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US Car Brands

The US has one of the largest car markets in the world. Every year more than 8 million passenger vehicles are produced, and in some years production reaches 13-15 millions.
The total number of US auto brands, including those that ceased to exist, is more than 2000.
There are over 10 manufacturers, but when it comes to major ones we can name only three: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. Each of them has a diverse product range, including different categories of cars. Actually, the very same companies have dominated the market since the end of the 1920s. About a century ago, there were hundreds of car manufactures, but not many of them survived the Great Depression and World War II. However, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler continued to prosper even in difficult historic periods. By the 1950s 75% (8 millions) of all cars produced in the world (10.5 millions) were made in the US.
The Big Three, as these companies are often referred to, share a similar business model. Many of their operations are unionized, which results in higher labor costs.
General Motors
Formal name: The General Motors Company
Founded: 1908
Headquarters: Detroit, Michigan
Type: Public company
The largest American automaker. From 1931 through 2007, Ford was the world’s leader in car sales, and it still is the top automobile manufacturer in the world by vehicle unit sales.
Produces cars under 13 brands, including Chevrolet, Buick, and Opel. Owns 20% of IMM and 77% of GM Korea. Has several joint-ventures in different parts of the world, from China, Russia, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan to India, Egypt, and South Africa. General Motors Company has production facilities in almost 40 countries.
Ford
Formal name: The Ford Motor Company
Founded: 1903
Headquarters: Dearborn, Michigan
Type: Public company
Ford is the second-largest US car manufacturer, and in the list of the world’s top automakers published in 2010 it occupied the fifth line. In addition to the Ford marque, the company produces cars under the Lincoln brand.
The product line includes sedans, crossovers, SUVs, trucks, and vans. One can also name several hybrid models. In 2013, the Ford Focus has been nominated as the best-sold small car.
The following manufacturers are partly or completely controlled by Ford:
- Troller (Brazil, produces SUVs)
- FPV (Australia, produces performance cars)
- Mazda (2.1%)
- Aston Martin (8%)
- Jiangling (China, 49%).
Ford has several joint-ventures all over the world, including China, Thailand, Turkey, and Russia. The company founded by Henry Ford is still controlled by his descendants, though they have minority ownership.
Chrysler
Formal name: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Founded: 1925
Headquarters: Auburn Hills, Michigan
Type: Limited liability company
Parent company: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (London, UK)
The third-largest automaker in the US. In 2014, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US was the seventh-largest car manufacturer in the world by production. In addition to selling cars under the Chrysler brand, the company also produces vehicles under such well-known marques as Dodge, Jeep, and Ram.
The history of the company dates back to 1925, when the Chrysler Corporation was formed out of the Maxwell Motor Company. The acquisition of the Fargo truck producer and the Dodge Brothers Company in 1928 resulted in great expansion. In three decades, Chrysler made its way to Europe by purchasing several car companies in France, Great Britain, and Spain.
However, due to unstable economic situation in the 1970s the automaker was forced to leave Europe. It was on the verge of bankruptcy at the time. Success returned in the 1980s, and it was to a large extent associated with the work of Chrysler’s famous CEO Lee Iacocca. It was during this period that the Jeep marque was bought. In 1998, the company merged with Daimler-Benz, and almost ten years later it was acquired by Cerberus Capital Management. In spite of the crisis of 2008–2010, Chrysler managed to remain in car making business. In 2014 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was formed by merging with Fiat S.p.A.
Chevrolet
Parent company: General Motors
Active: 1910–present
Based in: Detroit, Michigan
Together with Cadillac, Buick, and GMC, the Chevrolet Division of General Motors Company is one of the four core divisions of GM in the North America. The number of models in production exceeds 30, and in addition to them, there are 27 discontinued models. Chevrolet sells over a million cars annually.
Chevy’s history started in 1910. The founders of the company were a race driver from Switzerland Louis Chevrolet and the ex-director of General Motors William Durant. One of the most famous cars is the powerful Camaro ZL1 having a V8 engine (580 horsepower).
Cadillac
Belongs to: General Motors
Active: 1902–present
Based in: New York City
Cars sold a year: 190,000 (2013)
Famous for its luxurious cars, Cadillac is the only US brand that won the Dewar award. The production output has been rising tremendously since 2007, and today it is close to 200,000. Cadillac Escalade, which was launched in 2015, will probably boost the sales figures. Although Cadillac has rather strong rivals in Europe, including Mercedes and Audi, the company decided to grow its sales in Asia. Another recent decision – to start producing cars in China.
Buick
Belongs to: General Motors
Active: 1903–present (the oldest existing American brand)
Based in: Detroit, Michigan
Cars sold a year: 1,170,000 (2014)
Another division of the General Motors, Buick is a premium marque, famous for its entry-level luxury vehicles. They fit somewhere in between Chevrolet and Cadillac. In the resent years the General Motors has positioned Buick in the same niche as its German Opel brand.
GMC
Belongs to: General Motors
Produced: 1901–present
Based in: Detroit, Michigan
Affordable trucks and utility vehicles produced under this brand are sold in North America and the Middle East. Some models (the GMC Terrain, for instance) are widely recognized as top compact and crossover SUVs.
Dodge
Belongs to: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Active: 1900–present
Based in: Auburn Hills, Michigan
For a long time it was Chrysler's mid-priced marque positioned a bit higher than Plymouth. Today Dodge sells lower-priced models of minivans and sport utility vehicles. In spite of the fact that the product range includes performance cars, Dodge performs much better in the truck department. Dodge Caravan has been among its most popular models, as well as the Charger and Challenger. The number of models still in production is slightly above 10. Most of them are typically American made cars.
Jeep
Belongs to: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Active: 1941–present
Based in: Toledo, Ohio
A division of FCA US LLC, Jeep produces only sport utility vehicles and off-road vehicles. However, in the past the product range also included pickup trucks.
During the World War II the spartan and functional off-road vehicles became a symbol of American determination. The first civilian cars were launched in 1945, inspiring some other light utility vehicles. Chrysler purchased the Jeep marque along with other assets of American Motors in 1987.
The brand’s recent success is Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is widely recognized among the most affordable midsize SUVs. It is appraised for its great off-road performance.
Tesla Motors
Belongs to: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Active: 2004–present
Based in: Altenburg, Thuringia, Germany
In spite of its young age, Tesla Motors has gained recognition all over the world for its innovative electric vehicles, as well as electric drivetrain components, and Electric Recharging Stations. Many experts believe Tesla Motors has the potential to reach top positions in the US automotive industry.
AC Propulsion
Active: 1992-present
Based in: San Dimas, California
The company’s most important product is alternating current-based drivetrain systems for electric cars. The engineers working for AC Propulsion concentrate on designing innovative electric vehicles. The automaker has even launched 3 sports cars under its own brand (Scion XB, eBox and Propulsion Tzero).
AM General
Active: 1971-present
Based in: South Bend, Indiana
Parent Company: American Motors Corporation
Probably the most popular vehicle introduced by AM General has been the Hummer, but in fact the company’s financial success is mostly associated with its commercial vehicles. It is a heavy vehicle manufacturer producing military Humvees, Delivery Vans, Trolleybuses etc.
DeLorean
Active: 1975-present
Based in: Detroit, Michigan
Taking into consideration that this company has produced a single model, we were in doubt whether to include it in the list of the most popular American car brands. However, this beautiful and stylish car became so well-known due to the ‘Back to the Future’ movie, that we feel we have a right to mention it in the same list as Jeep, Dodge, or GMC.
Apart from this single model, DeLorean produces auto accessories. It also sells pre-owned models of their DMC-12.
Polaris
Active: 1954-present
Based in: Medina, Minnesota
Interested in buying a snowmobile? Then Polaris has a lot to offer. This company is known mostly because of its all-terrain vehicles, including snowmobiles, ATVs, and Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.
Panoz LLC
Active: 1989-present
Based in: Braselton, Georgia
Amazing, stylish roadsters produced by Panoz LLC are famous for their beautiful design. The company is one of the few US automakers marketing sports cars. Its product range also includes limited-production luxury models.
Zimmer
Active: 1978-present
Based in: Syracuse, Maryland and Cambridge, New York
The US automaker produced neo-...