History of Chevrolet: Get Behind the Wheel of Chevrolet’s Timeless Innovations
1878-1900 – A young engineer
Louis Chevrolet was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland) in 1878. The son of a watchmaker inherits his love for engineering from his father and spends the day dismantling objects to understand how they work.
At the age of 11, he had to drop out of school and began working in a bicycle repair shop to help his parents. Soon after, he started riding motorcycles and building them. With the money from the prizes he obtains, he helps support his siblings.
Around 1896, Vanderbilt, an American real estate mogul, came to the shop with his broken-down motorized tricycle. Chevrolet repair impresses the millionaire, encouraging him to make his fortune in America. Louis decides to try, although he settles in Paris for a year before. There, he works in a car production center and learns everything necessary about the operation of combustion engines. In addition, it saves the money needed for the trip.
1901-1910 – The germ of Chevrolet Motor Car Company
After a small stopover in Canada, Chevrolet moved to New York in 1901. He found work as a mechanic and designer at De Dion-Bouton, the world’s largest car manufacturer. Four years later, he joins Fiat and wins his first primary race (sets a speed record). From this moment, Chevrolet began a winning streak on the American circuits that lasted for 15 years, making it a star of international fame.
Louis leaves Fiat in 1906 and moves to Philadelphia. At the company, Walter Christie is working on developing a new front-wheel-drive racing car with a Darracq V8 engine. The result is another new world record (191.5 km / h). Chevrolet continues to compete, and during his participation in Buick as a driver, he meets William C. Durant, owner of the General Company of New Jersey (later to be General Motors).
1911-1920 – The first Chevrolet
“Billy” Durant realizes the enormous skill of Louis Chevrolet and joins him to found the Chevrolet Motor Car Company on November 3, 1911. The first models of the Classic Six left the Detroit factory in early 1912.
However, this pairing lasts for a short time. Chevrolet had always wanted to build high-quality cars, but Durant soon embraced the idea of ”people’s cars” (cars as cheap as possible). Neither of them gives in on their approach, and the result is that, in 1913, Louis left the company. However, the brand maintains its name.
As Chevrolet develops rapidly at the Durant plants, Louis returns to his old passion: building race cars. For this purpose, he founded Frontenac Motor Corporation (1914). The first unit is a high-quality car made of aluminum. For his part, Durant continued its growth policy: in 1918, Chevrolet joined General Motors, becoming the most popular company in the United States.
1921-1930 – The most demanded cars
The results soon show that the bet is Durant’s. However, despite the enormous success of the Chevrolet brand during this decade,
Durant could not survive the depression of the 1920s. Ruined on a personal and business level, he is forced to resign from the management of General Motors, which in the early 1930s will pass to William S. Knudsen.
Under his orders, the American manufacturer started production of the Super Series K Pick-Up (1924). Two years later, “K” (that’s how he signed all the documents) announces a $ 10 million investment plan to boost the company. Months later, their cars are the most demanded in the “low price” segment.
1931-1940 – A model to “take it all.”
General Motors revolutionizes the market with the Suburban Carryall (1936). This “take it all” vehicle has a 90 hp engine mounted on the chassis of a conventional van and allows eight people to travel comfortably.
The decade of the thirties is also one of the expansions of Chevrolet. Throughout these years, it expanded its borders and entered fully into the European market, commercially and creating its factories.
1941-1950 – Goodbye Louis
In June 1941, Louis Chevrolet passed away at his home in Lakewood, east of Detroit. Separated from the company he founded and gave his name, he dedicated himself to the manufacture of aircraft engines for a few years. He was not very successful, so he eventually returned to Chevrolet’s Detroit plant to work as a mechanic.
This symbolic character of the automobile industry left millions of cars with his name as a legacy. When an American journalist once asked him if he was so famous for the car brand or vice versa, Louis replied with a smile: “Certainly there is a bit of each. But one thing is certain: I was there first …”.
1951-1960 – The Corvette was born.
Overcoming the horrors of the War, Chevrolet tries to return to the market’s first line with a sports model: the Corvette. It is 1953, although shortly after, when the brand experienced one of the best moments in its history: in 1955, it managed to surpass Ford, its eternal competitor, in sales volume. On the other hand, the Chevrolet team achieves victory in 13 of the 25 races of the
1961-1970 – The Camaro and Malibu years
The post-war prosperity continues in the sixties. These years go down in history with the launch of the Camaro and the Malibu, two models that today have earned the title of “classics in automotive history” on their own merits. They were presented in 1963 and 1966, although shortly before, Chevrolet had already amazed the public with a new line of small models called “Chevy II.”
1971-1980 – The crisis of the seventies
The bitter side of success came in the 1970s when the American car market was plunged into a deep crisis. For many, the stiff competition represented by cars from Japan, increasingly numerous and sophisticated. The American manufacturer’s response to this situation is the Vega and Monte Carlo, models. The objective is to recover sales up to 30% since 1968 they have fallen more than 24 points.
1981-1990 – To the conquest of Asia
Having overcome the crisis of the previous decade, the eighties began with a deep concern for non-renewable energies. Chevrolet is committed to its line of small cars, and the Chevy II gives way to the new Chevette range: its reduced characteristics, both in space and fuel consumption, are the keys to its success.
These years were also the time General Motors chose to launch itself into the conquest of the Asian continent. In this way, in 1983, he signed a collaboration agreement with Isuzu, Suzuki, Fuji Heavy Industries, and Toyota.
2000-2014 – Towards the new century
The Chevrolet Volt leads the company into its second centenary. The first mass-produced electric vehicle redefines the meaning and philosophy of the car. The Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic, or Spark are vehicles with a presence in more than 130 countries. With a Chevrolet spirit, these vehicles have an international presence in a growing market for compact vehicles. Likewise, the inheritance received from the rest of the cars in the range launched the company into its second century, making the automobile reborn—all of them, with their iconic style, performance, and design.
In 2014 Chevrolet announced that the company would stop marketing its vehicles in 2016. It leaves the Old Continent to make way for another General Motors brand: Opel.