Durant and Studebaker Made Transition from Carriage to Car

Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation predicts that incumbents will seldom survive a major disruption. So it is interesting that Durant and Studebaker, appear to have been exceptions, since they made the transition from producing carriages to producing cars. (Willie Durant founded General Motors in 1908.)

(p. 189) In 1900, fifty-seven surviving American automobile firms, out of hundreds of contenders, produced some 4,000 cars, three-quarters of which ran on steam or electricity. Companies famous for other products were entering the fray. Among them were the makers of the Pope bicycle, the Pierce birdcage, the Peerless wringer, the Buick bathtub, the White sewing machine, and the Briscoe garbage can. All vied for the market with stationary-engine makers, machine-tool manufacturers, and spinoffs of leading carriage firms, Durant and Studebaker. Among the less promising entrants seemed a lanky young engineer from Edison Illuminating Company named Henry Ford, whose Detroit Automobile Company produced twenty-five cars and failed in 1900.

. . .
(p. 191) Willie Durant, who knew all about production and selling from his carriage business, decided it was time to move into cars after several months of driving a prototype containing David Buick’s valve-in-head engine–the most powerful in the world for its size–through rural Michigan in 1904. Within four years, Durant was to parlay his sturdy Buick vehicle into domination of the automobile industry, with a 25 percent share of the market in 1908, the year he founded General Motors.

Gilder, George. Recapturing the Spirit of Enterprise: Updated for the 1990s. updated ed. New York: ICS Press, 1992.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

Christensen’s theory is most fully expressed in:
Christensen, Clayton M., and Michael E. Raynor. The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2003.

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