Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Curtice, Harlow Herbert

Former General Motors president Harlow Curtice was born on August 15, 1893, in Petrieville, Michigan, near Eaton Rapids. Curtice attended Ferris Institute (now Ferris State University) and graduated in 1914. Shortly after, he began working at the AC Spark Plug division of General Motors in Flint as a bookkeeper. By age 21, he was promoted to comptroller, and after serving in World War I, went on to be assistant general manager, then vice president.

In 1929 he became president of AC. Four years later he was named president of Buick, the oldest division of General Motors, where he restored the product line and reputation of the car, and spearheaded the company’s participation in World War II. In 1953 he was named president of GM, succeeding Charles Wilson, who was nominated Secretary of Defense by President Dwight Eisenhower.

In 1954 Curtice announced he would spend $1 billion on the expansion of plants and facilities. This announcement was made during an economic slump when people were worried about an end to the post-war boom. Curtice’s bold move instilled confidence in his employees as well as U.S. citizens, which led to an increase in spending on automobiles. His strategy also encouraged other companies such as Ford and Chrysler to expand as well.

While under the leadership of Curtice, GM made $1 billion in net profits in 1955, making him the first president of a corporation to do so. In 1956 he inaugurated the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, GM’s iconic styling and research center.

Harlow Curtice retired in 1958 and remained in Flint, Michigan where he had lived throughout his career. In 1955 he was named Time’s Man of the Year and was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1971. Curtice died on November 3, 1962 at his home in Flint.



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