“There has been no other car manufacturer that has ever built 500 million cars,” said Danny Brackett, President of MacMaster Buick GMC in Orangeville. “It’s pretty exciting, especially when you look at many of the dates included in the milestones for this. It’s likely many people will have had a family member or friend who worked on one of these 500 million cars.”
With there only having been the ‘Big Three’ manufacturers in North America for the longest time – Chrysler, Ford and GM – many people found work at their factories, meaning that many, many people will have ties to this exciting achievement.
“When you think about it, it’s kind of hard to even fathom that,” said Mr. Brackett.
The achievements that General Motors have made over the years have had impacts not just on the automotive industry, but the state of the world as well. During World War II, then President of GM, Charles Erwin Wilson, directed the company’s large effort towards defence production, leading him to become a recipient of a Medal for Merit in 1946. Because of his efforts, he was selected as Secretary of Defence in January 1953 by President Eisnhower.
Some of the milestones General Motors has successfully passed over it’s 107 years in existence were achievements which changed the face of the car manufacturing business forever. In 1912, Cadillac invented the first electric starter, followed by the production of the first V8 engine in 1915.
Other achievements have included the creation of the first ever Auto Test Track (1924), the first automatic transmission (1940), the development of the Apollo Moon Program guidance system (1969), and the OnStar First Vehicle Telematics System (1996).
They also helped shape the standard for vehicle safety through the development of the Crash Dummies, making them an industry standard in the testing of vehicles and how they stand up/protect drivers and passengers during an accident. Prior to using dummies, safety testing was first used on cadavers (corpses donated to study from morgues), followed by human volunteers made up of researchers who took it upon themselves to serve as crash test dummies. By the mid 1950s, researchers felt that the bulk of information cadaver testing could provide had been gathered, and since utilizing them to detect the level of survivability was inadequate, they moved on to test animals.
The results of these studies were used by Samuel W. Alderson in 1949 in the creation of Sierra Sam, a human simulacra designed to test aircraft ejection seats, aviation helmets, and pilot restraint harnesses. He then went on to create the VIP-50 series, a group of ‘dummies’ created specifically for General Motors and Ford. Although the dummy was neither reliable nor durable for automotive crash testing, GM engineers combined the beset features of the VIP series and the Ford model (Sierra Stan) to create a model which would work in the testing as well as more successfully emulate the results of a human accident.
Although one could argue that any other company could have taken on the mandate to further develop more adequate test ‘subjects’, the history remains that it was GM who spearheaded the project, eventually leading it to become an industry standard in 1972. Two years later, in 1974, GM also became the first Automaker to offer air bags in their vehicles, which became another industry standard by the late 1990s, early 2000s.
During the period of 1990 to 2000, the United States Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that out of approximately 3.3 million air bag deployments during that interval, over 6,377 lives were saved by them.
Perhaps one of the most impressive numbers on the highlighted list of achievements during General Motors history is the speed at which they achieved their 500 millionth produced vehicle. While it took until 1964 (56 years) to produce their 100 millionth vehicle, they were able to reach 200 million by 1978 (14 years), 300 million by 1991 (13 years), 400 million by 2003 (12 years), and taking only another 12 years to reach 500 million. And if their expected sales numbers have anything to do with it, it won’t be long before they reach 600 million cars manufactured either.
When GM CEO Mary Barra celebrated the milestone with customers, employees and dealers at their Fairfax, Kansas assembly plant, she spoke to the number of sales the company has predicted they will sell over the next year.
“During 2015, we expect to sell more than 1,000 new vehicles per hour, 24 hours per day,” said Barra. “This adds up to nearly 10 million vehicles, the most in our history. I look at this extraordinary volume as 10 million opportunities to prove what kind of company we are and to say thank you.”
With over a hundred years of innovation under their belt, if their history has anything to do with their future, it is clear that going forward, the industry can expect to see more industry changing innovations and creations over the next century as well.
Written by Tabitha Wells