Sloan began his career as a draftsman for the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company. Sloan’s efficiency was soon recognized and the struggling company appointed him president in 1899. Under his supervision, Hyatt bearings became a standard in the automobile industry and the company grew rapidly. In 1916, William Durant, founder of General Motors, purchased Hyatt Roller Bearing and merged it with several other companies under the name United Motors Corporation. He appointed Sloan President of United Motors. By 1918, United Motors became a part of G.M. and Sloan became Vice President in charge of accessories and a member of G.M.’s Executive Committee.
In 1923, Sloan became President and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors. He developed a management procedure based on a principle of a centralized policy for the corporation coupled with a decentralized administration of the various G.M. divisions. He set up broad principles and goals and encouraged individuality in the management of the division. Under his leadership, G.M. became the world’s largest leading automaker, a position it still holds.
Sloan became Chairman of the Board of G.M. in 1937 and retained his title of C.E.O. until 1946. He resigned his chairmanship in 1956, at which time the Board of Directors named him Honorary Chairman. Sloan was known as a tireless worker who spent little time on hobbies or leisure. Yet, he was not above recognizing the needs of others. In 1934 he established the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to provide grants for science and technology research and promoted education and careers in science and technology. He also provided major contributions to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Research Institute. In 1954 the founders of the Flint Cultural Center named the Sloan Museum in his honor. Sloan died on February 16, 1966, at the age of 90.