At the turn of the 20th century there were fewer than 8,000 automobiles in America, many of them powered by steam or electricity, others had gasoline engines. An unexpected turnout at the first New York Auto Show in 1900, showed the magnitude of the public’s fascination with the automobile. Over the next few years, hundreds of fledgling companies would try to meet the demands of a growing market.
General Motors was founded by William “Billy” Durant on September 16, 1908. Durant had become a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles in Flint, MI before making his foray into the automobile industry. At its inception GM held only the Buick Motor Company, but in a matter of years would acquire more than 20 companies including Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Oakland, today known as Pontiac.
In Germany, a company named Opel began by manufacturing dependable sewing machines. Opel became a brand recognized worldwide after adding bicycles to their product arsenal. In 1899, Opel entered the growing automobile market with the Opel-Patent-Motorwagen System Lutzmann and became a part of General Motors thirty years later.