Oldsmobile

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Oldsmobile
FormerlyOlds Motor Vehicle Company
(1897–1899)
Olds Motor Works (1899–1908)
Type Private (1897–1908)
Division (1908–2004)
Industry Automotive
FoundedAugust 21, 1897;124 years ago (1897-08-21)
Founder Ransom E. Olds
DefunctApril 29, 2004;17 years ago (2004-04-29)
FateAcquired by General Motors in 1908; folded in 2004
Headquarters Lansing, Michigan,
Key people
Frederick Smith
Angus Smith
A. B. C. Hardy
Irving Jacob Reuter
C. L. McCuen
John Beltz
Products Luxury and standard automobiles
Parent General Motors

Oldsmobile was a brand of American automobiles produced for most of its existence by General Motors. Originally established as "Olds Motor Vehicle Company" by Ransom E. Olds in 1897, it produced over 35 million vehicles, including at least 14 million built at its Lansing, Michigan factory alone. During its time as a division of General Motors, Oldsmobile slotted into the middle of GM's five divisions (above Chevrolet and Pontiac, but below Buick and Cadillac), and was noted for its groundbreaking technology and designs.

Contents

Over 1 million Oldsmobiles were sold annually each year from 1983-1986, but by the 1990s the division was facing growing competition from premium import brands and sales declined. When shut down in 2004, Oldsmobile was the oldest surviving American automobile marque, and one of the oldest in the world, after Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Renault, Fiat, Opel and Tatra (but under the name Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau).

History

Early history

Ransom Eli Olds, the founder and namesake of Oldsmobile Olds2.jpg
Ransom Eli Olds, the founder and namesake of Oldsmobile

Oldsmobiles were first manufactured by the Olds Motor Vehicle Co. in Lansing, Michigan, a company founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897. In 1901 (the same year that Horace and John Dodge won a contract to produce transmissions for the Oldsmobile company), the company produced 635 cars, making it the first high-volume gasoline-powered automobile manufacturer. (Electric car manufacturers such as Columbia Electric and steam-powered car manufacturers such as Locomobile had higher volumes a few years earlier.) Oldsmobile became the top-selling car company in the United States for a few years around 1903–1904. Ransom Olds left the company in 1904 because of a dispute with sales manager Frederick Smith, who was questioning production techniques and wanted Mr. Olds to certify that each car that left the plant was free from defects. Mr. Smith then set up an experimental engineering shop without Mr. Olds' knowledge or consent, causing Mr. Olds to leave in 1904 and formed the REO Motor Car Company. [1] This was a similar situation Henry Ford encountered when he was forced out of the company he founded, the Henry Ford Company and started the Ford Motor Company in 1903.

1904 Oldsmobile Model 6C "Curved-Dashboard" 1904-oldsmobile-archives.jpg
1904 Oldsmobile Model 6C "Curved-Dashboard"

The 1902 to 1907 Oldsmobile Model R "Curved Dash" was the first mass-produced car, [2] made from the first automotive assembly line, an invention which is often incorrectly credited to Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. Ford was the first to manufacture cars on a moving assembly line, while Olds used a stationary assembly line, meaning that the assembled vehicle remained in one place and workers would move from one car to the next and perform one assigned task. This differed from hand-made vehicles in the past where various workers would work on one car until it was completed and was labor- and time-intensive. After Olds merged Olds Motor Vehicle Co. with the Olds Gas Engine Works in 1899, it was renamed "Olds Motor Works" and moved to a new plant in Detroit, located at the corner of East Jefferson Avenue and MacArthur Bridge. [3] By March 1901, the company had a whole line of models ready for mass production. However, a mistake by a worker caused the factory to catch fire, and it burned to the ground, with all of the prototypes destroyed. The only car that survived the fire was a Curved Dash prototype, which was wheeled out of the factory by two workers while escaping the fire. While the factory was being rebuilt from insurance, many subcontractors were used to keep production going, to include Henry M. Leland for engines and the Dodge Brothers. Olds was a strong competitor to other independent companies Buick and Cadillac before they became divisions of General Motors between 1908 and 1909. Later after Mr. Olds left the company, Oldsmobile production was moved to Lansing.

Officially, the cars were called "Olds automobiles," but were colloquially referred to as "Oldsmobiles." It was this moniker, as applied especially to the Curved Dash Olds, that was popularized in the lyrics and title of the 1905 hit song "In My Merry Oldsmobile". The last Oldsmobile Curved Dash was made in 1907. General Motors purchased the company on November 12, 1908. [4] When GM assumed operations, platform sharing began with Buick products and Oldsmobile shared platforms were identified with the prefix "Series" followed by a number, while models developed by pre-GM engineers were identified with the prefix "Model" followed by a letter. Early on, Oldsmobile was a competitor to Hudson as some former engineers of Oldsmobile took positions with Hudson.

1910s

1910 Oldsmobile Limited 1910 Oldsmobile Limited Tourer (21243289970).jpg
1910 Oldsmobile Limited

The 1910 Limited Touring Series 23 was an early, ambitious, high point for the company. Riding atop 42-inch (1067 mm) wheels, and equipped with factory "white" tires, [5] the Limited was the prestige model in Oldsmobile's two model lineup, with the smaller Oldsmobile Autocrat Series 32 having 36-inch wheels.

The Limited retailed for US$4,600, ($127,765 in 2020 dollars [6] ) an amount greater than the price of a new basic three-bedroom house. Buyers received goatskin upholstery, a 60 hp (45 kW) 707  CID (11.6 L) T-head straight-six engine, Bosch Magneto starter, running boards and room for five. Options included a speedometer, clock, and a full glass windshield. A limousine version was priced at $5,800 ($161,095 in 2020 dollars [6] ). While Oldsmobile only sold 725 Limiteds in its three years of production, the car is best remembered for winning a race against the famed 20th Century Limited train, an event immortalized in the painting Setting the Pace by William Hardner Foster.

The Limited was at the time considered technologically advanced and cutting edge, if on the expensive side, but it established the division's reputation for innovation. The Oldsmobile Series 40 was offered in 1912 and was considerably more affordable and smaller, and later the Oldsmobile Light Eight in 1916, Oldsmobile offered a Cadillac-sourced flathead V8 engine until 1923, while Buick remained with their division exclusive overhead valve straight-six engine until 1930. [7]

Beginning in 1910, bodywork was supplied by Fisher Body, a longstanding tradition that led to the company being eventually merged into GM in later years.

1920s

1928 Oldsmobile 6 (Model F-28) 4-door sedan Oldsmobile Model F-28 4-Door Sedan 1928.jpg
1928 Oldsmobile 6 (Model F-28) 4-door sedan

In 1926, the Oldsmobile Six came in five body styles, and ushered in a new GM bodystyle platform called the "GM B platform", shared with Buick products. [8]

In 1929, as part of General Motors' companion make program, Oldsmobile introduced the higher standard Viking brand, marketed through the Oldsmobile dealer network. Viking was already discontinued at the end of the 1930 model year although an additional 353 cars were marketed as 1931 models.

1930s

1934 Oldsmobile 8 convertible coupe (Model L-34) 1934-oldsmobile-archives.jpg
1934 Oldsmobile 8 convertible coupe (Model L-34)

In the 1930s, Oldsmobile produced two body styles of automobile, the Series F (straight-6 cylinder) and the longer Series L (straight-8 cylinder). [9] In 1933 The Oldsmobile Program appeared on CBS radio for two years which was a new advertising approach to sell products and services.

In 1937, Oldsmobile was a pioneer in introducing a four-speed semi-automatic transmission called the "Automatic Safety Transmission", although this accessory was actually built by Buick, which would offer it in its own cars in 1938. This transmission features a conventional clutch pedal, which the driver presses before selecting either "low" or "high" range. In "low," the car shifts between first and second gears. In "high," the car shifts among first, third and fourth gears. [10]

1940s

1940 Oldsmobile Series 70 1940 Oldsmobile Dynamic Series 70 Sedan (12492572503).jpg
1940 Oldsmobile Series 70

For the 1940 model, Oldsmobile was the first auto manufacturer to offer a fully automatic transmission, called the "Hydramatic", which features four forward speeds. It has a gas pedal and a brake—no clutch pedal. The gear selector is on the steering column.

Starting in 1941 and continuing through 1999, Oldsmobile used a two-digit model designation. As originally implemented, the first digit signifies the body size while the second represents the number of cylinders. Body sizes were 6, 7, 8, and 9, and straight six- and straight eight-cylinder engines were offered. Thus, Oldsmobiles were named "66" through "98".

The last pre-war Oldsmobile rolled off the assembly line on February 5, 1942. During World War II, Oldsmobile produced numerous kinds of material for the war effort, including large-caliber guns and shells. Production resumed on October 15, 1945, with a warmed-over 1942 model serving as the offering for 1946.

Oldsmobile once again was a pioneer when, for the 1949 model, the Rocket engine was introduced, which used an overhead valve V8 design rather than the flathead "straight-eight" design which prevailed at the time. The overhead valve was originally exclusive to Buick as they invented the technology and offered it on all of their products. This engine produced far more power than the other engines that were popular during that era, and found favor with hot-rodders and stock car racers. The basic design, with a few minor changes, endured until Oldsmobile redesigned its V8 engines in the mid-1960s.

1950s

1950 Oldsmobile 88 badge 50 Oldsmobile 88 (5996149524).jpg
1950 Oldsmobile 88 badge
1953 Oldsmobile 98 convertible Oldsmobile 98 Convertible 1953.jpg
1953 Oldsmobile 98 convertible
1957 Oldsmobile Starfire 98 Holiday sedan with "StratoRoof" rear window Oldsmobile NinetyEight 1957 2.JPG
1957 Oldsmobile Starfire 98 Holiday sedan with "StratoRoof" rear window

Oldsmobile entered the 1950s following a divisional image campaign centered on its 'Rocket' engines and the Space Race, and its cars' appearance followed suit. Oldsmobile's Rocket V8 engine was the leader in performance; its cars were generally considered the fastest on the market; and by the mid-1950s their styling was among the first to offer a wide, "open maw" grille, suggestive of fighter jet propulsion. From 1948-1957, Oldsmobile adopted a ringed-globe emblem depicting North America to stress what marketers felt was its universal appeal. Starting in 1958, the grille logo changed again to reflect the rocket image, that was used throughout the late 1950s, the make used twin jet pod-styled taillights as a nod to its "Rocket" theme. Oldsmobile was among the first of General Motors' divisions to receive a true hardtop in 1950 called the "Holiday coupe" (Buick's version was called the "Riviera", and Cadillac's was called the "Coupe De Ville"), and it was also among the first divisions (along with Buick and Cadillac) to receive a wraparound windshield, a trend that eventually all American makes would share at sometime between 1953 and 1964. New for 1954 on 98 coupes and convertibles (Starfire) would be front and rear "sweep cut" fender styling, which would not show up on a Chevrolet until 1956 and not until 1957 on a Pontiac. 1953 models changed to a 12 volt electrical system that made starting easier.

1957 Oldsmobile Starfire Ninety-Eight Holiday coupe Oldsmobile 98 Coupe 1957.jpg
1957 Oldsmobile Starfire Ninety-Eight Holiday coupe

In the 1950s the nomenclature changed again, and trim levels also received names that were then mated with the model numbers. This resulted in the Oldsmobile 88 emerging as base Dynamic 88 and the highline Super 88. Other full-size model names included the "Holiday" used on hardtops, and "Fiesta" used on its station wagons. When the 88 was retired in 1999 (with a Fiftieth Anniversary Edition), its length of service was the longest model name used on American cars after the Chrysler New Yorker. Mid-1955 also saw the introduction of the four-door Holiday pillarless hardtop, the industry's first (along with Buick).

General Motors' styling as a whole lost its frontrunner status in 1957 when Chrysler introduced Virgil Exner's "forward look" designs. When compared side to side, Oldsmobile looked dated next to its price-point competitors DeSoto and Mercury. Compounding the problem for Oldsmobile and Buick was a styling mistake which GM called the "StratoRoof", which was reminiscent of the "greenhouse" canopy used on the Convair B-36 Peacemaker high altitude bomber. Both makes had models which contained the heavily framed rear window, but Detroit had been working with large curved backlights for almost a decade. Consumers disliked the roof and its blind spots, forcing GM to rush a redesign into production on some of its models. Oldsmobile's only off year in the 1950s was 1958. The nation was beginning to feel the results of its first significant post-war recession, and US automobile sales were down for the model year. Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac received a heavy-handed makeover of the 1957 GM designs. The Oldsmobile that emerged in 1958 bore little resemblance to the design of its forerunners; instead the car emerged as a large, over-decorated "chromemobile" which many felt had overly ostentatious styling.

Up front, all 1958 Oldsmobile's received one of General Motors' heavily styled front facias and quad-headlights. Streaking back from the edge of the headlights was a broad belt consisting of two strips of chrome on regular 88s, three strips on Super 88s, and three strips (top and bottom thin, inside thick) on 98s that ended in a point at mid-body. The bottom of the rear fender featured a thick stamping of a half tube that pointed forward, atop which was a chrome assembly of four horizontal chrome speed-lines that terminated into a vertical bar. The tail of the car featured massive vertical chrome taillight housings. Two chrome stars were fitted to the trunklid.

1958 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday coupe Oldsmobile eighty-eight 1958.jpg
1958 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday coupe

Ford styling consultant Alex Tremulis (designer of the 1948 Tucker sedan) mocked the 1958 Oldsmobile by drawing cartoons of the car, and placing musical notes in the rear trim assembly. Another Detroit stylist employed by Ford bought a used 1958 Oldsmobile in the early 1960s, driving it daily to work. He detached and rearranged the Oldsmobile lettering above the grille to spell out slobmodel as a reminder to himself and co-workers of what "bad" auto design meant to their business.

In 1959, Oldsmobile models were completely redesigned with a rocket motif from front to rear, as the top of the front fenders had a chrome rocket, while the body-length fins were shaped as rocket exhausts which culminated in a fin-top taillight (concave on the 98 models while convex on the 88 models). The 1959 models also offered several roof treatments, such as the pillared sedan with a fastback rear window and the Holiday SportSedan, which was a flat-roofed pillarless hardtop with wraparound front and rear glass. The 1959 models were marketed as "the linear look", and also featured a bar-graph speedometer which showed a green indicator through 35 miles per hour (56 km/h), then changed to orange until 65 miles per hour (105 km/h), then was red above that until the highest speed read by the speedometer, 120 miles per hour (190 km/h). Power windows were available on the 98 models, as were two-speed electric windshield wipers with electrically powered windshield washers. The 88 still relied on vacuum-operated windshield wipers without a washer feature. 1959 Oldsmobiles were offered with "Autronic Eye" (a dashboard-mounted automatic headlight dimmer) as well as factory-installed air conditioning and power-operated front bench seat as available options. The 1959 body style was continued through the 1960 model year, but the fins were toned down for 1960 and the taillights were moved to the bottom of the fenders.

1960s

From 1948 until 2004, Oldsmobile used a variety of logos employing a rocket theme that played off its Rocket line of V-8 engines. This image is stylistic variation of a rocket sitting on a launchpad 1962 Oldsmobile logo.svg
From 1948 until 2004, Oldsmobile used a variety of logos employing a rocket theme that played off its Rocket line of V-8 engines. This image is stylistic variation of a rocket sitting on a launchpad
Oldsmobile Starfire (1961) 1961 Oldsmobile Starfire convertible front right.jpg
Oldsmobile Starfire (1961)
1965 Oldsmobile 442 sport coupe 1965 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 Sport Coupe (11813358995).jpg
1965 Oldsmobile 442 sport coupe
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado (9015293174).jpg
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4 d. hardtop.jpg
1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass
1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser '69 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser (Rigaud).jpg
1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

Notable achievements for Oldsmobile in the 1960s included the introduction of the first turbocharged engine and a factory water injection system in 1962 (the Turbo Jetfire), the first modern front-wheel drive car produced in the United States (the 1966 Toronado), the Vista Cruiser station wagon (noted for its roof glass), and the upscale 442 muscle car. Olds briefly used the names "Jetstar 88" (1964–1966) and Delmont 88 (1967–1968) on its least expensive full-size models in the 1960s. In 1968 the split grille appearance was introduced and remained a traditional feature until production ended in 2004.

Notable models for the 1960s:

1970s-1980s

1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (4353521037).jpg
1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Convertible Delta88 at Auto HOF.jpg
1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Convertible
1977 Oldsmobile Omega sedan Oldsmobile Omega Sedan 1977 (5064154616).jpg
1977 Oldsmobile Omega sedan
1987 Oldsmobile Delta 88 1987-88 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale front.jpg
1987 Oldsmobile Delta 88
1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Early Olds Cutlass Ciera.jpg
1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera
1994 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight Royale 1995 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight Royale in silver.jpg
1994 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight Royale
First Generation Oldsmobile Aurora 1996 Oldsmobile Aurora in Silver Teal (front left side).jpg
First Generation Oldsmobile Aurora
2002 Oldsmobile Alero 2002 Oldsmobile Alero.JPG
2002 Oldsmobile Alero

The 1970s and 1980s were good years for the Oldsmobile division; sales soared (reaching an all-time high of 1,066,122 in 1985) based on popular designs, positive reviews from critics, and perceived quality and reliability, with the Cutlass series becoming North America's top-selling car by 1976. By this time, Olds had displaced Pontiac and Plymouth as the third best-selling brand in the U.S. behind Chevrolet and Ford. In the late 1970s and again in the mid-1980s, model-year production topped one million units, something only Chevrolet and Ford had achieved.

The very popularity of Oldsmobile's cars created a problem for the division in the late 1970s, however. At that time, each General Motors division produced its own V8 engines, and in 1977, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Buick each produced a unique 350-cubic-inch displacement V8. It was during the 1977 model year that demand exceeded production capacity for the Oldsmobile V8 and as a result, Oldsmobile began equipping most full-size Delta 88 models (those with Federal emissions specifications) with the Chevrolet 350 engine instead. Although it was widely debated whether there was a difference in quality or performance between the two engines, there was no question that the engines were different from one another. Many customers were loyal Oldsmobile buyers who specifically wanted the Rocket V8, and did not discover that their vehicle had the Chevrolet engine until they performed maintenance and discovered that purchased parts did not fit. This became a public relations nightmare for GM. [11] [12]

Following this debacle, disclaimers stating that "Oldsmobiles are equipped with engines produced by various GM divisions" were tacked onto advertisements and sales literature; all other GM divisions followed suit. In addition, GM quickly stopped associating engines with particular divisions and to this day, all GM engines are produced by "GM Powertrain" (GMPT) and are called GM "Corporate" engines instead of GM "Division" engines. Although it was the popularity of the Oldsmobile division vehicles that prompted this change, declining sales of V8 engines would have made this change inevitable as all but the Chevrolet version of the 350-cubic-inch engine were eventually discontinued.

Oldsmobile also introduced a 5.7L (350 cu-in) V8 diesel engine option on its Custom Cruiser, Delta 88 and 98 models in 1978; and a smaller 4.3L (260 cu-in) displacement V8 diesel on the 1979 Cutlass Salon and Cutlass Supreme/Cutlass Calais models. These were largely based on corresponding gasoline engines but with heavier duty cast blocks, redesigned heads and fast glow plugs; and on the 5.7L, oversized cranks, main bearings and wrist pins. There were several problems with these engines, including water and corrosion in the injectors (no water separator in the fuel line); paraffin clogging of fuel lines and filters in cold weather; reduced lubrication in the heads due to undersized oil galleys; head bolt failures; and the use of aluminum rockers and stanchions in the 4.3L V8 engines. While the 5.7L was also offered on various Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, and Pontiac models, it was eventually discontinued by all divisions in 1985. V6 diesels of 4.3L displacement were also offered between 1982 and 1985. In 1988 the then all-new 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Pace car was the 1st production car with heads up display. [13]

Notable models:

1990s

After the tremendous success of the 1970s and 1980s, things changed quickly for Oldsmobile, and by the early 1990s the brand had lost its place in the market (as annual sales had fallen from a record high of 1,066,122 in 1985 to just 402,936 in 1993), squeezed between other GM divisions, and with competition from new upscale import makes Acura, Infiniti and Lexus. GM continued to use Oldsmobile sporadically to showcase futuristic designs and as a "guinea pig" for testing new technology, with Oldsmobile offering the Toronado Trofeo, which included a visual instrument system with a calendar, datebook, climate controls and several prototypes built in conjunction with Avis with an early satellite-based navigation system. For 1995, Oldsmobile introduced the Aurora, which would be the inspiration for the design of its cars from the mid-1990s onward. The introduction of the Aurora marked as General Motors' catalyst to reposition Oldsmobile as an upscale import fighter. Accordingly, Oldsmobile received a new logo based on the familiar "rocket" theme. Also in 1995 Oldsmobile introduced the first satellite navigation system available in the United States, the Guidestar on the 1995 Oldsmobile 88. [14] Nearly all the existing model names were gradually phased out: the Cutlass Calais in 1991, the Toronado and Custom Cruiser in 1992, the Ninety-Eight and Ciera (formerly Cutlass Ciera) in 1996, Cutlass Supreme in 1997, and finally the Eighty-Eight and Cutlass (which had only been around since '97) in 1999. They were replaced with newer, more modern models with designs inspired by the Aurora.

Redesigned and new models introduced from 1990 to 2004:

2000s

In spite of Oldsmobile's critical successes since the mid-1990s, a reported shortfall in sales and overall profitability prompted General Motors to announce in December 2000 its plans to shut down the Oldsmobile organization. That announcement was officially revealed two days after Oldsmobile distributed the Bravada SUV – which became another critical hit for the division but turned out to be the final new model for the Oldsmobile brand.

The phaseout was conducted on the following schedule:

The last 500 Aleros, Auroras, Bravadas, Silhouettes and Intrigues produced received special Oldsmobile heritage emblems and markings which signified 'Final 500'. All featured a unique Dark Cherry Metallic paint scheme. Auroras and Intrigues would be accompanied by special Final 500 literature. The Oldsmobile division's last completed production car was an Alero GLS 4-door sedan, which was signed by all of the Olds assembly line workers. It was on display at the R. E. Olds Transportation Museum located in Lansing, Michigan until GM's bankruptcy, when it retook possession of the car. It is now located at the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

Firsts

During the 107 years of Oldsmobile's existence, it was known for being a guinea pig for new technologies and firsts.

Production

Model Year(s)ModelH.P. RatingCyl.Remarks
1901–1903 Curved Dash Model R51
1902Pirate71Racer
1904 Curved Dash Model 6C71
1904Model T101a.k.a. "Light Tonneau"
1904–1905Model N71a.k.a. "Touring Runabout"
1905–1906 Curved Dash Model B71
1905Side Entrance Tonneau2025-passenger
1906Model L2, opposed
1906Model S4
1907 Curved Dash Model F71
1907Model H4
1907Model A4
1908Model M / MR4
1908–1909Model X4
1908–1909Model Z406
190920224Derived from Buick 10
1909Model D / DR4
1910Special404Replaces all previous 4-cylinder cars
1910–1912Limited606Introduced 1909 as 1910 model
1911Special364Compressed-air starter (all)
1911-12Autocrat404
1912–1913Defender354el. Starter & lighting (all)
191353506Replaces Limited and Autocrat
1914–191542204"Baby-Olds"
191454506"6th Generation Six"
1915-1643306"4th Generation Four"
191555506"6th Generation Six"
191644 "Light Eight"V-8
191745 "Light Eight"V-8
191845A "Light Eight"V-8

Models

Concept

Export markets

Canada

In Canada the range was limited, with the Oldsmobile Silhouette and Oldsmobile Bravada being unavailable to Canadian consumers until much later in their production life.

Mexico

In Mexico all Oldsmobile models were sold under the Chevrolet brand. [34] [35]

Europe

Pontiac Trans Sport Black Pontiac Trans Sport fr.jpg
Pontiac Trans Sport

For the european market, the Oldsmobile Silhouette was sold between 1994 and 1997 as the Pontiac Trans Sport by replacing the Oldsmobile badging with Pontiac badging, along with Pontiac wheels. Sales in Europe were good for an American import, but did not represent enough volume to make a distinct model economically feasible for the European market. Its successors were both the Chevrolet Trans Sport (Second generation Pontiac Trans Sport rebadged as a Chevrolet) (LWB), and the Opel / Vauxhall Sintra (SWB).

Chevrolet Alero Chevrolet Alero front 20080121.jpg
Chevrolet Alero

The Oldsmobile Alero was sold in select countries in Europe (and Israel) between 1999 and 2001 as the Chevrolet Alero, and was only available as a 4-door sedan. The car still featured its Oldsmobile badges even though sold under the Chevrolet brand, but since most European consumers would not recognize the badging, Chevrolet badges were added to the grille and rear fascia for the 2000 model year. The Alero featured Chevrolet emblems throughout its entire run in Israel. The Alero was replaced in Europe and Israel by the GM Daewoo-sourced Chevrolet Evanda / Epica.

Marketing themes

Early on in its history, Olds enjoyed a healthy public relations boost from the 1905 hit song In My Merry Oldsmobile . The same theme—a fast, powerful Olds car helping the driver romance the opposite sex—was updated in the 1950s with the iconic hit Rocket 88 .

The strong public relations efforts by GM in the 1950s was epitomized in the Motorama, a "one company" auto show extravaganza. Millions of Americans attended, in a spirit not unlike a "mini-World's Fair". Every GM division had a "Dream Car". Oldsmobile's dream/concept car was called "The Golden Rocket".

1970 Oldsmobile 442 1970olds442.jpg
1970 Oldsmobile 442

The Dr. Oldsmobile theme was one of Oldsmobile's most successful marketing campaigns in the early '70s, it involved fictional characters created to promote the wildly popular 442 muscle car. 'Dr. Oldsmobile' was a tall lean professor type who wore a white lab coat. His assistants included 'Elephant Engine Ernie' who represented the big block 455 Rocket engine. 'Shifty Sidney' was a character who could be seen swiftly shifting his hand using a Hurst shifter. 'Wind Tunnel Waldo' had slicked back hair that appeared to be constantly wind blown. He represented Oldsmobile's wind tunnel testing, that produced some of the sleekest designs of the day. Another character included 'Hy Spy' who had his ear to the ground as he checked out the competition.

A public relations campaign in the late 1980s proclaimed that this was "not your father's Oldsmobile." The company produced a series of television ads during this time; said ads featured the offspring of various celebrities, and sometimes the celebrity in question. These ads included:

Ironically, many fans of the brand say that the declining sales were in fact caused by the "this is not your father's Oldsmobile" campaign, as the largest market for Oldsmobiles was the population whose parents had, in fact, owned Oldsmobiles and that by going away from the traditional vehicles that Oldsmobile's brand was built upon, lost many loyal buyers and put the brand on a collision course with Pontiac and Buick, which led to internal cannibalization and a downfall from which it could never recover. Oldsmobile's final major ad campaign had the slogan "Start Something" in a last-ditch effort to market to younger buyers at the turn of the millennium. [36]

Corporate image

Logo evolution

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Motorsport

NASCAR

Oldsmobile is especially known for its competition in NASCAR. Beginning with the Rocket 88, Oldsmobile proved heavily competitive in stock car racing. In the Sixties, the Rocket 88 was replaced by the 442. Eventually, the Cutlass would lead Oldsmobile into the Eighties before GM reduced its entries to Chevrolet and Pontiac in the Nineties. It was the restyled body of the Cutlass Supreme that (along with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Buick Regal, and Pontiac Grand Prix) ushered in the downsized cars into NASCAR cup competition. While the Cutlass looked almost identical to the Buick Regal (which scored 35+ victories in the 1981 thru 1985 seasons), the Cutlass (like the Dodge Mirada) didn't take one checkered flag, and many teams moved away from it in 1983 to the Regal, Grand Prix, and restyled Monte Carlo SS. This was a rude awakening to Oldsmobile, which was getting used to wins on the NASCAR circuit. The body style of the 1988-92 Cutlass proved to be a winner for NASCAR competition and it visited the victory circle 13 times between 1989 and 1992, when Oldsmobile ended its racing program.[ citation needed ]

IMSA GT

In the IMSA GT Championship, Oldsmobile would provide power for IMSA GT Prototypes alongside Chevrolet and Buick. The Cutlass was used in IMSA GTO along with other vehicles also being used in Trans Am and NASCAR.

IndyCar

Oldsmobile was an engine supplier in the IndyCar Series along with Infiniti starting in 1997.

Trans Am Series

The Cutlass was used in the Trans Am Series during the 1980s. Many vehicles also being used in NASCAR at the time were used in Trans Am and IMSA GTO.

See also

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The Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme is a mid-size car produced by Oldsmobile between 1966 and 1997. It was positioned as a premium offering at the top of the Cutlass range. It began as a trim package, developed its own roofline, and rose during the mid-1970s to become not only the most popular Oldsmobile but the highest selling model in its class.

Oldsmobile Starfire Motor vehicle

The Oldsmobile Starfire is an automobile nameplate used by Oldsmobile, produced in three non-contiguous generations beginning in 1954. The Starfire nameplate made its debut with the 1954–1956 Ninety-Eight series convertibles. For 1957 only, all Ninety-Eight series models were named "Starfire 98".

Oldsmobile Firenza Motor vehicle

The Oldsmobile Firenza was a compact car which was produced by Oldsmobile from 1982 to 1988. It was based on the front-wheel drive GM J platform, which was shared with the Buick Skyhawk, Cadillac Cimarron, Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunbird. It was not based on the European market Vauxhall Firenza, but on the same platform as the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk 2 / Opel Ascona C.

Buick V6 engine Motor vehicle engine

The Buick V6, popularly referred to as the 3800 in its later incarnations, originally 198 cu in (3.2 L) and initially marketed as Fireball at its introduction in 1962, was a large V6 engine used by General Motors. The block is made of cast iron and all use two-valve-per-cylinder iron heads, actuated by pushrods. The engine, originally designed and manufactured in the United States, was also produced in later versions in Australia. It was the first six-cylinder engine designed exclusively for Buick products since the Buick straight-six was discontinued in 1930.

General Motors W platform Motor vehicle platform

The W-platform was a General Motors automobile platform which underpinned both mid size and full-size front-wheel drive cars. Originally code named GM10, it began development in 1982 under Chairman Roger B. Smith and debuted in 1987 with the Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupés. The four-door sedan version was introduced for 1990.

Oldsmobile V8 engine Motor vehicle engine

The Oldsmobile V8, also referred to as the Rocket, is series of engines that was produced by Oldsmobile from 1949 to 1990. The Rocket, along with the 1949 Cadillac V8, were the first post-war OHV crossflow cylinder head V8 engines produced by General Motors. Like all other GM divisions, Olds continued building its own V8 engine family for decades, adopting the corporate Chevrolet 350 small-block and Cadillac Northstar engine only in the 1990s. All Oldsmobile V8s were manufactured at plants in Lansing, Michigan while the engine block and cylinder heads were cast at Saginaw Metal Casting Operations.

Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Motor vehicle

The Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera is a mid-size car that was manufactured and marketed from the 1982 through 1996 model years by the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors. It shared the front-wheel drive A platform with the Buick Century, Pontiac 6000 and Chevrolet Celebrity. Available body styles included a 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan, and the 4-door Cutlass (Ciera) Cruiser station wagon.

General Motors B platform Motor vehicle platform

The B platform is a full-size rear-wheel drive car platform produced by General Motors (GM) from 1926 to 1996. Originally made for Oldsmobile and Buick, all of General Motors's five main makes would use it at some point. It was closely related to the original rear-wheel drive C and D platforms, and was used for convertibles, hardtops, coupes, sedans, and station wagons. With approximately 12,960,000 units built, divided across four marques, the 1965-70 B platform is the fourth best selling automobile platform in history after the Volkswagen Beetle, Ford Model T and the Lada Riva.

Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser Motor vehicle

The Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser is an automobile that was manufactured and marketed by Oldsmobile in three generations from 1971 to 1992. The first full-size station wagon produced by Oldsmobile since the 1964 Oldsmobile 88 Fiesta, the Custom Cruiser was produced exclusively on the General Motors B platform as a five-door station wagon. The nameplate was first used by Oldsmobile from 1940 to 1947, denoting the top trim level of its C-body model line. 451,819 Custom Cruisers were sold over the years.

Oldsmobile Achieva Motor vehicle

The Oldsmobile Achieva is a front-wheel drive compact sedan and coupe that was introduced by Oldsmobile for the 1992 model year. The Achieva was based on the GM N-body platform, which it also shared with its siblings the Pontiac Grand Am and Buick Skylark. The Achieva replaced the GM N-body Cutlass Calais after its final 1991 model year, and ended production after the 1998 model year.

Lansing Car Assembly American automobile factory

Lansing Car Assembly was a General Motors automobile factory in Lansing, Michigan. It contained two elements, a 1901 automobile plant in downtown Lansing, and the 1920 Durant Motors factory on Lansing's Far Westside.

General Motors G platform (1969) Motor vehicle platform

The General Motors G platform was an automobile platform designation used for mid-sized rear-wheel drive cars. It made its first appearance from the 1969 to 1972 model years, adapted from GM's A-body, and reappeared from 1982 to 1988. The second series of G-bodies began production designated as A-body cars in 1978, but were redesignated as G-body when the new front-wheel drive A-body platform was introduced in 1982.

General Motors H platform (1971) Motor vehicle platform

The General Motors H platform is an automobile platform used by subcompact cars from the 1971 to 1980 model years. The first subcompact car design developed by GM, the rear-wheel drive H platform initially underpinned the Chevrolet Vega and its Pontiac Astre counterpart. For 1975, the H platform was expanded from entry-level vehicles to sport compacts, adding the Chevrolet Monza, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Starfire, and Pontiac Sunbird.

The GM A platform was a rear wheel drive automobile platform designation used by General Motors from 1925 until 1959, and again from 1964 to 1981. In 1982, GM introduced a new front wheel drive A platform, and existing intermediate rear wheel drive products were redesignated as G-bodies.

In the context of the automobile industry, downsizing is a practice used to transition vehicles from one size segment to another. Often done in response for consumer and government demands to increase fuel economy, vehicle downsizing has been achieved through several methods. As product lines complete model cycles, during a redesign, automobile manufacturers reduce the exterior footprint of a vehicle to allow for weight reduction, shortening wheelbase and body length.

The Oldsmobile Jetstar I is a sporty, high-performance full-sized car produced by Oldsmobile for the 1964 and 1965 model years. Based on the upscale Starfire model, the Olds 88's B-bodied Jetstar I lacked many of the Starfire's standard luxuries but shared its powerful engine, roofline and seating arrangement. Positioned to compete with Pontiac's successful full-sized Grand Prix, it was only offered as a two-door hardtop.

References

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  36. In the '90s, General Motors hired marketers from outside the auto industry -- gurus of selling soap, toothpaste, disposable diapers and the like. But given the blunders behind Oldsmobile's failure, perhaps GM should have taken its marketing lessons from radio instead! Archived June 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine WINTER, 2001, RESEARCH INSIGHTS.

Further reading