The Rapid Motor Vehicle Company was founded in 1901 by Max Grabowsky, an automotive engineer. In 1909, newly formed General Motors bought the company and renamed it GMC Trucks. Today, GMC is one of four GM brands sold in North America and is the second largest in terms of sales after Chevrolet.
The first trucks to sport the GMC Truck label were produced in 1912. Beginning in 1920 and continuing through the present day, GMC and Chevrolet trucks have been nearly identical, although grille and badge differences as well as trim level distinctions are present. Chevrolet trucks are geared toward retail customers, while the GMC line targets commercial accounts. Today, most Buick and GMC dealerships are located under one roof.
GMC also had a presence in the heavy-duty truck market, producing conventional rigs and medium-duty trucks for decades. In the 1970s, the brand built motorhomes for six years and also produced commercial transit and public school buses for more than 60 years. GMC has since sold or discontinued its medium- and heavy-duty truck lines and sold it bus operation.
Some of the more noteworthy GMC products of long ago include its C and E Series pickup trucks, which were built from 1941 to 1947 (except for several years during World War II). This truck line marked the first time GM gave its pickups a distinct appearance apart from its car lines.
From the late 1940s to 1960, GMC and Chevrolet matched the changes rival Ford was making with its F-Series pickup truck line. GMC offered half-ton, three-quarter-ton, and one-ton pickups marked by chrome grilles, clamshell hoods, split screen windshields and a family of inline six-cylinder engines. Two V8 engines appeared later.
In 1960, the Chevrolet and GMC full-size truck lines shared a common model name, C/K, for most of the ensuing four decades. Over the course of 38 years, four generational changes, multiple refreshes and an assortment of body styles came and went. In 1998, a new generation of trucks was released and the Sierra name was introduced.
Other GMC models from the past included the GMC Sprint/Cabellero, twin to the Chevrolet El Camino and produced from the early 1970s to the late 1980s. In the early 1980s GMC received its first small truck, the S-15, which later became the GMC Sonoma. The Sonoma was replaced by the GMC Canyon, currently sold as a midsize pickup truck.
Beginning in the 1960s, GMC sold a number of vans, most recently the GMC Safari and the current Savana. SUVs have played no small part in the brand’s development, with GMC sharing the Suburban nameplate with Chevrolet from the 1930s to 2000 when the GMC model was renamed the Yukon XL. That SUV lineup has only grown and includes the compact Terrain, the midsize Acadia and both the Yukon and Yukon XL. The GMC Envoy and GMC Jimmy are among the more recently retired models for this brand.
Beside Chevrolet trucks and Ford, there are several manufacturers that compete directly with GMC, including Jeep and Ram. Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Mazda each have SUVs, trucks or both that can be cross-shopped with GMC.