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Personality: William C. Durant

Books can be written on this historical figure, but I’ll do my best to create a succinct vignette.

William Crapo Durant got his start in the transportation industry in the days before the automobile. By the time he was 24, Durant co-founded the Coldwater Road Cart Company. The company was a success, and within five years, Durant would have the country’s largest carriage company. His success did not go unnoticed in the burgeoning horseless carriage industry.

Durant was recruited to the Buick Motor Car Company in 1904 to promote and manage the company and its cars. By 1908, Durant climbed to the very top of the company. An earlier failed attempt by fellow pioneer Benjamin Briscoe to form a form a conglomerate out of the four largest automobile producers of the time: Buick, Ford, REO (Ransom Old’s company), and Maxwell-Briscoe didn’t derail Durant’s own desires to start a large car company.

In 1908, Durant founded the General Motors Company and was able to purchase Buick with stock and Olds several weeks later. The third company to join the nascent empire was the faltering Oakland Company, which eventually beget Pontiac. Using the substantial bank account of Buick, he was able to acquire Cadillac for cash. Durant went on a buying binge of car companies and parts suppliers, which quickly lead to General Motors becoming overextended.

The banks took control from Durant in 1910. Ousted from his own company, Durant struck out to form a new car company. He partnered with racing champion Louis Chevrolet to form the Chevrolet Motor Company in 1911. Chevrolet was an immense success. Durant was able to utilize Chevrolet funds to buy a controlling interest in GM stock by 1916 and he, once again, became president of GM. The deal would be finalized in 1917 with Chevrolet joining GM as a division.

Chevrolet would go on to a long legacy as a cornerstone of the corporation. Durant, however, had a different fate. He’d once again lose control of his company, this time permanently, in 1920. But that’s a different decade and, thus, our story ends here.




Stay tuned...

*As always, I encourage feedback, corrections, and clarifications. History is made up of stories, and everyone has their own version.*
 

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Keep them coming as I am always interested in learning more history.
 

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Love this info (especially since alot of it is local for me).
 

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I didn't know there was a part I!! Very cool info- keep it up!

I find it funny that GM got in financial trouble almost from day 1. I guess some companies just never learn.......
 
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