Following the formation of General Motors in 1909, the newly minted company created a new brand named for a road racer, Louis Chevrolet.
The Chevrolet marque joined Buick, Cadillac, Oakland and several smaller brands and eventually became the mainstream product line for GM. Today, Chevrolet is one of the largest and most recognizable car brands in the world.
Founded in 1911, Chevrolet’s trademark bow-tie emblem appeared two years later and has been used in some form ever since. Its origin is unclear, but the fact that it was supplied by company cofounder William C. Durant is beyond question.
The first model to incorporate Chevrolet specific features was the 1914 Chevrolet Royal Mail Roadster. That model had an advanced four-cylinder engine with overhead valves, as well as accessories that were previously found only on premium models, such as a speedometer, a windshield and a top. The roadster set the course for the Chevrolet brand as the company sought to mass produce cars outfitted with the accessories consumers wanted.
In the 1920s, Chevrolet began to challenge Dodge and Ford, the two top mainstream brands of that era. In 1923, the Chevrolet Superior was released, a volume model that enabled Chevrolet to overtake Ford, at least briefly. Indeed, throughout the decades leading up to World War II, Chevrolet and Ford battled for market supremacy with each make releasing new designs, incorporating larger and more powerful engines and finding ways to sell more cars for less money.
After the war, Chevrolet updated its product line and added the iconic Corvette sports car in 1953. The brand also found success with its truck line, including its half-ton Chevrolet Pickup released in 1948 and the Chevrolet Suburban, a model first launched in 1935. In the late 1950s, the Chevrolet Bel Air line was instantly successful and remains a favorite amongst collectors to this day.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Chevrolet brought out a succession of new models, including the Impala, Corvair, Chevelle, Camaro and the El Camino. With the gas crunch of the 1970s, smaller models such as the Vega, Chevette and Monza debuted as GM responded to competition from Japan, especially Toyota, Honda and Datsun.
Decisions made by GM management hamstrung Chevrolet during the 1980s and 1990s, including creating the Saturn brand to compete against Japan. Nevertheless, new and smaller models such as the Cavalier, S-10 pickup and captive imports from Japanese partners such as Suzuki and Isuzu helped the brand compete. The company also relied on its larger vehicles such as its Chevrolet C/K (Silverado) pickup truck to stoke sales.
Since the millennium, the Chevrolet brand has survived a corporate bankruptcy and restructuring. Newer models include the Sonic subcompact, Cruze and the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt.
Chevrolet’s chief rival is Ford, but a host of other mainstream brands are regularly shopped by consumers. These include: Dodge, Toyota, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Honda, Kia, Nissan, Subaru, Ram, Mazda, Jeep and Mitsubishi.