Oldsmobile was a brand of automobile produced in the United States from 1897 to 2004. In its 107 years, it produced 35.2 million cars, including at least 14 million built at its Lansing factory. When it was phased out, Oldsmobile was the oldest surviving American automobile marque, and one of the oldest in the world, after Daimler and Peugeot.
Oldsmobiles were first manufactured by the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan, a company founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897. In 1901, Olds introduced the Curved Dash Olds which sold 425 cars, becoming the first high-volume car of the day. Olds became, for a few years, the top selling car company in the United States. Ransom Olds left the company in financial difficulties and formed REO Motor Car Company. The last Curved Dash Olds was made in 1907, and in 1908, General Motors purchased the company.
After acquisition by General Motors, Oldsmobiles were marketed for their technical sophistication. It was the first American car with an automatic transmission (1940) and the first to use chrome (1920), and frequently was early with other features, such as automatic headlight dimmers.
In 1929, the marque launched the Viking designed to help bridge the price gap between Oldsmobile and Buick, however the Viking was discontinued in 1930.
Oldsmobile promoted its "Rocket" engines heavily. This came to be a problem when some customers sued after they discovered that their Oldsmobiles had been equipped with Chevrolet engines beginning in the late 1970s.
In the 1970s, the mid-sized Oldsmobile Cutlass was the division's best selling model, and for several years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was the best-selling car in America. But the sales of the Cutlass and other Olds models fell beginning in the 1990s. The brand was hurt by its image as old and stuffy and this public perception continued despite a public relations campaign in the late 1980s that this was "not your father's Oldsmobile."
The 1901-1904 Curved Dash was the first mass-produced car, and was also the first American car to be exported. Oldsmobile set a land speed record of 54.38 mph at Daytona Beach in the 1903 Pirate. In 1908, Oldsmobile became the first manufacturer to begin using nickel, rather than brass, trim. The 1911 Limited Touring was a high point for the company with its 60 hp (45 kW) 707 in? (11.6 L) straight-6 engine and high levels of luxury.
In 1912, Oldsmobile began using two-digit model designators, beginning with the Oldsmobile 40 and Oldsmobile 53. The first digit generally signified the body size and the second signified the year throughout the 1920s. The company introduced chrome-plated trim, on the radiator shell of their 1926 model.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Oldsmobile used a two-digit model designation similar to that used by the European makes today: The first digit signified the body size while the second represents the number of cylinders. Body sizes were 6, 7, 8, and 9, and 6- and 8-cylinder engines were offered. Thus, Oldsmobiles were named 66 through 98. A myriad of trim lines were also included in the model name, including Delta, Dynamic, Holiday, Super, and others.
Oldsmobile introduced the affordable automatic transmission in 1940 as the Hydramatic. Their 1949 Rocket V8 engine was especially notable as the first mass-produced OHV V8.
In the 1960s, Oldsmobile's position between Pontiac and Buick in GM's hierarchy began to dissolve. Notable achievements included the introduction of the first turbocharged engine in 1962, the Turbo Jetfire, the first modern front wheel drive car (1966's Toronado), the Vista Cruiser, a station wagon noted for its roof glass, and the upscale 442 muscle car.
Oldsmobile sales soared in the 1970s and 1980s, with the Cutlass and Cutlass Supreme becoming the best-selling vehicles in the United States. Less impressive was the company's widely-used but problem-prone LF7 and LF9 Diesel V8s.
By the 1990s, Oldsmobile had lost its place in the marketplace. The performance cars Oldsmobile had been known for gave way to bland corporate clones. GM had shifted the performance mantle to Chevrolet and Pontiac. GM tried to use Oldsmobile to showcase futuristic designs and as a "guinea pig" for testing new technology, with Oldsmobile offering the Toronado Trofeo. The Toronado Trofeo included a visual instrument system, which included a calendar, datebook, and the climate controls. Later on, Oldsmobile introduced the Aurora which would be the inspiration for the design of all Oldsmobile from the mid-1990s onward. However, by this time, GM shifted Oldsmobile from a technology "guinea pig" to a manufacturer that filled the slot between Chevrolet and Buick. Oldsmobile also recieved a new logo and by 1997, all of the early-1990s models were gone (except for the Aurora, Bravada, and the Silhouette, which was redesigned that year) and new models were introduced with rounded designs, inspired by the Aurora. Even though the new Cutlass sold very well as did the Alero, there was just not enough to salvage the slowly dying brand, and GM announced the brand's demise in 2000.
In December 2000, General Motors announced they would be phasing out the Oldsmobile brand, which had become the oldest surviving American automobile brand. The 2004 model year was to be Oldsmobile's last, with the last new Oldsmobile model being the GMT360-derived Bravada introduced in 2002.
The actual phaseout of Olds models was conducted on the following schedule:
-Late 2001: The 2002 Bravada becomes the company's last new model
-June 2002: production ends for Intrigue and the Aurora V-6 sedans
-May 2003: Aurora V-8 sedan
-January 2004: Bravada sports utility vehicle
-March 2004: Silhouette minivan
-April 2004: Alero compact car
The final production day was April 29, 2004, when the last Alero was built in Lansing, where Ransom E. Olds first began his company. The last 500 Aleros manufactured were painted a metallic cherry red and carried special "Final 500" markings. The last of these cars went to the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum.
(text source: Wikipedia)
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