While Ford was perfecting his Model T, William C. Durant established the General Motors Corporation (GM) in 1908. Durant combined the Buick, Oldsmobile, and Oakland companies, and later Cadillac, to form GM. The firm started by Louis Chevrolet was added in 1918. General Motors weathered numerous financial crises in its early years, finally gaining stability when the du Pont family bought much GM stock (since divested) in 1920. The invention by Charles Franklin Kettering of the electric self-starter in 1912 was a benchmark in U.S. automotive development, but others quickly followed, including balloon tires in 1921. Among other U.S. automotive pioneers were brothers John and Horace Dodge, machinists and bicycle builders after whom the Dodge car is named, and Walter Percy Chrysler, a railroad worker who later formed Chrysler Corporation. Ford, GM, and Chrysler, known as the Big Three, eventually became the dominant automakers in America.
In 1914 Ford announced a generous, unprecedented $5 per day wage for workers who were with the company more than six months, doubling the previous wage. He wanted workers to be able to afford the cars they made, but he also wanted to stabilize his workforce, which had high turnover due to the repetition of assembly-line work. U.S. assembly line production satisfied the huge American market for vehicles and allowed American carmakers to dominate early auto manufacturing. By 1916 annual U.S. auto production reached one million units, a level not reached by any other country until England about 40 years later.
By 1920 Ford's success in building an inexpensive, durable car had produced a large secondhand car market, which meant that new Fords had to compete with old Fords. In the late 1920s and early 1930s General Motors Chairman Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr., decided to follow a different strategy. He implemented the annual model and offered different lines of cars at different prices, creating a ladder of consumption that consumers could climb. These concepts helped GM challenge the dominance of Ford. In 1924 GM had about 19 percent of U.S. new-car sales, and Ford had just over 50 percent. Just two years later GM cut Fordís lead down to 35 percent and raised GMís market share to 28 percent.
European and Japanese automakers were also growing in this new industry. In 1914 the company that later became Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., completed its first car in Japan. Fiat produced automobiles in Italy, and Daimler and Benz merged together in 1926 to begin production of the Mercedes-Benz line of automobiles. In 1928 the German manufacturer Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW), also known as Bavarian Motor Works, began building automobiles.