Tuesday 12th December 2000
General Motors (GM) declared that it would begin to phase out the 103-year-old Oldsmobile, the oldest automotive brand in the United States. Oldsmobile (the name changed from Olds in 1942) had once been one of the most venerable and innovative American brands–Olds cars were the first to have decorative chrome trim, for example, and the first to have fully automatic transmissions–but a GM reorganisation in the mid-1980s had drained the brand of most of its unique identity. In 1904, the Curved Dash became the first mass-produced car in the United States. That same year, Olds investors ousted the company’s founder. (Ransom Olds wanted to keep on mass-producing inexpensive cars that ordinary people could buy, while the investors wanted to build pricey luxury cars.) Four years later, Olds Motor Works merged with Buick to become General Motors. Within GM, Olds was known as the “technology division”: it pioneered V-8 engines in 1915, chrome plating in 1926, the Hydra-Matic automatic transmission in 1937, and the Rocket V-8 in 1949. In 2004, four years after GM made its announcement, the phase-out of Oldsmobile was complete. That April, the last Oldsmobile–a cherry-red Alero – rolled of the Lansing factory and went straight to the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum nearby, where you can see it today.