Around 1901, brothers Sam and George McLaughlin went for a ride in the company bookkeeper’s automobile. Immediately hooked, they tried to persuade their father that making a horseless carriage would be a profitable venture, but he remained unconvinced, and Sam and George had to research the matter surreptitiously. In 1905, Sam test-drove several motor cars but quickly decided that the Buick was the car he wanted to make in Oshawa. He nearly came to a manufacturing agreement with an old friend in the United States - Billy Durant, a partner in the Buick Motor Company - but the deal fell apart over the financial arrangements. Back at home, Sam and George finally got father Robert to agree to a plan to form the McLaughlin Motor Car Company.
In 1908, Durant had assembled Buick and Oldsmobile into General Motors, but by 1910 he had overreached himself and was ousted from his company by alarmed bankers. Undaunted, he started a new venture with a former Buick racing driver from Switzerland, Louis Chevrolet. The Chevrolet’s popularity grew so fast that by 1915 Durant’s Chevrolet shares were worth enough that he could regain control of GM. The McLaughlins’ Chevrolets were as much of a success in Canada as Chevrolets were in the United States. By 1918, though, neither George nor Sam had sons interested in carrying on the business. In a five-minute meeting, GM management agreed to buy the McLaughlin business, but on one condition - that the McLaughlins stay to run it. Delighted with the vote of confidence, Sam and George became the first president and vice president of General Motors of Canada. Sam remained president until 1945. When he died in 1972, at the age of 100, he was still chairman of the board. Under his guidance, General Motors of Canada enjoyed tremendous growth and became a major contributor to GM’s total production.
By its 30th anniversary in 1938, GM of Canada had produced a million vehicles. In 1965, Canada and the United States signed the Canada-U.S. Automotive Products Trade Agreement (Autopact). The agreement allowed GM of Canada to increase its production capacity dramatically. Today GM of Canada has the capacity to manufacture more than one million units in a single year –generating significant export earnings by shipping about 90 percent of those vehicles to the United States.