We Have Come To Appraise GM, Not Bury It The Old General Motors passes away. And buried with it, the names of more than 30 models that enlivened the American landscape.
NPR logo We Have Come To Appraise GM, Not Bury It

We Have Come To Appraise GM, Not Bury It

Your GM Decoder Ring

Buried in the obit of the Old General Motors are the names of more than 30 GM models. Read a list of them here.

The Old General Motors is no more. The 100-year-old company lived all over the world — in dozens of countries. It passed away because of national causes on Monday — at the grand a.m. hour of 8 — by falling on its own regal cutlass.

Born in the autumn of 1908 in metro Detroit, Motors took the auto world by storm at a young age. Gobbling up companies left and right, the General experienced a torrent of growth to become — for a time — the largest automobile manufacturing company in the world.

In one two-year feeding firenza (1908-1909), Motors joined forces with several other auto companies. The sky seemed to be the limit. At the prime of its celebrity, Motors became one of the largest corporate employers in the U.S., with a work force of more than 600,000 workers who assembled a spectrum of vehicles.

Life for Motors was a marathon, as well as a sprint and a relay. It suffered setbacks: Its founder, William Durant, resigned in 1920, eventually filing for personal bankruptcy. In 1940, he set out to open a chain of family-style bowling alleys.

Over the years, the General was involved in several complicated intrigues — with well-known internationals such as Toyota of Japan, Saab-Scania AB of Sweden and Daewoo Motor of South Korea. Motors' decades-long relationship with the United Auto Workers was tempest-like.

Motors was brash and brassy, never content to be merely a cavalier carmaker. The General fashioned trucks, vans, buses and other vehicles. Motors dabbled in defense electronics and enjoyed worldwide recognition. When death came, photos of a safari and an impala were found at the Detroit home.

After being schooled in international studies, Motors responded to European carmakers in the mid-20th century by creating smaller cars. It went through significant changes between Eighty Eight and Ninety Eight. But not significant enough. It never quite picked up on the leaner, greener vibe.

In 2008, General Motors' health took a turn for the worse. With gas prices at $4 a gallon, the General began to have difficulty breathing. Hard living and slow-to-change ways were finally taking their toll on the centenarian. Its outlook was grim; it was a silhouette of its former self.

Its downward spiral intensified in 2009, when Obama became president and the economy at large showed unmistakable signs of weakness. Specialists took extreme measures, including a debt-for-equity swap and the surgical removal of more than 1,000 dealers. But the end could not be avoided.

Seen through a prizm darkly, the grand entity known as the Old General Motors is, alas, gone. But there is hope that from the lumina of the funeral pyre will rise a new skylark, a skyhawk, a bright shining sunbird like a supercool, superefficient super nova to light up the auto world again like sunfire.

For now, there is mourning. The deceased leaves behind many closed plants, countless disenchanted shareholders and dealers, and a mountain of debt. Because of its far-flung interests, the company's ashes are being spread at various places across the planet.

The Old General is dead; long live the New General. Sic transit gloria malibu.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.