Video: GM Builds 25 Million Cars, 1940

general-motors-25-million-carsSee General Motors Chairman Alfred P. Sloan and President William S. Knudsen up close and personal in this 1940 newsreel clip that celebrates the production of GM’s 25 millionth car. 



Thursday, January 11, 1940 was a red-letter day for General Motors, marking the production of 25 million cars. And however they determine these things, it was fitting that a 1940 Chevrolet Special Deluxe Sedan was picked off the assembly line to accept the honors, as in those years, Chevrolet outsold the other GM car divisions (Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac) combined. The ceremony took place at the main Chevrolet assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, the 100-acre riverfront complex that was known for decades as “Chevy in the hole.”

This original newsreel recording of the historic achievement stars two of the architects of GM’s success, Chairman Alfred P. Sloan and President William S. Knudsen. Sloan provided the guidance in finance and executive organization, while Knudsen’s expertise was in operations and manufacturing. Though Knudsen had been in America 40 years by this time, having immigrated from Denmark in 1900 at age 21, his familiar Scandinavian accent can still be heard, and throughout his career, it is said, he remained a humble and warm-hearted man.

Big Bill Knudsen’s contributions to the auto industry are many. At Ford, he played a major role in developing the Model T’s high-volume production methods; then, moving on to GM, he built Chevrolet into America’s best-selling car. As Director of War Production in World War II, he helped to organize and lead the unprecedented industrial machine that President Franklin Roosevelt called the “arsenal of democracy,” and he was the father of Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen, a top automotive executive who, like his dad, also served at both GM and Ford. Here’s a rare opportunity to see Big Bill up close and in person. Video below.


One thought on “Video: GM Builds 25 Million Cars, 1940

  1. That was fascinating, thanks. I always thought Sloan looked like Scrooge in the illustrated Dickens, but here he looks cheerful.

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