GMC Cars / General Motors Cars

General Motors has been the world's largest automaker since 1931. Founded in 1908, In 1909, General Motors purchased the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company, which was an automaker that had been manufacturing trucks since 1902. From the outset, the GMC division (GMC stands for General Motors Truck Company) was dedicated toward building tough and capable trucks. Most of these trucks were very utiltarian in nature and served in roles like dumptrucks, firetrucks and military vehicles. After World War II, GMC's trucks became more consumer-oriented. Vehicles like the GMC Suburban (introduced in 1958) and GMC Jimmy allowed Americans to easily pursue outdoor leisurely activities. In the past few decades, GM has consolidated its products and GMC's trucks have become less individualistic as a result. Today, most of GMC's vehicles are mechically identical to those sold by Chevrolet. The main differences lie in features and design choices that give GMC's SUVs and trucks a more upscale image. GM today employs about 317,000 people around the world. It has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in 200 countries. In 2004, GM sold nearly 9 million cars and trucks.

Thrown together by William Durant and held in place by Pierre DuPont, General Motors was created as an automotive giant, and has been the world's largest company for years. GM's master plan was to have an automaker for each niche, ideally taking customers from their entry level Chevrolet up to their luxury Cadillac. The divisions were originally semi-autonomous, with different bodies and engines, but that was slowly eliminated through a series of expensive cost-cutting moves. By the 1990s, the structure had become unwieldy, with excessive duplication of cars and SUVs across the various brands. In 2005, GM announced that it would reduce the number of vehicles in the Pontiac and Buick lines, bringing them back to their original ranges. GM's many parts divisions, acquired by purchase and built from within, were spun off at the turn of the century into Delphi. (After being kicked out of the company he created through a series of buyouts and mergers, Durant teamed up with French racer Louis Chevrolet to start another new car company. Using Chevrolet as his key, Durant came back to power at GM, only to be thrown out again. He then built Durant Motors which very nearly repeated his success with Chevrolet. When Durant died, he was running a bowling alley - with plans for a chain of bowling alleys that would dominate the nation. DuPont's balance of engineers and financial people was designed to prevent the riches-to-ruins swinging caused by Durant's mix of genius and over-reaching.)

John DeLorean wrote a great deal about the follies of GM's moves in the late 1950s and 1960s, explaining as an insider how GM started to lose ground, to the point where the company found itself no longer in total command of the American marketplace - and, indeed, sustaining mountainous losses as Ford and Chrysler grabbed truck sales and Asian automakers eroded GM's car sales.

Thanks to years of wildly varying competence within General Motors, the variety of vehicles produced by the world's largest automaker is astounding. From the mind-blowing performance and early-1980s interior of the Camaro to the overdeveloped technology of today's Cadillac, GM vehicles can seem to have little in common other than poorly designed cruise controls and overloaded stalks. Still, GM seems to be regaining world leadership in technology - a position it has not had in many decades - showcased by the latest wonder, a V8 concept engine with direct injection, dual in-block cams, variable displacement, and variable valve timing.

GM has also been taking advantage of its worldwide leadership, bringing in Opel (GM-Europe) models to form the basis of cars like the Cadillac CTS and Saturn LS. Indeed, there's talk of bringing over the formidable Holden Commodore from Australia to fill the gap left by the Caprice. The police would line up for that one.

While GM cars also vary in quality, they have been getting better each year, and today seem to have few common weak points. The 3.8 engine, common across brands, is best in class, as is a new 4.2 liter truck inline six and the Vortec V-8 engines - not to mention the Cadillac Northstar series. A new concept engine shows off a wide variety of advanced technologies. The new inline six has spawned two new, high-tech engines, one with four cylinders and one with five, both with better effiency than most competitors. Enthusiasts can also look forward to a new V-12, a new V-6, and a new six-speed automatic transmission. One thing is for sure: GM is committed to leading the world in powertrains. We suspect the new V8s will blow the doors off of Ford, beating even the powerful new Dodge Hemis.

Cadillac is to be moving from silent, well-cushioned, large cars to more sporty models, leaving the Lincoln and Lexus crowd behind in favor of the BMW and Volvo buyers, while preening Buick to take Cadillac's prior place. (The move to three-letter-names almost across the board may be another indicator of where they're trying to go.)

General Motors now owns parts of Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Subaru (with Fuji), Isuzu, Suzuki, Maruti, and Daewoo / Ssangyong, as well as Chevrolet, Buick, Opel (Vauxhall in the UK), Holden (Australia/NZ), Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, GMC (trucks), Saturn, and Saab. It should be noted that GMC and Saturn are the only divisions actually created by GM! The rest were purchased or merged in.