US industrialist and philanthropist. President of General Motors (GM) 1923–1937 and chair 1937–1946, he created an organizational structure which became the basis of the modern multi-divisional corporation. His model administration and marketing strategy – a car for ‘every purse and every purpose’ – turned GM into one of the world's largest manufacturers. On retirement he established the Alfred P Sloan Jr Foundation, which continues to make large grants available for various educational and charitable causes.
Sloan was elected GM president in 1923 at a time when the company faced strong competition from the mass production models of US automobile manufacturer Henry Ford. He decentralized the company structure to function as autonomous divisions (Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Cadillac) with a centralized general staff to coordinate policy and keep financial control. He built up a strong sales organization, which marketed a choice of cars (unlike Ford) to different demographic groups (the Chevrolet for the first-time buyer or the Cadillac for the more affluent), winning him an increasing share of the market. He also started the trend for introducing a new model each year, and introduced non-automotive products such as the Frigidaire refrigerator.
Sloan was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the first of five children. He was educated at Brooklyn Polytechnic, New York, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Massachusetts, (which later named its management school after him) where he was the youngest person in his class to graduate in electrical engineering. He began his career as a draftsman for the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company of Newark, New Jersey, (in which his father, Alfred P Sloan, Sr, held an interest), becoming its president in 1898. Sloan's success at selling Hyatt's bearings to car-part makers made them a standard for the motor industry. He merged the company with GM supplier United Motors Corporation in 1916, and sold the merged group to GM in 1918; joining its executive committee with responsibility for car-parts.
Sloan became chair in 1937 and maintained an active interest in the company as honorary chair from 1956 until his death.
He wrote My Years With General Motors (1964) which chronicled his achievements and the issues he faced at the company.
Sloan, Alfred P(ritchard), Jr
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