Special Report

This is America's Oldest Car Brand

Source: Courtesy of GMC

5. GMC
> Year founded: 1911

GMC was first formed in 1911, but its origins go all the way back to 1900. Brothers Max and Morris Grabowsky formed Grabowsky Motor Vehicle Co at the turn of the century, aiming to design trucks. After proving they could successfully make a running vehicle, the brothers changed their company name to Rapid Motor Vehicle Company in 1902. The company expanded quickly and by 1906 had the world’s sole commercial truck production plant.

The company caught the attention of GM founder William Durant, and he began purchasing stock in the company in 1908. By 1909, Durant gained a controlling interest in the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company. The GMC brand was formed in 1911, selling Rapid trucks. The Rapid brand name was phased out shortly thereafter, while GMC is still one of the most commonly driven vehicle brands in America.

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4. GM
> Year founded: 1908

Though General Motors does not make cars under the General Motors brand, it owns some of America’s largest and oldest car brands, including Buick, Cadillac, GMC, and more.

GM was initially founded as a holding company for another one of the oldest car brands in America, Buick. GM founder William Durant had turned Buick from a promising startup to one of the leading players in the new automobile market and had his sights set on expansion. GM quickly acquired automakers like Oldsmobile and Cadillac, as well as Chevrolet later on. Per Statista, GM still has the largest share of the U.S. light automobile market as of 2020.

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3. Ford
> Year founded: 1903

Ford is one of the oldest and most popular auto brands in America. The brand was founded by Henry Ford in 1903. Ford was renowned for his innovations, particularly the assembly line, which allowed workers to produce an entire automobile in a fraction of the time it once took — down from 12 hours to less than two.

Ford’s F-series line of pickup trucks have been the best-selling vehicles in the country since 1981. But the vehicle that really got the Ford brand off the ground was the Model T. The Model T was the first car that was cheap enough for many to afford. At one time the Model T was so popular that over half of all Americans owned one.

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2. Buick
> Year founded: 1903

Though the first vehicle called Buick was made in either 1899 or 1900, the company was formally incorporated in 1903, and moved locations in Michigan from Detroit to Flint. David D. Buick founded the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company in 1899, fabricating engines. He worked to make entire automobiles through 1903, when the business was reorganized into The Buick Motor Car Company.

The Buick brand sold only a handful of cars in its first few years, but became successful thanks to William Durant, who was impressed by the quality of the cars and took control of the company in 1904. Durant used his salesmanship, organization skills, and business connections to boost Buick’s business, and by 1908, it was the nation’s top automaker. That year, Durant formed a holding company for his automobile businesses called General Motors, which still owns the Buick brand to this day.

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1. Cadillac
> Year founded: 1902

Founded in 1902, Cadillac ranks as America’s oldest continually-operating automaker. Cadillac’s creation is credited to Henry Leland, who began making machining equipment in Detroit in 1890. His top-notch work building engines attracted the attention of The Henry Ford Company, but Henry Ford was upset when the young business brought in another engineer that he left the company altogether.

Leland suggested to the rest of the business’s owners that they use his designs for a new vehicle, and they agreed. The company was renamed Cadillac in honor of Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, Sieur-de-Cadillac, the French explorer credited with founding the city of Detroit. The business became a success. General Motors acquired Cadillac in 1909 and still owned the brand as of 2021.

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