In 1897, the Olds Motor Vehicle Company, Inc., the oldest unit of General Motors Corporation, was organized by Ransom E. Olds with capital of $50,000 (5,000 shares of stock at $10 per share) and the first Oldsmobile was produced.
In 1899, the Olds Motor Vehicle and Olds Gasoline Engine Works of Lansing merged to form Olds Motor Works. This new company was incorporated on May 8, 1899 with $500,000 capital. The first factory specifically for automobile manufacturing in the United States was built by Olds in Detroit on Jefferson Avenue East.
In 1901, the curved-dash Oldsmobile became the first American car to be manufactured in quantity.
In 1908, Oldsmobile became the second company to join General Motors when Olds Motor Works is sold to GM on November 12th. One year later, General Motors purchased a half interest in Oakland Motor Car Company. When its founder, Edward Murphy, passed away the following summer, his company came under the full control of General Motors. In 1932, the Oakland name was dropped from the vehicle line and Pontiac became the name of the division. General Motors purchased Cadillac for $5.5 million on July 29, 1909. Henry M. Leland and his son, Wilfred, were invited to continue operating Cadillac, and they do so until 1917, when they leave to form Lincoln Motor Company.
In 1918, General Motors bought the operating assets of Chevrolet Motor Company in May. That same year, United Motors Corporation (UMC) became part of General Motors Corporation.
In 1919, General Motors acquired a 60% interest in Fisher Body Company. Seven years later, General Motors purchased the Fisher brothers’ remaining interest in Fisher Body Company, with William Fisher becoming General Manager of GM’s new Fisher Body division. The acquisition included the Ternstedt Manufacturing Company, which was engaged in the manufacturing of automobile body hardware and metal stampings.
In 1929, GM entered the commercial aviation business by buying a 40% interest in Fokker Aircraft Corporation which also had assets in Dayton-Wright , 24% interest in Bendix Aviation Corporation, and all of the outstanding stock of Allison Engineering Company. These acquisitions also gave GM access to technical information that was valuable in automotive operations. The name of Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America was later changed to the General Aviation Corporation.
In 1934, a two-cycle diesel engine developed by GM hauled the first American diesel-powered streamlined railroad train.
In 1943, General Motors acquired all assets of Yellow Truck & Coach, and the GMC Truck & Coach Division was formed.
Some of the GM lines over the years have included: