A Timeline of American Automotive Brands, Current and Defunct

"Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet: They go together in the good ol' USA." This commercial jingle from more than 40 years ago is still an icon of American culture to many, as Americans have always been known for their love affair with cars. Chevrolet is a great example of a classic American car company, with the brand having been in the market for more than 100 years, since the first Chevy was produced 1911.

How long have other American car brands been on the market? This infographic explores the past of the American automotive industry to see when American-made cars got their start and when many of them went defunct. With more than 100 types of car brands included, you're sure to spot an unfamiliar name or two. This list spans from the first American car brands on the market, like the aptly named Oldsmobile, the oldest on the list, to newer electric vehicle brands, which the automotive industry has seen an influx of over the past decade.

If there is anything this long list of car brands proves, it's that Americans not only love driving their vehicles, but they like to have a lot of options to choose from. There are many American car manufacturers that recognized and capitalized on this fact, even though a good portion of them have gone under over the past century.

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What Is the Oldest Car Brand in the United States?

The oldest car brand in the U.S. is Oldsmobile, which got its start in 1897 as the Olds Motor Vehicle Company and was taken over by General Motors in 1908. It was an active car brand until 2004, when production was stopped due to the brand no longer being profitable. When Oldsmobile was shut down, it was the oldest American automobile brand as well as one of the oldest in the entire world. During its time in the market, Oldsmobile produced more than 35 million vehicles.

The oldest surviving American-made car brand today is Buick, which first appeared on the automotive market in 1899 and is still in production today. It started out as the Buick Motor Company, but in 1908, ownership of the Buick brand was transferred to General Motors. Buick has been credited with helping to create one of the longest-lasting and largest American automobile manufacturers in the industry today. General Motors has built more than 500 million vehicles since it got its start, an amazing feat and more than any other automaker.

What Was the First American Car Brand to Be Defunct?

The first car brand to be defunct in America was the Reliable Dayton, a high-wheeler automobile that started being produced by the Reliable Dayton Motor Car Co. in 1906 and halted production just three years later, in 1909.

American automotive brands have gone defunct for a variety of reasons, such as their parent company going bankrupt, parts pipelines drying up or the brand being phased out due to unprofitability. Another reason for some car brands going defunct has been mergers of car manufacturers in which they chose to focus on the more profitable brand of just one of the companies.

The merger of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Motor Car Company into the American Motors Corporation in 1954 was the largest corporate merger in U.S. history at the time. The American Motors Corporation had intermittent success during its time in the automotive market but was ultimately taken over by Chrysler in the late 1980s.

Another reason for some American car brands going defunct in the middle of the 20th century was restrictions placed on automotive production during World War II. No cars, trucks, or even auto parts were allowed to be made from February 1942 through October 1945. For the duration of the war, there was a stockpile of a half-million cars that were only available to those who were considered to be "essential drivers".

Who Are the Big Three of American Automobile Manufacturers?

The "Big Three" is a term that the automotive industry uses to refer to a country's three largest automobile manufacturers. In the United States, these three largest automobile manufacturers are General Motors, the Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), which used to be called the Chrysler Corporation until the merger of Fiat and Chrysler in 2014.

What Was the First Electric Car Brand Produced in the United States?

The first electric car brand in the U.S. was Detroit Electric, which started being produced in 1907 by the Anderson Electric Car Company. When compared to the hand-cranking that was necessary to start an internal combustion engine, the ease of starting a Detroit Electric made them popular automobiles among women and physicians for quick trips around town.

Many may have thought that Tesla is the first electric car brand, but they are far from it. Even in the modern era, the Brammo brand was introduced to the electric vehicle market in 2002, with Tesla trailing close behind with their own electric vehicle brand, which came to the market the following year. Six other electric car brands have come into production over the past decade, a positive sign that the automotive industry will be moving in a more sustainable direction in the years to come.


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