100 years of Chevrolet: How a Swiss invented Corvette, Camaro and Impala

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How a Swiss invented Corvette, Camaro and Impala

100 years of Chevrolet: How a Swiss invented Corvette, Camaro and Impala-Chevrolet

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Luxury for two, the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette.

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100 years of Chevrolet: How a Swiss invented Corvette, Camaro and Impala-Louis

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1955 Chevy Bel Air Convertible.

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100 years of Chevrolet: How a Swiss invented Corvette, Camaro and Impala-Louis

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1958 Chevrolet Impala Convertible.

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100 years of Chevrolet: How a Swiss invented Corvette, Camaro and Impala-Louis

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1960 Chevy Corvair.

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100 years of Chevrolet: How a Swiss invented Corvette, Camaro and Impala-Corvette

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1963 Corvette Stingray.

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100 years of Chevrolet: How a Swiss invented Corvette, Camaro and Impala-Chevrolet

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1967 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible.

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100 years of Chevrolet: How a Swiss invented Corvette, Camaro and Impala-Chevrolet

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Chevrolet Chevette SS from 1976.

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100 years of Chevrolet: How a Swiss invented Corvette, Camaro and Impala-Corvette

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The model range from 2011, today Chevrolet is the strongest brand at General Motors.

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Off-road vehicles, minivans, the first crossover and turbo gasoline engine were invented by a racing driver from Europe. He died alone and impoverished in Detroit.

E.t was the Swiss racing driver and automobile pioneer Louis Chevrolet, who, together with the American entrepreneur William C. Durant, laid the foundation stone for the Chevrolet Motor Car Company on November 3, 1911 in Detroit. From humble beginnings, the leading brand of the General Motors group quickly developed and thus Henry Ford’s toughest rival in the battle for first place in the USA and on the world market.

By then, Louis Chevrolet and William Durant had long since parted ways. Chevrolet died impoverished in 1941 and alone in his home in Lakewood near Detroit, while the Chevrolet brand in the GM group survived all economic storms and subsequently launched legendary model series such as Suburban, Corvette, Camaro and Impala.

Today, Chevrolet is represented in over 130 countries with annual sales of more than 3.5 million vehicles, including in Germany and Europe since 2005 as the successor to GM’s Korean subsidiary Daewoo.

Chevrolet as Ford’s toughest opponent

As early as 1922, Chevrolet had advanced to become a production millionaire and most dangerous opponent for Ford. In 1927, one million cars were sold in the USA for the first time, thus overtaking Ford as the market leader. Like its eternal rival, Chevrolet also expanded into Europe during those years.

"Value for money" was the corporate motto at Chevrolet. Innovations such as the first standard car radio (1924), a six-cylinder gasoline engine for vans (1929), the first American independent front suspension (1934) and the Suburban model range (1935) as the forerunner of all modern SUVs and minivans supported the continuing upswing with the Chevrolet even survived the years of the Great Depression.

Also in the post-war decades saw premieres such as the first large-scale fully automatic transmission (1950), the first American gasoline injection (1957), the El Camino as the first crossover between a practical pickup and a comfortable car (1958) and the Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder as the first gasoline engine with turbocharging (1962) always new trends.

A power plant called "wildcat"

This also included powerful engines at comparatively low prices. The small-block V-8 of 1955 ushered in the era of particularly robust high-performance engines. For more than 50 years, the power plant, respectfully known by fans as “wildcat”, has been installed in limousines, sports cars, SUVs and trucks of the brand under the sign of the bowtie.

Exceptional design has always been one of Chevrolet’s successes, and quite a few models have even become American automobile icons. The soaring wings of the 1957 Chevy Bel Air reflected the optimism of the jet age, while the excitingly drawn 1963 Corvette Stingray is one of the most beautiful vehicles of all time for quite a few experts.

The Camaro, introduced in 1967, competed successfully against the Ford Mustang as a stylish, sporty "pony car".

However, the Corvair rear-engined model took an inglorious front position in the top group of the biggest flops in automotive history. The controversial consumer attorney Ralph Nader brought the Corvair into the headlines in 1965 with his book "Unsafe at any speed" because of allegedly dangerous driving behavior.

Tough competition from Japanese brands

At the beginning of the seventies, Chevrolet had to fight off completely different dangers: The importers, and above all the Japanese, were gaining more and more market shares in the USA. Events like the first oil crisis accelerated this process. Chevrolet responded with a global orientation for the brand and world cars like the Chevette, which shared its platform with the 1973 Opel Kadett C..

The 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier started out as the Opel Ascona in Germany, was marketed under different names around the world and eventually even served as the basis for the Daewoo Espero in Korea. Daewoo, in turn, was taken over by General Motors in 2002 and served as a springboard for GM to relaunch the Chevrolet brand in Europe in 2005.

Today the Chevrolet brand is both an original American myth and an icon, a worldwide symbol for the American winner on the road. It is noteworthy that the success story of the world’s fourth largest automobile brand in terms of sales figures has European origins, just like with most of the major manufacturers from the early days of the automobile.

Chevrolet was the first to repair bicycles

Automobile pioneer Louis Chevrolet had to work in a French bicycle workshop at the age of eleven. Here, one day, he successfully repaired the steam tricycle of the American multimillionaire Vanderbilt, who then promised the talented Chevrolet work for automobile companies in the USA.

In fact, a little later he got a job at the American branches of De Dion-Bouton and Fiat. But as early as 1905, Louis Chevrolet began a career as a racing driver and designer of sports cars. This was so successful that the Boston entrepreneur William "Billy" Durant wanted to win him over as a business partner.

Durant had founded General Motors in 1908, and now the sonorous name Chevrolet was to be added as a further brand, especially since Louis Chevrolet was also successful as an engineer and designer. In the company founded in 1911 with Durant, Louis Chevrolet demonstrated these talents above all with the Chevrolet Type C, which had sensational electric headlights and an electric starter at the time. Until 1914, Louis Chevrolet designed and drawn all the models that bore his name with great enthusiasm, but then it came to a head.

Billy Durant called for a change in corporate strategy and demanded inexpensive models with which to attack Ford’s T-Model. The motor sportsman Louis Chevrolet, on the other hand, insisted on the development of more exclusive and faster high-performance models.

When Durant took advantage of Chevrolet’s vacation absence to create facts, Chevrolet left the company deeply injured. While Durant’s Chevrolet brand was soaring, Louis Chevrolet’s further life was almost tragic. The brilliant racing driver and engineer founded several automobile and aeronautical companies, but all of them failed. In the end, Chevrolet made a living as a mechanic in the factory of his former company in Detroit.

Durant also lost all of his fortune

However, after only a few years, William Durant also lost his luck. He managed to introduce the Chevrolet 490 in 1915 for just $ 490, five dollars less than the Ford Model T. He was also able to bring Chevrolet under the umbrella of General Motors Corporation in 1918, but then Durant first lost the company management and ultimately all of his fortune in the Depression of the 1920s.

On the brand’s 100th birthday, Chevrolet made the start into the electric age. With the Volt, which is sold in Germany as the Opel Ampera, Chevrolet wants to finally overcome the existential crisis of the parent company General Motors and revive the myth of the brand.

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