By Phin Upham
American cars have a uniquely American swagger about them, and it’s common for people to debate over which ones are the best ones. Among those hardcore fans, there are always two major houses that stand the tallest. Ford and Chevrolet. Both have a long standing history in the automotive world, and both are still driving forces in the industry today.
The company many of us refer to as “Chevy” began in 1911. It was started as a division of General Motors, another important name in American automotive manufacturing. Louis Chevrolet started the company with William C. Durant, and the two were so successful that Durant purchased General Motors in 1918 in a reverse merger. This was important because Durant was reclaiming his spot in GM’s corporate history as its president.
His tenure lasted only a year before he was ousted a second time in favor of a man named Alfred Sloan. Sloan chose Chevrolet as his flagship brand, and he decided to compete directly with Henry Ford by manufacturing mainstream cars meant for the every man. At the time, Ford’s Model-T was the best-selling car in the United States and Chevy intended on beating that.
Whether they did or did not is a question best left up to auto enthusiasts, but it’s clear both companies were wildly successful. Today, GM cars are marketed and sold all over the world. One can buy a Chevrolet in Europe, thanks to a recent re-launch of the brand in 2005, and you can even find Chevys in Russia.
Phin Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or LinkedIn page.
Written by Phin Upham
In 1947, Chung Ju-Yung founded an engineering and construction company he called “Hyundai.” It took twenty years for Ju-Yung to go beyond construction and into motorcars, releasing his first in partnership with Ford in 1968. But Hyundai wasn’t satisfied with resting his company laurels on this joint venture.
He hired George Turnbull along with five other top British automotive engineers. They designed and built the Pony, a small 4-door sedan that used rear-wheel drive to get around. The first exports went to Ecuador, then to Benelux.
Hyundai brought the Pony to Canada in 1984, but the vehicle couldn’t pass the strict emissions standards set by America. The Pony quickly became the top selling car in Canada, and Hyundai rolled its one millionth car off the assembly line in 1985.
A year later, Hyundai brought the Excel to the United States. Fortune called it the tenth best product of the year, owed almost entirely to its affordability. The Sonata, a line that continues today, went into production in 1988. By ’91, the company had developed a proprietary gasoline engine it called the Alpha. It also built its own transmission, which helped to create technological independence for Hyundai.
An Indian division began production in 1996, but the big break came in 2004 when J.D. Power named Hyundai the second best brand in initial quality. Hyundai also gained significant market share after its sponsorship of the 2002 World Cup, a deal which still continues today.