One of the most famous names in the history of automobiles celebrates its 100th anniversary this week. On 3 November, 1911, one of the great early car entrepreneurs, William C Durant, went into business with a Swiss racing driver and mechanic who gave the brand its name: Louis Chevrolet.
The Chevy was one of the great American cultural icons of the 20th century and, despite well-publicised issues suffered by its parent General Motors during the financial crisis, is still going strong.
Durant and Chevrolet’s first car was the Classic Six, and since then it has been responsible for some of the most famous brands in the US market – from the Corvette to the Suburban, one of the earliest “Carry-all” vehicles seating eight people and first offered by Chevrolet in the 1930s. Its 1950s cars with their distinctive tail-fins are archetypes of the era, while the Chevy brand has inspired songwriters from Don McLean to ZZ Top.
American consumers were urged to “See the USA in your Chevrolet”. Its “bowtie” logo is said to have been based on a wallpaper design from a Paris hotel Durant stayed in, though accounts differ.
General Motors, in which Chevrolet is the biggest brand, survived the Great Depression, slashing its prices in 1931 as the US economy slumped. But fierce competition from the far east, as well as the global financial crisis, led to GM filing for bankruptcy protection in June 2009. It emerged as a slimmer entity – and still owning the Chevrolet marque – only 40 days later, eventually re-listing in November of last year.