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David Hayward's

Automotive History

This site has been established in order to publish various Working Papers for general study and comment on automotive history.
William Durant 1908 with wife alongside
General Motors Logo
William Durant on 16 September 1908



William Crapo Durant Durant was born on December 8 1861 in Boston, Massachusetts, though he was raised in Flint, Michigan. Durant was 16 years old when he quit school over a discrepancy in morals with the school's principal.

Although Durant was not a physically well-built boy, his mind was quick and energetic.
After quitting school, Durant found his first job as a labourer in a lumber yard. The lumber yard was owned by a relative and Durant expected to be placed in a better position than as a labourer. He was disappointed but accepted the work for a few months.Later Durant tried a variety of jobs. However, he was most successful as a salesman.
The older businessmen in Durant's hometown of Flint City needed a young businessman to operate and run the Flint City Waterworks. There were not many bright and capable men in Flint City at that time. Durant was one of the exceptions and was suggested as a possibility. Later he was offered the waterworks project. Durant was very successful and in eight months was able to pullthe waterworks plant out of debt. This established him as a well-respected young man in the community and he was soon sought after by other companies.

In 1885, by age 24, Durant had established himself in the Flint City community. He was very popular and his personality reflected a hard working but slightly mannered young man. At this time Durant met a young man but the name of Josiah Dallas Dort. Together they invented a two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage. Later Dort and Durant founded the Durant-Dort Carriage Company to produce their two wheeled carriages, and years later established a Canadian subsidiary. The carriages sold especially well and the company was also successful. In return it also made Durant and Dort very wealthy men -- wealthy enough for them to retire.
From 1895 to 1913 the Durant-Dort Carriage Company Office Building served as a focal point for William C. Durant's promotional activities in the carriage and automobile business
In 1903, Durant met a young inventor named David Dunbarr Buick, an expatriate Scot. Buick very much impressed Durant and sold Durant on the idea of a horseless carriage. In this year Durant made a quick decision to change from manufacturing carriages to cars. Together they founded the Buick Company, and the first charter was taken out on June 17, 1905.
Durant's most important concern about the new company is that it would be under his guidance. Durant felt that if company was to succeed it would be his success but if it were to fail it would be his failure. Durant was smart enough to realise the necessity of having reliable suppliers so he had the Buick Company buy all the raw materials and then he had factories to process only what Buick would need.
Durant was able to survive the short Wall Street Panic of 1907: the Buick Company was shaken but still standing, unlike other small automobile companies. The following year Durant suggested that the major automobile companies unite into an industry that would protect their common interests. Offered his ideas both to Henry Ford and Ransome E. Olds but each asked for $5,000 up front. At this time Durant declined his offered ideas.
On 16 September 1908, Durant formed the General Motors Company by buying up various smaller auto companies and merging others into the Company. Durant felt that by combining smaller companies he could take the best from each and combine them.
Durant had actually offered Henry Ford $8,000,000 for his company. Ford agreed to sell and by October of 1909 Durant had the permission of the General Motors Association to purchase the company from Ford. However, at this time the bankers supporting Durant withdrew their financial backing and the deal with Ford fell through.
By August of 1910, the General Motors Company owned 22% of the total automotive industry.
At this time General Motors began to face financial difficulties and Durant reacted by developing a plan to carry the expanding company through to fiscal year.
The creditors met in New York City and rejected Durant's plan. They also removed Durant from his position in the company and he was made a member of the Board of Trustees.
Durant accepted his new position in the Board of Trustees without malice or bitterness. Despite his loss of control he remained an influential member of the board and was well respected.

The formation of Chevrolet

General Motors in Canada

During the winter of 1910, Durant bought a small and obscure car company from William H. Little. Durant also managed to convince Little and his race driver associate Louis Chevrolet to remain with the company.
On November 1911, the Chevrolet Motor Company was incorporated in Michigan. Durant did not hide his association with Chevrolet from General Motors. General Motors simply did not see Chevrolet as a threat.
By 1912 Durant had used the Chevrolet Motor Company to purchase the Republic Motor Company. Durant later equipped the Republic Motor Company's plant to produce Chevrolet automobiles.
At this time Durant reasoned, as Ford did, that America was the land of opportunity only if that opportunity was realised. With this in mind, Durant made Chevrolet vehicles for the common American. The Chevrolet Motor Company did exceptionally well and expanded.
With Durant as only a member of the Board of Trustees and not in direct control, the General Motors Company faltered. By 1915 General Motors Company owned only 5% of the automobile market, a sharp decrease from their respected 22% in 1910.
In addition to the problems General Motors was facing, Durant began selling Chevrolet vehicles for only $490. This was an excellent price for the time.
From 1914-1915 Durant sold 15,000 cars and the net profit for the Chevrolet Motor Company reached $1,300,000.
On 1 October 1915 the voting trust that had been in control of General Motors expired. Durant owned enough stock to control a majority of the Board of Trustees. With his new control he elected Pierre Du Pont as chairman of the Board.
On 25 January 1916 Durant offered an exchange of every five shares of his Chevrolet Company for one share of General Motors stock.
By the middle of May 1916 Durant and his associates including the Du Ponts owned a total of 450,000 of the 768,733 General Motors stock. With so much stock in his control Durant was able to use Chevrolet to absorb the larger General Motors Company. On 16 October 1916, GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION was incorporated in the State of Delaware [hereinafter "G.M.C."]..
On 13 October 1916 Durant met a brilliant young businessman in control of the United Motors Corporation. Durant was impressed with the young man and by 31 December 1918 General Motors Corporation combined with the United Motors Corporation. The young man's name was Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.
Durant then changed the name of the General Motors Company to the General Motors Corporation.
In 1918 Durant organised a deal between the United States government and General Motors to provide equipment for the war effort. During this time the General Motors Corporation, was very successful. This success convinced the Board of Directors to expand the corporation even against Durant's suggestions. Durant had a keen awareness of economic trends and was leery of the years following then end of the war.
The Post-war depression
With the crash of the stock market in 1920, General Motors stocks collapsed. This was happening around the world and throughout Wall Street. Complicating matters, General Motors business stock fell almost 35% in one month. Durant felt obliged to purchase the shares of stock from friends whom he had convinced to invest in General Motors. In this time, between the devaluation of his own stock and his efforts to purchase his friends stock, Durant lost his own personal fortune.
On December 1, 1920 Durant resigned as President of General Motors Corporation.
The first General Motors Company subsidiary in Canada was GENERAL MOTORS COMPANY OF CANADA LIMITED, a Dominion company incorporated under the 1st part of Chapter 79 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1906, known as the Companies Act. A firm of lawyers, Parker & Clark of Toronto, applied to the Secretary of State of Canada for a Charter for the above company on 6 March 1912. The company was capitalised at C$10,000 divided into 100 Shares of C$100 each. The Letters Patent was then granted 9 March 1912. The Directors and Shareholders.

Since 1907, the McLaughlin Carriage and Motor Company Limited had been assembling Buick cars and trucks by agreement with Durant, and consequently the new company in theory could have impinged on the sale of Buicks in Canada, but could only have dealt with Oakland and Cadillac as Oldsmobile was handled by the Oldsmobile Company of Canada Limited of Toronto.

At much the same time as the Chevrolet Motor Company acquired General Motors Company, to create General Motors Corporation, a new Canadian company was formed, GENERAL MOTORS OF CANADA Limited, incorporated in the Province of Ontario on 8 November 1918 when McLaughlin Carriage and Motor Company Limited and the Chevrolet Motor Company of Canada Limited, were merged: President: R.S. "Sam" McLaughlin; George W. McLaughlin, Vice-President. General Motors Corporation of New York buying out the balance of the McLaughlin interests. The former General Motors Company had acquired nearly half of the Oshawa operation in 1914, which possibly negated the need to carry on with General Motors COMPANY of Canada Limited.

On 19 December 1918, G.M. Corporation bought the rest of the shares in consideration of 49,000 shares of common stock, and $550,000 in cash. The only stipulation was that the brothers McLaughlin were to stay and run the Canadian end. R.S. "Sam" McLaughlin was appointed President of G.M. of Canada Limited, George McLaughlin as Vice-President. Sam had been a Director of General Motors Company for about six months in 1910, and was then appointed a Director of General Motors Corporation, 7 November 1918, and then a Vice-President, 31 December 1918.

General Motors Overseas

The Turning Wheel by Arthur Pound, written in 1934, is the source of the following information, with additions from the author. General Motors World, 50th Anniversary issue, May-June 1961 contributed the rest of the information.

GMH People September 1983 from Australia mentions that one ORVILLE GREEN BENNETT was working for the American Trading Company, returned from a trip to Japan and interested his friend, H.M. Salisbury, of the Bank of America in New York City, in his pet project, that of forming a company to handle the export business of the General Motors Company. They persuaded the then President of General Motors Company, Thomas Neal, to invest $10,000 in establishing a company.

The GENERAL MOTORS EXPORT COMPANY [hereinafter called "the Export Company"] was founded on 19 June 1911 in the State of Michigan with a capital of $10,000 under the bankers in control of General Motors Company at the time, with the President Thomas Neal, 26 January 1911 to 19 November 1912 becoming President of the Export Company as well, until he resigned as General Motors Company President. The initial staff in the offices at 103 Park Avenue, New York City, New York [not to be confused with General Motors's HQ at 41st Park Avenue, New York] was just three, but it differed from the other General Motors companies as it was a selling organisation which handled only Buick cars, and dealt with the whole world except for the United Kingdom. Previously, all General Motors marques, including Buick and Cadillac sales had been down to each respective division. In due course, all foreign trade would pass through the Export Company. However, the company's driving force and the man who saw the opportunity for the foreign markets was Orville G. Bennett, initially under Neal, and then Bennett was appointed the Export Company's "first president" from 1912 until 1916. Until he resigned, Bennett worked with his friend and colleague just referred to, the banker, Export Company Vice-President and General Manager, H.M. Salisbury.

O.G. Bennett then joined the General Motors Limited board in 1912 as well as the new Oakland Motor Company Limited, also based in London [see below]. From July to December 1911 the Export Company handled a mere 100 units. However, in the following five months after incorporation, the company's turnover was $121,897.

At first the Export Company sold along mainly mail-order lines, answering questions for vehicles and requests for dealerships but then in 1912 the capital was increased to $100,000 and the company expanded to a staff of 15 or 16 in a three-room office at the Bowling Green Building at 11 Broadway, New York City. In parallel with the Export Company, moves had been made to expand into the UK with the establishment of the first overseas subsidiary, Oakland Motor Car Company Limited, as well as the Buick assembly operation in Willesden, General Motors (Europe) Limited, F.S. Bennett's Cadillac concession, and then finally Oldsmobile Motors Limited and General Motors Corporation trucks, in London in 1915. However, in 1913, the Executive office of the Export Company moved to Detroit, leaving just 11 people in the New York City shipping office.

In 1914, the first fieldmen were sent out around the world, but then returned back to the U.S. Having established contacts this way, in 1915, the first distributors were appointed, and then in 1916, permanent fieldmen, one each for Europe, South America, Java and Japan. However, In Australia the first fieldman, E.S. Pendleton, landed in Sydney, N.S.W. in 1914. However, it was the following year that Chevrolet Motor Company of New York representative C.D. Bradford announced that he was spending three months of each year in Australia, staying at the Hotel Australia in Sydney, according to The Motor in Australia December 1915 and was keen to contact dealers and purchasers, although T.D. Chapman of 21a Flinders Street, Sydney, had advertised the first "Baby Grand" Chevrolets for sale in August 1915. This company was the first Chevrolet agent in Australia, and followed by the spring of 1916 by Kelly's Motors Limited, Agents for N.S.W. and Queensland, of 116-118-120 Phillip Street, Sydney.

The Great War saw large requirements for General Motors cars and trucks, but from 1917 the entry of the USA meant that allotments of cars was severely restricted and allocations had to be made as "judiciously as possible among its distributors throughout the world". In 1917, the Executive offices moved back to 11 Broadway, and the entire Export Company personnel totalled 75. Further, Oldsmobile and Oakland export distribution was taken on by the Export Company in addition to Buick. This would be just before changes were made in the concession arrangements in the British Isles.

GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION was incorporated in Delaware on 13 October 1916, and General Motors Export Company became one of its divisions.

The Export Company Oldsmobile and Oakland vehicles were added to Buick in 1917, and despite the Great War, sales totalled 8,258 units.

General Motors Export Company moved to the original General Motors Building, 1764 Broadway, later known as the Argonaut Building, 224 West 57th Street in 1918. On June 27th, 1918, General Motors Export Company was combined with General Motors (Europe) Limited which had only imported Buicks until 1914: capital was $212,932.75.

Cadillac, Chevrolet, Scripps-Booth and General Motors Corporation were added to the Export Company's lines in1918, with one man placed in charge of each line at the Home Office.

Export sales increased from 6,004 units in 1918 to 14,665 in 1919. In 1919, OVERSEAS MOTOR SERVICE CORPORATION was formed to service and distribute parts and accessories, i.e. Acceptance Corporation, Delco [except in the British Isles], Hyatt [except for Continental Europe which was covered by Hyatt Limited], and also manufactures of other makers. Samson Tractor and Trucks and Delco Light were also added. General Motors (Europe) Limited changed its name to General Motors Limited in 1919, but continued to report to General Motors Corporation direct, instead of to the Export Company. That same year, the Export Company started doing business with General Motors Acceptance Corporation.

Until 1920, the emphasis had been on Buick sales overseas, but after the company had studied the export organisations of other large U.S. companies, plans were made to widen the distribution and sale of all its cars and trucks. A Training School was established in the Buick Building at 1737 Broadway to provide intensive training for employees who were to serve overseas, and also to train Home Office personnel. In 1920, export sales totalled 29,772 units. The Company then required more space and thus moved to the Wurlitzer Building, 120 West 42nd Street. In 1920, the Export Company added Frigidaire to it product line. Branch offices were established in 18 countries! Sheridan was also added briefly from 1920 to 1921, and then dropped. Sales zoomed to 30,000 units. When the post-War boom changed to depression overnight, almost, the Export Company ran into liquidity problems. In 1921, the Export Company contracted, and there were mass liquidations of unsold cars, a lot of which were exported, just as the post-war Stock Exchange crash in 1920 caused a depression from 1921.


In 1916, O.G. Bennett resigned his position through ill health as President of the Export Company, as well as his directorship of Oakland Motors Limited and then in 1917, General Motors (Europe) Limited. He was succeeded by R.H."Trainload" Collins, Buick's sales manager, until he was replaced by Jonathan Amory Haskell, who also became a Director of General Motors (Europe) Limited from 9 April 1920 until he died by 5 July 1924, to be replaced by James David Mooney: see below. Charles W. Nash succeeded Neal as President of General Motors Corporation, 9 November 1912 to 1 June 1916 to be replaced by William Crapo Durant, until 30 November 1920, though Nash retained a Share in General Motors (Europe) Limited until 1920. Under J.A. Haskell was Peter Severn Steenstrup who was appointed Vice-President and General Manager of the Export Company from 1916 to 1921. Steenstrup also joined the General Motors (Europe) Limited Board on 3 January 1917 and was allocated one share on 9 April 1920. In 1914 Steenstrupp had been Hyatt's General Sales Manager, but quit to join Huppmobile as its South American Representative, before joining General Motors Export Company in 1916. Steenstrup resigned along with others from the board of General Motors Limited, on 15 December 15 1922, to be replaced as President by James David Mooney.

James D. Mooney had been General Manager of the Remy Electric Company, a General Motors subsidiary, and then was moved to become a Vice-President of General Motors Export Company in 1921 in succession to Steenstrupp, and then when Collins resigned in 1922 as President of the Export Company, Mooney replaced him as President of the Export Company instead. A.L. Haskell then replaced Mooney as Export Company Vice-President and General Manager from November 1922 to June 1925. Steenstrup and Haskell were replaced by Frederick William Beard at General Motors Limited December 13 1922.Pierre S. Du Pont was appointed President of General Motors 1 December 1920, and resigned in favour of Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. 10 May 1923. A.P. Sloan became a Director of General Motors Corporation, and Vice-President in charge of the accessories and parts group under Durant. After Durant left, When Pierre S. DuPont took over as President in October 1920, Sloan became Vice-president in charge of operations. He was also appointed a Director of General Motors Limited 31 August 1921 in replacement of "Durant men".

Just as Mooney was taking up his post, the Export Company management outlined a massive sales campaign arguably in the midst of the post-war recession, the domestic market not taking up its quota of cars. This was the period when U.S. cars were "dumped" on export markets even though the previous year's models, to get rid of excess stocks. Six sales divisions were set up, Caribbean, South American, Australian, African, European, and Far Eastern. By 1922, the Export Company employed 300 people, including field men. As a consequence of the importance of the sales operations, the Export Company moved yet again in 1922 to the General Motors Building, 224 West 57th Street, New York City. 1922 also saw the very first issue of General Motors World magazine, published by the Export Company and sent around the world, literally.

In 1923, the Company began to advertise heavily in publications in sixteen countries, and increased its senior field personnel by a third. General Motors overseas offices were established in countries around the world with General Motors cars being sold in 125 countries.

General Motors Limited moved to Edgware Road, The Hyde, Hendon, London N.W.9 in early 1923, and then established an assembly plant in a building which they were to occupy until 1981!

Early in 1922, the Export Company set up a branch office in Colombo, Ceylon, headed by Innes K. Randolph, who was later joined by Graeme K. Howard. However, in 1923 the Colombo office was closed, and replaced by two new offices in mainland India, with Howard manager of the new Bombay office and Randolph the one in Calcutta. However, these offices very quickly dealt with territories outside India, as evidenced below.

October 1923 saw the Export Company announce its first assembly plant overseas, in Copenhagen, Denmark, G.M. International A/S. started assembly of Chevrolets January 1924. Canadian Automotive Trade stated in November 1923 issue that Chevrolet cars would be assembled in Denmark and stocks of parts carried through the formation of General Motors [International] A/S by G.M.C. The Headquarters would be located in Copenhagen, and the new organisation would market cars in:
And ultimately in HOLLAND

The establishment of the assembly plant was in line with the policy of General Motors announced some time ago to expand the distribution of its products in overseas markets as economic conditions justified. G.M. International had sales of 65,854 units.

Danish-born WILLIAM S. KNUDSEN became the new General Manager of the Chevrolet Motor Company by January 1924, having formerly been with the Ford Motor Company.

General Motors Limited went into production March 1924. This coincides with the redemption of mortgages on the Thurloe Place buildings, 10 March 1924, and the consequent complete removal to Hendon. However, when the Copenhagen Plant opened, General Motors International left the Export Company, and became a General Motors subsidiary. In 1924, the organisation became the EXPORT GROUP, with General Motors Limited coming under the Export Company's control for the first time. The Group was headed by a Corporation Vice-President, who was also President of the Export Company, namely James D. Mooney!

General Motors Argentina was opened in Buenos Aires in April 1924, and was then followed by General Motors Continental S.A., Antwerpen or Anvers [Antwerp] in December 1924. However, production in Rue de la Fontaine, Antwerp began in March 1925 with an output of 20 to 25 Chevrolets per day. In 1926, production switched to the Velodrome in Haantjeslei, which had been used since September 1925 as a storage depot anyway. Parts department moved to Coeberg Street, near the Velodrome, with vehicle preparation, storage and administration Rue de la Fontaine. Oakland and certain Buicks, started being assembled in 1926, and then Oldsmobiles followed.

In succession to A.L. Haskell, the Export Company General Manager from June 1925 to September 1930 was L.M. Rumley, and he shared the position with W.T. Whalen from 1926 to 1929. However, in 1925 the Operating Manager was William Harvey Junior, who visited the Belgian, Copenhagen and London Plants March to May 1925 : General Motors World..

General Motors Export Company : Location of Offices, 1925

Executive Offices:224 West 57th Street, New York
PARIS, FRANCE: France, Belgium, Switzerland [Christian Lie, Norwegian, was  Manager in Paris, mid-1922 to mid-1925].
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK: Holland, Central and Northern Europe
MADRID, SPAIN: Spain, Portugal, North Africa*
CONSTANTINOPLE, TURKEY: Southeastern Europe and the Levant
JOHANNESBURG, S.A.: Southern Africa and islands in the Indian Ocean
N.S.W., Queensland, Northern Territory, Solomon Islands, New Hebrides, Guam, Loyalty islands, New Caledonia
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania
WELLINGTON, NZ: New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and adjoining islands
CALCUTTA, INDIA: Eastern half of India, Burma
BOMBAY, INDIA: Western India, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Mesopotamia, Persia, Aden, Ceylon
SOERABIA, JAVA: Dutch East Indies, Federated Malay States, Siam, Straits Settlements
SHANGHAI, CHINA: China, Philippine Islands, French Indo-China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Formosa, Siberia, Manchuria
HONOLULU, HAWAII, Hawaiian Islands
LIMA, PERU, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Falkland Islands

Handled directly through the Executive Offices:
Islands of the Caribbean, Colombia, Venezuela, Newfoundland, Central America

In February 1926, the Export Group was formed, headed by a Corporation Vice-President who was also President of the Export Company, James D. Mooney, or was it in 1924?. The Export Company was composed only of distributor territories with the separate assembly plants including General Motors Limited and Vauxhall Motors Limited becoming operations within the Group. Line and staff control was instituted. This was all at the behest of James D. Mooney in fact. 12 operations had been incorporated and the line and staff principle of organisation was established.

In 1927, the departmental managers in charge of manufacture, sales, supply and finance then reported to the General Manager of the Export Group, though they were responsible in each case for the control and development of his particular function in all operating units throughout the group. The respective operating units [overseas subsidiaries] were placed under Managing Directors directly responsible to their Regional Directors whom in turn reported to the General Manager of the Export Group [later the Export DIVISION from 1930] in New York. With Vauxhall, and then from 1929, Opel, the set-up was essentially the same. From 1930, the General Manager of the three major operating divisions, Opel, Vauxhall and Export Division reported to the President of the General Motors Export Company, the Vice-President of General Motors in charge of overseas operations.

In 1927, the Export Company as an operating unit was put onto the same basis as other individual plants in the Export Group, although officers and directors derived their corporate status from that company. In other words, the Export Company was placed alongside the assembly plant companies, though as more Plants opened, each territory was then removed from the Export Company and became a General Motors subsidiary instead.

On 2 May 1927, General Motors Corporation relocated for the final time to the new General Motors Building at 1775 Broadway, New York. General Motors Export Group moved across in May 1927 from 224 West 57th Street to 1775 Broadway, New York.

In June 1927, the General Motors Export Company was set up as a separate entity within the Export Group, with its own managing director. Sales rose to 196,294 units.

By the close of 1928 there were 19 manufacturing and assembly plants in the Export Group. General Motors's stake in world trade was enormous, with sales overseas of 15.6% of its total business [Export Group sales were 290,437]. General Motors's share of all U.S. and Canadian motor-car business overseas rose from 12.4% in 1922 through 24.3% in 1926 to 47.1% in 1928.

In January 1928, the General Motors Export Group became the GENERAL MOTORS EXPORT DIVISION.

A regional conference was then held at Shawnee-on-the-Delaware, Pennsylvania, between 22 May and 30 May 1929 as a regional conference of the Export Group, with representatives from 28 countries. This set the scene for the future, just before the Wall Street Crash. However, by July there was a decline in overseas sales of motor-cars, accelerated by the fall of international exchange and increasing disruption of world trade caused by a Republican Senator from Utah, Reed Smoot.

Smoot was elected in 1902, the first Mormon to serve in the U.S. Senate. After 20 years or so he rose to the position of Senate Finance Chairman, and from this lofty position was able to advance his passion for protectionism. Senator Moot decided in 1929 that the appropriate response to the Wall Street Crash was economic isolation. He seized upon a tariff Bill aimed primarily at American agriculture and massively expanded its remit. The SMOOT-HAWLEY ACT raised the average duty on imported items to 60% and froze foreign products out of the U.S. market. The Bill squeezed through the Senate by merely two votes on 13 June 1930. President Hoover ignored a petition signed by 1,000 economists and refused to exercise his power of veto.

The impact was immediate and devastating. Within 6 months, 33 nations had taken retaliatory action and world trade had collapsed by 25% or so. U.S. national income was cut in half within two years and unemployment virtually trebled. Curtailment of world trade brought depressions in Europe, revolutions in Latin America, riots in India, civil war in China, but Hoover proclaimed ""we have reached a higher degree of comfort and security than ever before existed in the history of the world". By 1932 some 24% of Americans did not have a job and about the same number were nominally employed on farms that despite "protection" were effectively bankrupt. In 1932, Roosevelt won the Presidential Election and Smoot was swept from the Senate. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was effectively moved into office as the economic downturn had become an outright depression, thanks to Smoot.

The Export Division was very badly affected as those markets that were "neutral" with no major manufacturing facilities, felt the adverse effects most severely, in reduced buying power as well as increased competition from other U.S. products. However, relatively satisfactory sales of English and German-sourced vehicles buoyed-up the 1930 to 1932 figures with 20.7% in 1930 of General Motors's overseas volume, 31% in 1931 and 47.7% in 1932. It had become apparent by 1929 that General Motors had to invest more heavily in its European manufacturing sources to protect ist $68 million investment, in the event that General Motors was shut out of the markets because of tariffs, political alliances and loans and import quotas introduced as a retaliation for the Smoot protectionism, since U.S. imports were hampered by the new legislation.

General Motors had invested in the UK because of the expanding and stable home market as well as the threat to American cars in foreign export fields, especially in Australasia, which favoured British goods. If the Corporation were handicapped in those fields then its investment would suffer as a consequence. German manufacture was equally advantageous for the Reich and also for many sections of Continental Europe.

The answer was to earn on the investment made by selling in each market, and from each source, the kind of cars the people in those markets wanted and could afford to buy. This required promoting Vauxhall, and Opel equally as U.S. manufactures. U.S.-made cars sales abroad dropped from 52% in 1929 to 21% in 1932. However, in late 1932 English and German domestic sales exceed the U.S.-sourced volume of General Motors's total overseas trade. This increased, and in 1933 Opel made its first operating profit under General Motors control. Then in early 1933 the Export figures started to swing the opposite way and overseas shipments of General Motors U.S.-sourced cars were 45% greater in the first half of 1933 than in the same period of 1932, and then in June sales were 133% higher than in June 1932, with Vauxhall and Opel sales correspondingly higher.

In 1932, the finance responsibility in the UK was taken-up by a new company Vauxhall & General Finance Limited based in London, which still exists, as General Motors Acceptance Corporation (UK) Ltd. Based in Luton. This company was a subsidiary of General Motors Acceptance Corporation and took over the financing of General Motors vehicles.

By 1929, General Motors Export Division was split into three major Divisions, with General Motors Limited/Vauxhall Motors Limited, and other operating companies, Adam Opel A.G., and the General Motors Export Company, which was responsible for assembling and merchandising organisation for the distribution of all products in the world markets outside the U.S., Canada, Germany and the British Isles.

From 1930, with the transfer of General Motors Limited and Vauxhall Motors Limited and Adam Opel AG out of the Export Division, the new Overseas Operations Group consisted of four territorial regions, each under the charge of a Regional Director, who was responsible in turn to the General Manager in New York, also Vice-President of the Export Company [Graeme K. Howard].

In February 1933, management of the Overseas Operations Group was decentralised, and four Regional Directors were appointed: for Europe; South America & South Africa; Far East and Australasia, with responsibility for all operations in their areas, with HQ in New York. The Regional Managers were also based in New York Home Office, but travelled extensively throughout their regions. These regions were:

EUROPE: Plants in France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Spain and Alexandria, Egypt.
SOUTH AMERICA AND SOUTH AFRICA: Sâo Caetano, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Port Elizabeth, SA. [South American Regional HQ was in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1927, the Arijon Building on the sixth floor: A.J. Hildreth, Assistant Regional Director].
AUSTRALASIA: Australia and Wellington, NZ.
FAR EAST: Osaka, Japan; Bombay, India and Batavia, Java, Netherlands East Indies.

Plus the GENERAL MOTORS EXPORT COMPANY in New York, covering areas not touched by the above, such as Mexico, China, Central and South America apart from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay; Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific Islands. This presumably included Hawaii.

General Motors Limited, Vauxhall and Opel under their General Managers, or rather in the case of General Motors Limited and Vauxhall Motors Limited, Chairmen of the Board and Managing Director, and in the case of Opel, Geheimrat Willhelm von Opel, reported to James D. Mooney. However, Mooney was also a Director of General Motors Limited as well as Adam Opel A.G. General Motors Limited subsequently became merely a "Real Estate" company only from April 1932, leaving Vauxhall and Opel to stand alone.


As mentioned above, early in 1922, General Motors Export Company set up a branch office in Colombo, Ceylon, headed by Innes K.. Randolph, later joined by Graeme K. Howard. This office was closed in 1923 and new offices opened in Bombay and Calcutta, India instead, [see above] with Howard in charge of the former and Randolph the latter. Howard then campaigned for an assembly plant actually in Bombay.

Laurence J. Hartnett was hired by James D. Mooney from Borneo Motors in the Straits Settlements, [Singapore] after he had set up a dealership and sold a large number of Buicks in Singapore and the Malay Federation. [In 1917 the Singapore Distributors for Chevrolet were Wadleigh & Co. Limited].

Laurence J. Hartnett was born in Britain, attended Epsom College, with the ambition to become a doctor, but left school at the age of 16 and joined Vickers as an apprentice. When the Great War broke out, Hartnett joined the RFC and became a pilot. After the War, Hartnett purchased a small motor garage, but yearned for greater things, and when he saw a job advertised in Singapore by the importers, Guthrie and Co.. for an engineer, he applied for, and was given the job. Guthries were initially importers of National engines for stationary units as supplied to rubber plantations, but he then persuaded the company to become Buick car importers as well, and such was his success under the trading name of Borneo Motors that he came to the attention of James Mooney. After three years in Singapore, Hartnett joined General Motors Export Company and was then appointed to India in the position of Zone Manager for South India and Ceylon, based in Calcutta, with G.C. SEARS covering the territory of North and West India from Bombay. However, Hartnett was given permission to leave India after contracting malaria to recuperate after going on a three-month trip around the territory.

After he left the sub-Continent because of his health, Hartnett was put in charge of S.E. Asia handling and administration, under G. K. Howard, who had been promoted Regional Manager for the whole of Asia in 1926, based in Batavia, Netherlands East Indies: GENERAL MOTORS JAVA HANDEL MIJ was incorporated February 3 1927 in Tanjong Priok, Batavia, serving N.E.I., Malay Federation, French Indo-China and Siam.

Following on from his establishment in Batavia, Howard went on to open another assembly Plant in Osaka, Japan in 1927: GENERAL MOTORS JAPAN. However, there was opposition from Bill Sullivan, the Managing Director of General Motors Export Company [under James Mooney as President of course] to the opening of a Plant in India. Despite this, Howard persuaded Sullivan to visit India and as a consequence the project was approved. G.C. Sears of the Bombay Office helped Howard locate a suitable site in Sewri, Bombay, for a Plant building, and on August 25 1928, James D. Mooney announced the establishment of GENERAL MOTORS INDIA LIMITED, and also GENERAL MOTORS POLSCE w Sp. Zo. o, in Warsaw. The work started on the Sewri, Bombay, Plant July 11, 1928 and the Plant opened December 4, with the Warsaw Plant opening in September 1928.

Hartnett excelled in his positions, and rose through the General Motors ranks. By 1927 he was appointed General Manager at GENERAL MOTORS NØRDISKA, S.A. in Stockholm, Sweden, and then in 1929 a Director of Vauxhall Motors Limited of Luton, Bedfordshire which was placed under the control of General Motors Limited. Hartnett had presumably been appointed by Mooney to re-organise Vauxhall, joining the Product Study Group set up by Mooney: Alfred P. Sloan and James D. Mooney set up a Product Study Group to adapt the Chevrolet for the use of Vauxhall in England in the Spring of 1929 as demand had outstripped the ability of Hendon to cope. The initial decision was taken at a special meeting held by James D. Mooney, in his positions as President of General Motors Export Company and a General Motors Corporation Vice-President, with all the Heads of foreign subsidiaries at a regional Conference of the General Motors Overseas Group, held at Shawnee-on-the-Delaware, Pennsylvania, attended by representatives from 28 different countries, including Charles Bartlett of General Motors Limited. This determined the direction to be taken by General Motors Limited, Vauxhall Motors Limited and amongst others, General Motors (Australia) Pty. Ltd. Mooney was of course still a Director and Shareholder of General Motors Limited in addition. Laurence J. Hartnett was appointed to this P.S.G.

F.W. [Federick William] Beard, became an accountant for General Motors (Europe) Limited in 1914. In 1915 he was promoted Assistant Comptroller, and in 1919 Assistant to the Managing Director. In 1921 he was promoted to Secretary and Comptroller of the company, then in 1923 Treasurer and a Director. Beard served as Acting Managing Director during Charles J. Bartlett's attendance at the G.M.O.O., as Managing Director of General Motors Limited. Fred Beard had been a Director of General Motors (Ireland) Limited alongside Lawrence and Mooney, and wound-up the company in 1929, so they also knew each other!

In 1930, Hartnett was appointed Export Director of Vauxhall Motors with a brief from the parent company! General Motors World announced in their September 1930 issue that Vauxhall Motors Limited were launching their new models in September 1930 the Vauxhall VY and VX models. The specifications for export had been determined largely in a report by Laurence J. Hartnett after being sent on an extensive tour on behalf of G.M.O.O. of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia which was made with a view to finding out the requirements of these overseas markets. However, it is clear that although ostensibly sent out as Export director of Vauxhalls, he was in fact on a much more serious commission from James Mooney.

In 1926 the Export Group was formed, with the Export Company consisting merely of distributor territories, with separate operations within the Group, including General Motors Limited, Vauxhall Motors Limited, and the other overseas subsidiaries. Effective 1 February 1926, the Export Group of General Motors adopted a definite plan of organisation and management on the principle of staff and line control. As each company was formed as an overseas assembly operation, control was taken away from the Export Company and placed under the Export group as subsidiaries of General Motors Corporation.

On 22 December 1926, Charles J. Bartlett, General Motors Limited Managing Director and Thomas A. Simpson, Production Manager and Director, sailed on the SS Majestic for New York to visit the New York Office and the factories and attend the NY Automobile Show in January 1927.

In addition, General Motors Acceptance Corporation was located overseas in London in 1920, but otherwise finance was through the Foreign Department in New York. From 1925 G.M.A.C. was located overseas in Antwerp and Copenhagen and then branch offices in several countries as well as subsidiary companies. As from February 1926 the Export Group took on four general functions: manufacture; sales; supply and finance, with a departmental manager in charge of each department. Thus, each assembly operation was joined by the Export Company, which covered sales and supply for each non-assembly country, as well as inter-country sales, plus the General Motors Acceptance Corporation overseas offices. The President of the Export Company, James D. Mooney, was given charge of all operations of the Export Group as well as the manufacturing operations, though in January 1928, the title changed to General Motors Export Division, Mooney also being appointed a Vice-President of General Motors Corporation as well. The Vice-President of the Export Company who was also its General Manager was designated as General Manager of the Export Division but excluding the British and then German operations.

The Export Group/Division General Manager from June 1925 to September 1930 was L.M. Rumley, and he shared the position with W.T. Whalen from 1926 to 1929. In 1930, both Vauxhall Motors Limited and Adam Opel A.G., [acquired 1929-30], were transferred from under the General Motors Export Division to the Export Division Vice-President's control instead, who was in fact G.K. Howard, who was promoted to General Manager to replace Rumley and held the position from September 1930 to 1940, as General Manager of the Export Division, and then the Overseas Operations Group, being appointed General Motors Corporation Vice-President from 1939. As General Manager he would also have been a Vice-President of the Export Division, then in 1932 the Overseas Operations Group, and then in 1938 Overseas Operations. He must have then been promoted President of General Motors Overseas Operations, running from 1941 to 1942, when he resigned. From 1936 to 1937 at least Maurice Clark was General Manager of the Export Company.

With the transfer, General Motors formed the OVERSEAS OPERATIONS GROUP: the Export Division [General Motors Export Company plus the various overseas subsidiaries]; Vauxhall and Opel. In other words, G.M.C. added another tier it seems on top of the Export Division!

In 1933, the policy of decentralised management introduced gave direct operating responsibility to the Regional Directors who then took up residence abroad, instead of being based in New York..

1926 118,791 98,156,088
1927 193,830 171,991,251
1928 282,157 252,152,284
1929 256,721 243,046,031
1930 164,112 155,728,304
1931 125,606 110,525,817
1932 71,159 64,722,793


Export 77.1 10.1 12.8
English 2.7^ 97.3 ---
German 5.5* --- 94.5

OPERATIONS 52.3 20.4 27.3

^ This must include Cadillacs, and a small amount of U.S. parts in British Chevrolets.
* These must include assembly by General Motors GmbH, Berlin, which assembled CKD kits until 1933/4

David Hayward December 2000