It’s a well-known fact that the “Big Three” are made up by General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and Ford Motor Company. It’s also known that these three companies started in Detroit. But what things are not as well-known about Michigan’s automotive history?

Here’s a timeline we’ve put together:

  • Henry Ford unveils his first car in 1896 – it’s called the Quadricycle and had 4 horsepower gas engine
    • Disclaimer: He was not the first to invent the car, Karl Benz takes credit there
  • Ransom E. Olds founded Olds Motor Works in 1897 – which is known for building the classic Oldsmobile with the first assembly line
    • Disclaimer: Yes, Henry Ford did not invent the first assembly line
  • After a couple failed attempts at establishing a company, Henry Ford along with various investors develop Ford Motor Company in 1903
  • Also in 1903 the development of the Packard Plant began in Detroit, owned by the Packard Automotive Company which shut its doors in 1956
  • The first Detroit Auto Show occurred in 1907 after the formation of the Detroit Area Dealer Association
  • In September 1908, William Durant incorporates General Motors with Buick as the holding company – the same year Ford introduces the Model T, becoming one of the most well-known cars to date
  • Ford begins construction of the Dearborn-based River Rouge Complex in 1917, which would become the largest integrated factory in the world by the following decade
  • Walter Chrysler incorporates Chrysler Corporation in 1925, bringing the original Chrysler 6 to the forefront as the top automobile of the time
  • Designed by Harley Earl in 1938, GM unveiled the world’s first concept car
  • During World War II, Chrysler received a contract to build a plant in Warren, Michigan to assemble tanks for the U.S. Army in 1940
  • In 1950, Detroit hits 1.85 million in population and offers 296,000 manufacturing jobs
  • The Ford Mustang goes on sale in 1964, becoming a cultural icon. But GM is quick to the jump as well with the “first” muscle car, the Pontiac GTO
  • Chrysler moves it’s new World Headquarters to Auburn Hills, Michigan in 1996, the same year GM buys the Renaissance Center
  • And a year we all know too well – 2008 – the “Big Three” receive a bailout from the United State federal government

While there are plenty more milestones to mention about the “Big Three” and other auto giants from Detroit, we thought these were important to mention. Everyone loves a few good myth busters too!

Photo Credit: JOHN LLOYD