workers.

Here are a few of the GM cars that marked the 20th century, from an era when Detroit led the world in car design and innovation:


Photo credit: GM.

Chevrolet Corvette (1953). Launched in 1953, the Corvette was the first two-seats sports car produced by GM. It was the brain child of Harley Earl, a longtime GM designer who felt it was time to build a European-style sports car for the US market. Fifty-five years later GM still produces the Corvette, now in its sixth generation, the C6.



Photo credit: See below (1). 

Cadillac Coupe deVille (1960)
. Launched in 1949, the Coupe deVille was the first hardtop Cadillac. The famous extravagant fins were added at the third generation, in 1959. By the 1980s, deVilles had become much less pretty, and the 11th generation was halted in 1993.



Photo credit: GM. 

Chevrolet Camaro (1966).
Designed as a competor to the Ford Mustang and released in 1966, the Camaro was one of the best known “muscle cars”, a hit in the 1970s. The Camaro was discontinued in 2002. A new model is expected in 2009.



Photo credit: GM. 

Hummer (1992). The Hummer became a symbol of the 1990s, the “SUV decade”, and its false hopes for the American automotive industry. Based on the military Humvee, the Hummer was launched in 1992 and bought from AM General Corporation to GM six years later. Due to very poor fuel economy, Hummer sales have been declining over the last few years. GM executives might decide to either sell or even kill the brand.


(1) Copyright:
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Date created : 2008-09-15