A Wolfsonian Reflection on This Date in History: The Chevrolet Motor Company Founded

Today I thought that I would send off the briefest of blog posts to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of the Chevrolet Motor Car Company on November 3, 1911, as an excuse to show off some images from an early company sales catalog in our collection.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchased with funds from FIU’s Liberal Studies Program

The Chevrolet Motor Car Company was formed when Swiss race car driver and automotive engineer Louis Chevrolet joined forces with recently ousted General Motors founder William C. Durant to create a new company in Detroit. Durant’s son-in-law, Edwin R. Campbell, and the manufacturer of the Little automobile, William Little joined in as investors in the company, which Durant used to acquire a controlling stake in GM with a reverse merger in 1918.

The Chevrolet was designed to compete economically with automobile assembly line pioneer Henry Ford’s Model T.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchased with funds from FIU’s Liberal Studies Program

In his desire to keep down costs, Henry Ford strenuously resisted efforts by company executives to innovate and offer luxury options, features, brands, or even color variations. Ford was once famously quoted as saying that “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Lisa Li Celorio and Ricardo J. Celorio

In contrast, after 1919 Chevrolet branded itself as a company committed to producing “a car for every purse and purpose.” As can be seen from the models illustrated in this catalog, Chevrolet offered a much wider variety of colors, features, and models in an attempt to appeal to a slightly more affluent consumer.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchased with funds from FIU’s Liberal Studies Program

The Chevrolet approach proved decisive and by 1929, sales of the Chevrolet brand of automobiles surpassed those of the Ford Motor Company.

~ by "The Chief" on November 3, 2016.

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