The Big-3 Innovations & Inventions

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 1900 – 1909

1900 Steering wheel introduced
1901 Speedometers used for the first time
1903 Glass windshields debut
1903 Ford Motor Co. founded
1905 Cadillac produces the single-cylinder Osceola, the first step-in, closed-car design
1906 Buick builds its first production four-cylinder car, the Model D
1908 Faster assembly and fewer repairs result from the introduction of interchangeable parts
1908 William “Billy” Durant forms General Motors Corp.
1908 Ford introduces the Model T

1910 – 1919

1910 Cadillac becomes the first American manufacturer to offer closed bodies as standard
1910 William Durant starts Chevrolet
1912 GM’s Bill Kettering introduces the electric self-starter
1913 Ford’s Highland Park plant becomes the first to use a moving assembly line
1913 First drive-in gas station
1914 First stoplight for traffic control
1916 Federal Aid Road Act provides the first federal funding for state highway construction
1916 Automatic windshield wipers become standard equipment
1917 Ford plays lead role in development and building of Eagle Boats for the U.S. Navy

1920 – 1929

1920 Hydraulic brakes introduced
1921 The first drive-in restaurant opens in Dallas
1922 George Frost invents the car radio
1922 The first suburban shopping center opens
1923 Buick debuts four-wheel brakes
1923 Hertz Drive-Ur-Self becomes the first national car-rental agency
1924 Chrysler debuts with high-compression engines
1924 DuPont introduces a paint that cuts drying time from 30 days to two hours, making it economical to offer automobiles in a variety of colors
1925 Motels begin appearing along American roadways
1925 Ford introduces the first pickup
1926 Ford Airlines begins carrying mail for the U.S. government, making history with the first domestic airmail flight.
1926 Shatter-resistant safety glass debuts
1926 Antifreeze is developed, permitting year-round motoring
1929 Front-wheel drive introduced

1930 – 1939

1930 First supermarket introduced on Long Island, N.Y.
1930 Cadillac introduces the V-16, the industry’s first 16-cylinder engine
1933 Independent front suspension introduced
1934 GM’s two-cycle diesel engine hauls the first American diesel-powered train
1935 Howard Johnson’s becomes the first roadside chain restaurant
1936 Dual-brake system introduced
1937 Pontiac introduces the first column-mounted gearshift
1937 Automatic transmission introduced
1939 Air conditioning introduced

1940 – 1949

1940 Automakers develop a four wheel-drive “general-purpose” vehicle for the American military; Gls soon nickname the GP a “Jeep.”
1942 U.S. automakers suspend civilian vehicle production and change over to armaments
1946 Banks begin to provide drive-through teller windows
1946 7-Eleven opens its first extended-hours convenience story
1946 Radio telephones used for the first time
1948 The first roadside fast-food restaurant opens – a McDonald’s in San Bernadino, Calif.
1948 Tubeless tires debut
1949 The nation’s first prefabricated suburban community, Levittown, sprouts up in a one-time potato field on Long Island
1949 Chrysler innovations include the first key-operated ignition and safety-cushioned dash
1949 Stylist Harley Earl designs “tailfins” for Cadillac, a distinctive feature of American cars in the 1950’s

1950 – 1959

1950 Chevrolet introduces the Powerglide transmission, making Chevy the first to offer a low-priced car with a fully automatic transmission
1950 First use of production seat belts on two Nash models
1950 Chrysler introduces power windows
1952 Power steering debuts
1953 Power brakes are introduced
1953 Chevrolet introduces the first production sports car, the Corvette, with a fiberglass body
1954 GM offers the first four-door “pillarless” hardtops
1955 Walt Disney creates the first theme park at Disneyland
1956 Interstate Highway Act creates a superhighway network, connecting all parts of the nation
1958 Cadillac introduces cruise control

1960 – 1969

1961 Ford introduces its Econoline compact trucks
1962 GM engineers design the concrete highway median safety barrier now used throughout the U.S. highway system
1964 Pontiac’s GTO inspires the American muscle-car craze
1964 Ford introduces the Mustang, selling over 680,000 units it’s first year
1965 CB radio introduced in cars
1965 Ford introduces the 8-track tape player
1966 Collapsible steering wheels introduced
1967 Chevrolet debuts the Camaro, a rival of Ford’s Mustang
1969 GM plays a lead role in developing Apollo 11’s guidance and navigation system for the first lunar landing

1970 – 1979

1970 GM pioneers the use of engines that run on low-lead or unleaded gasoline
1971 The in-dash stereo cassette player is introduced
1971 GM designs and manufactures the Lunar Roving Vehicle for NASA and Apollo 15
1973 GM offers air bags in a production car for the first time
1973 The first GMC motor home is introduced
1974 GM debuts the catalytic converter to comply with the Federal Clean Air Act
1974 Air bags introduced as safety option
1978 Application of computers to factory controls
1979 GM introduces a new line of front-wheel-drive compact cars

1980 – 1989

1981 The pickup becomes the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.
1981 Computer-controlled fuel and ignition systems debut
1983 Chrysler begins production of the first line of minivans
1983 GM announces its Saturn Project, a program using start-to-finish innovation
1984 GM and Toyota form a joint venture (NUMMI) in Fremont, Calif. To produce Nova and Corolla cars
1984 GM acquires data-processing and telecommunications company Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS)
1985 GM acquires Hughes Aircraft Co., a world leader in defense electronics
1987 First factory-installed CD player
1988 Just-in-time delivery principles embraced

1990 – 1999

1990 The first Saturn car rolls off the line at Spring Hill, Tenn.
1990 Sunrayce USA debuts, North America’s largest-ever competition for solar-powered vehicles
1991 Anti-lock brakes become widely available
1992 Built-in child safety seats introduced
1995 GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) tracking systems debut
1996 GM becomes the first automaker in modern times to market a specifically designed electric car to the public with the introduction of the EV1
1996 GM announces that OnStar will be introduced as an option on all 1997 model front-wheel-drive Cadillacs
1998 California test the First Intelligent Traffic System, where computers control traffic flow
1999 GM enters into an agreement with XM to bring satellite radio to its vehicles

2000 – Present

2000 The GM Precept advanced-technology vehicle achieves the fuel-efficiency equivalent of 80 mpg
2001 GM sets 11 new endurance records in tests with HydroGen1 fuel-cell vehicles
2002 GM introduces the autonomy concept vehicle, the first vehicle to combine fuel-cell propulsion with “by-wire” technology
2003 Optional hybrid powertrains introduced
2003 GM and FedEx launch the first commercial test of fuel-cell vehicles for regular service
2004 World’s first full-size hybrid pickup truck introduced
2005 Crossover vehicles gain popularity
2007 GM debuts it’s extended-range electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt