General Motors has reached one of the most important milestones in its 106-year long history, one that no other automaker has ever managed to reach. The company has built its 500 millionth car.
The General celebrated the milestone by holding a special event at its Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas. During the event, company CEO Mary Barra and Global Chevrolet President Alan Batey surprised a wounded Iraqi war veteran with the keys to a brand new 2016 Malibu (pictured), and it promised that four additional lucky customers will be given a brand new car in the next few days.
General Motors also used the occasion to highlight a number of important innovations that it helped bring to the market over the past century. Notably, the automaker’s Cadillac division invented the first electric starter in 1912 and it introduced the first regular-production V8 engine in 1915. The General also built the first auto test track in 1924, it pioneered the automatic transmission — a feature introduced in 1940 — it developed the Apollo Moon Program’s guidance system in 1969 and it offered the very first catalytic converter in 1975.
The celebrations will continue over the coming months as GM honors customers and enthusiasts from all around the world. So far, the company has singled out a Minnesota retiree who is still driving a 1957 Chevrolet pickup he bought from a farmer 38-years ago for $75, a woman who has driven around the world with her husband in an Opel, a Thai enthusiast who used a fleet of Chevrolet Captivas to propose to his wife and, oddly enough, a Brazilian woman born in the passenger seat of a Chevrolet Chevette.
GM ambitiously predicts it will reach another milestone by the end of the year. The company expects that, during 2015, it will sell more than 1,000 new cars and trucks every hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If everything goes as planned, the company will sell a record-breaking 10 million vehicles this year.