In 1909, Charles F. Kettering and Edward Deeds founded the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company, known as Delco, in Dayton, Ohio. Delco became a leader in automotive technologies during the 1910s.
Delco engineers, including Kettering, were involved in a number of research projects at Delco. Kettering is credited with inventing the first electric ignition system for automobiles. This development allowed drivers to start the automobile engine without having to crank it. In addition, Delco engineers invented electric lights for automobiles that would allow drivers to use the cars at night. Delco's successes led General Motors to purchase the company in 1916.
Now working for General Motors, Delco's engineers continued to advance automobile technologies. Kettering, himself, was hired as the head of General Motors's new research division and became a vice president in the company in 1920. Among the engineers' discoveries or improvements were spark plugs, leaded gasoline, the automatic transmission, and four-wheel brakes. General Motors continued to use the name Delco, and currently General Motors has a subsidiary company known as AC-Delco, which manufactures replacement parts for vehicles.