Chevrolet Turns 100

Last year, the Detroit-based automaker adopted the tagline "Chevrolet runs deep." Boy, are they right. Over the past century, the all-American automobile manufacturer has zoomed from low-cost Ford alternative to sports-car pioneer to surprisingly brisk seller overseas. Here, how a car company that began as a thumb of the nose at rival General Motors became one of GM's postbankruptcy bright spots.

1911
Ousted GM founder William Durant and car engineer and racing legend Louis Chevrolet start the Chevrolet Motor Car Co. The Chevrolet is the first vehicle to feature a gearshift in the center of the floor. It costs $2,150--equal to about $50,000 today.

1913
Durant so admires the wallpaper in a French motel, he adapts the design for Chevrolet's new bow-tie logo, according to company lore. Other designers see it as a stylized Swiss cross, honoring Louis Chevrolet's homeland.

1953
Chevrolet introduces the Corvette, the first mass- produced sports car. Three hundred of the $3,498 autos are manufactured in the first year. (Today, a 1953 Corvette can run $275,000.)

1955
Chevrolet introduces its small-block V8 engine. It remains in production longer than any other mass-produced engine in the world.

1974
Chevy marketers craft a new jingle, "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet." The campaign is reintroduced in 2006, adding modern American favorites such as "macchiatos" to the tune.

2007
The Volt is unveiled as the first plug-in hybrid concept car by a major manufacturer. Though $40,000 in price, the EpA rates it the most efficient compact car in the U.S., averaging 93 miles per gallon in electric mode.

2011
Two years after its parent company, GM, emerges from bankruptcy, Chevrolet announces an all-time sales record of 2.35 million cars sold in the first half of the year, up 16% over 2010. It seems Chevy is revving up for its second century.

Illustrations by Raymond Biesinger

Thursday, November 3 >>

A version of this article appears in the November 2011 issue of Fast Company.

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