Oldsmobile is a division of General Motors that was phased out in 2004 when GM chose to downsize the brand in favor of the more popular Buick. At the time of its demise, Oldsmobile was the oldest American automobile brand and one of the three oldest in the world along with Daimler and Peugeot. In the 107 years of its existence, the company produced 35.2 million cars.
The 2004 Oldsmobile Bravada was the last vehicle model designed and produced by the company. Just two days after the big reveal, GM announced that they were now going to phase out the Oldsmobile brand. The irony here is that this decision was based on previous poor sales of the Oldsmobile but the Bravada SUV, became a hit for the company. Regardless, plans continued and the production of this latest car stopped in January 2004. In March of the same year, the Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan production was stopped followed in the next month by the end of the Oldsmobile Alero compact car.
In a special tribute, the last 500 cars produced of each the Alero, Aurora, Bravada and Intrigue were given special Oldsmobile heritage markings and symbols to recognize their place in history. All of the 2000 cars had the same Dark Cherry Metallic paint color scheme. Some of those cars are probably floating around on the used car market and would make for great collectors items.
Oldsmobile had a rich and long history. The original company was called the Olds Motor Vehicle Company out of Lansing, Michigan. Ransom E. Olds started the company in 1897 and ran into financial difficulties at which point he sold it in 1899. He went on to start a second company, the REO Motor Car Company. The Olds Motor Vehicle Company was renamed Olds Motor Works and was moved to Detroit, Michigan. Disaster struck as the factory, full of several new model prototypes, burned to the ground. The prototype of the Curved Dash was the only one saved. It took time, but a new factory was built and production of the single car did go ahead. In 1901, the company made 425 cars, making it the first high-volume automobile manufacturer. The last Curved Dash was produced in 1907 – General Motors bought the company soon after in 1908.
Oldsmobile was considered a leader in automotive technology in its time. Even before the purchase by General Motors, Oldsmobiles were considered sophisticated compared to the competition as shown by their being the first company to export a vehicle – a steam powered vehicle that was shipped to India. Following this, three new innovations firmly established Oldsmobile as being the company to watch. They designed and offered the first speedometer. The second major event that placed Oldsmobile]] at the top was when the US Postal Service placed its first order with them for their line of company vehicles. When the fire destroyed the original plant, Oldsmobile advanced again by being the first automotive company to outsource some of its manufacturing division to third-party suppliers.
After the purchase, General Motors worked to increase its reputation and created a long list of ‘first’ in the field themselves, firmly establishing their place in history.
Early Oldsmobile Leadership
The founder of the original company, Ransom E. Olds started and sold the company after just two years when he ran into financial difficulties. He still is recognized as the inventor of the assembly line. Samual Latta Smith injected cash into the creation of Olds Motor Works and the new factory in Detroit, becoming the majority stockholder. He clashed with Ransom Olds who departed to start his second company. The Smiths wanted to sell high end expensive cars and doubled the price of the originals, resulting in a massive sales drop. Smith then started talks with William C. Durant in 1908.
William Durant incorporated the company in 1908 and is considered to be a self-made millionaire, entrepreneur and businessman who bought Buick, then Oldsmobile six weeks later followed by the purchase of Pontiac, and Cadillac within months.