Ask the Best and Brightest: Where Would GM Be Today If the Feds Had Broken-Up The Company?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

In 1955, GM company reps testified at the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly was unhappy that The General’s five auto divisions accounted for 50.76 percent of all cars sold in the U.S. (peaking at 55 percent in 1956). The same year, GM CEO Harlow Curtice was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.” “Because of the success of the American economic system, the U.S. rolled through 1955 in two-toned splendor to an all time crest of prosperity, heralded around the world. Much of this prosperity was directly attributable to the manufacture and sale of that quintessential American product, the automobile. Some 8,000,000 of them were produced and sold, and a good half of them were made and marketed by General Motors under the direction of President Harlow Herbert Curtice—the Man of the Year. Yet this production alone would not make Harlow Herbert Curtice, 62, the Man of the Year. Nor would the fact that he is president of the world’s biggest manufacturing corporation—and the first president of a corporation—and the first president of a corporation to make more than $1 billion in net profits in a year. Curtice is not the Man of 1955 because these phenomenal figures measure him off as first among scores of equals whose skill, daring and foresight are forever opening new frontiers for the expanding American economy by granting millions to colleges, making new toasters that pop up twice as fast, or planning satellites to circle the earth. Harlow Curtice is the Man of 1955 because, in a job that required it, he has assumed the responsibility of leadership for American business. In his words ‘General Motors must always lead.'”

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  • 200k-min 200k-min on Nov 06, 2008

    There are so many "what if's" in the auto buiz. What if Ford had bought Volkswagen after WWII? They were offered it at bargain basement prices. Good chance that would've muted German competition. What if the US Military hadn't given Toyota a massive contract for trucks during the Korean War? That most certinaly pushed a struggling company into the black. What if Chrysler never got their bailout? Would AMC be alive and well? Would we have ever got the minivan? So, if GM had been busted up in the 50's would they had eventually remerged? Maybe Ford would've been the dominant player. Maybe...maybe..maybe.

  • Nikita Nikita on Nov 06, 2008

    "The GM Assembly Division was created around 1970 mainly to bolt together all of GM’s cars, taking away that responsibility from the individual divisions. ... As the years went by, this mindset expanded from the parts under the sheet metal to the sheet metal itself; so the customers could SEE the close relationship between the makes." Fisher Body had forced a lot of commonality long before GMAD. Doors, glass, roof panels and more were already the same across divisions by 1955.

  • Engineer Engineer on Nov 06, 2008

    Flashpoint: #2 These factories are to produce cars that DO NOT USE FOSSIL FUELS. The Chevy Volt for example and whatever electric/fuel cell cars Chrysler and Ford have on the drawing boards would be the start of production, followed by more models later on. Hehehe... And let's ask Mr. Obama to walk on water while he's at it... I guess Flash is unaware that the bulk of US electricty is produced burning FOSSIL FUELS. So after spending all that money, you have achieved pretty much... nothing. But hey, Uncle Sam is great at that. See Corn Ethanol for more entertaining adventures of your tax dollars [s]going to wealthy lobbyists[/s] at work. As for hydrogen: Think battery that leaks and explodes. Add to that a fuel that can't be transported economically, or stored without spending a ton of $$$. The Shrinking 2.8 have more than enough on their plates just trying to survive. Let's not task them with saving the plant from global warming all by themselves, right now. Nothing wrong with encouraging the recipients of Uncle Sam's bailout bucks to produce more fuel efficient vehicles. But barring any better ideas I vote for CAFE standards. Assuming the elegant solution (gas tax, anyone?) is dead.

  • Davey49 Davey49 on Nov 06, 2008

    Isn't Verizon bigger than the current AT&T? They aren't the same company. Verizon is a baby Bell. I think if GM was broken up in the 50s we would have just Chevrolet and Cadillac now. Chevrolet would be as big as GM is now, perhaps with the same problems. Cadillac would be smaller, possibly owned by a European company.