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In 1876, Thomas H. White incorporated his business in Cleveland, Ohio, as the White Sewing Machine Co. His three sons eventually became involved in their father's very successful sewing machine manufacturing business and in 1901 they set up operations to build automobiles.
Their first automobile was chain-drive, tiller-steered, and run by a two-cylinder, steam-powered engine mounted under the floorboards. The following year, the White family created the White Motor Company as a separate entity from the rest of their business. White Motor Company continued to make passenger cars until 1918.
Today, only about 150 White steam cars are known to remain from the 10,000 that were made.
White Motor Co. began producing trucks and was a large semi truck manufacturer following the 1920s. White acquired several truck companies during this time: Sterling, Autocar, Diamond T, and REO. White produced trucks under the Autocar nameplate following its acquisition. Diamond T and REO Motor Car Company became the Diamond REO division, which was discontinued in the 1960s.
White designed and (with other companies) produced the M3 Scout Car, the standard Unites States Army reconnaissance vehicle at the start of World War II, and the basis for the later M2 and M3 semi-tracked fighting and tractor vehicles.
In the 1970s, White started the Western Star division to sell trucks on the west coast.
From the 1950 until 1975, White Motors distributed Freightliner trucks under an agreement with Freightliner's parent, Consolidated Freightways Inc., by Volvo Trucks. White manufactured, under its own brands—White, Autocar and Western Star—as well, leading to the company becoming known as the "Big Four" through to the mid-1970s.
By 1980, White was insolvent, despite importing Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen, son of General Motors legend Semon Knudsen, and President of Ford Motor Company in 1969–70. AB Volvo acquired the U.S. assets of the company, while two, energy-related companies based in Calgary, Alberta, Bow Valley Resource Services and Nova, an Alberta Corp., purchased the Canadian assets, including the Kelowna, British Columbia, plant, and the Western Star nameplate and product range.
Volvo produced trucks as White and Autocar through the 1980s, while Western Star continued independently in Canada and the U.S., although Volvo-White–produced high cab over engine models were purchased and re-badged Western Star for sale in the Canadian market through the early 1990s.
Volvo-White was merged with GMC's heavy truck business in 1987, while Western Star was sold to Australian entrepreneur Terry Peabody in 1990. Subsequently, Western Star was resold by Peabody to DaimlerChrysler AG and merged with its Freightliner subsidiary. Volvo dropped any reference to White, and is now Volvo Trucks North America. Autocar remained a part of Volvo until 2000, when the trademark was withdrawn from the market, and was subsequently sold to Grand Vehicle Works together with the Xpeditor low cab forward heavy duty product, which remains in production to this day under the Autocar badge, the last vestige of what was once America's leading commercial vehicle producer.
A former White subsidiary, White Farm Equipment, produced farm tractors until 2001. As of 2006, the only products made under the White name is a series of corn planters (made by AGCO) and garden tractors (made by MTD Products).
- WX42 pumper/rescue
- White Horse (1939–1950s)
- 50A bus
- PDQ Delivery (1960–1966)
- Road Boss
- Road Commander
- Road Xpeditor