Insurance group 1 cars oldsmobile
- Oldsmobile models
- Canadian market
- Other markets
- Marketing themes
- See also
- Further reading
- External links
- Development history
- International trade
- The Big Three automakers
- Great Depression and World War II
- Unionization of the auto manufacturers workforce
- Decline of the independent automakers
- Post-war years
- Federal regulation of the auto industry
- See also
- External links
|Former type||Entry-level luxury division|
|Founded||August 21, 1897; 119 years ago (1897-08-21)|
|Founder||Ransom E. Olds|
|Defunct||April 29, 2004; 12 years ago (April 29, 2004)|
|Headquarters||Lansing, Michigan, U.S.|
|Products||Luxury vehicles, mainstream vehicles|
Oldsmobile was a brand of American automobiles produced for most of its existence by General Motors. Olds Motor Vehicle Co. was founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897. In its 107-year history, it produced 35.2 million cars, including at least 14 million built at its Lansing, Michigan factory. When it was phased out in 2004, Oldsmobile was the oldest surviving American automobile marque, and one of the oldest in the world, after Daimler, Peugeot and Tatra. Though it was discontinued in 2004, it still remains an active trademark of the General Motors Company. The closing of the Oldsmobile division presaged a larger consolidation of GM brands and discontinuation of models during the company's 2009 bankruptcy reorganization.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early history
- 1.2 1930s
- 1.3 1940s
- 1.4 1950s
- 1.5 1960s
- 1.6 1970s-1980s
- 1.7 1990s
- 1.8 2000s
- 2 Oldsmobile models
- 2.1 Production
- 2.2 Models
- 2.3 Concept
- 3 Canadian market
- 4 Other markets
- 5 Marketing themes
- 5.1 Advertising gallery
- 6 Motorsport
- 6.1 NASCAR
- 6.2 IMSA GT
- 6.3 IndyCar
- 6.4 Trans Am Series
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Early historyRansom 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 company produced 425 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 1903-4. Ransom Olds left the company in 1904 because of a dispute and formed the REO Motor Car Company.The first Oldsmobile logo 1904 Olds model 6C Curved-Dash-Olds
The 1901 to 1904 Oldsmobile Curved Dash was the first mass-produced car, made from the first automotive assembly line, an invention that is often miscredited to Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. (Ford was the first to manufacture cars on a moving assembly line.) 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. 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. A new factory was built in Lansing, and production of the Curved Dash commenced.
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 in 1908.1928 Oldsmobile 4-door sedan
The 1910 Limited Touring was a high point for the company. Riding atop 42-inch wheels, and equipped with factory "white" tires, the Limited was the prestige model in Oldsmobile's two model lineup. The Limited retailed for US$4,600, an amount greater than the purchase of a new, no-frills three bedroom house. Buyers received goatskin upholstery, a 60 hp (45 kW) 707 CID (11.6 L) 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. 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. 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.
In 1929, as part of General Motors' companion make program, Oldsmobile introduced the higher standard Viking brand, marketed through the Oldsmobile dealers network. Viking was discontinued already at the end of the 1930 model year although an additional 353 cars were marketed as 1931 models.
1930s1934 Oldsmobile 8 convertible coupe
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.
1940s1940 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 1996, 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 six- and 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, they introduced their Rocket engine, which used an overhead valve V8 design rather than the flathead "straight-eight" design which prevailed at the time. This engine produces 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 their V8 engines in the mid-1960s.
1950s1953 Oldsmobile advertisement 1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday coupe
Oldsmobile entered the 1950s following a divisional image campaign centered on its 'Rocket' engines and its cars' appearance followed suit. Oldsmobile's Rocket V8 engine was the leader in performance, generally considered the fastest cars on the market and by the mid-1950s their styling was among the first to offer a wide, "open maw" grille, suggestive of jet propulsion. Oldsmobile adopted a ringed-globe emblem to stress what marketers felt was its universal appeal. Throughout the 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 DeVille", 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 convertible ( Starfire ) would be front and rear "sweep cut" fender styling which would not show up on a Chevrolet until 1956 and a Pontiac in 1957.Oldsmobile dealership in Wisconsin, circa 1940s-1950s
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 competitor DeSoto. Compounding the problem for Oldsmobile and Buick was a styling mistake which GM called the "Strato Roof". 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, overdecorated "chromemobile" which many felt had overly ostentatious styling.
Up front, all 1958 Oldsmobiles received one of General Motors' heavily styled front fascias 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
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 was 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.
1960sOldsmobile Headquarters (1966) - Building 70 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 stylistic variation was used on full size vehicles for the 1962, 1963, and 1964 model years Oldsmobile Starfire (1961) 1965 Oldsmobile 442 sport coupe 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser
Notable achievements for Oldsmobile in the 1960s included the introduction of the first turbocharged engine 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.
Notable models for the 1960s:
- Oldsmobile 442 - began as a 1964 muscle car option package (4-barrel carburetor, 4-speed manual transmission, and 2 exhausts) on the F-85/Cutlass. In 1965, to better compete with the Pontiac GTO, the original 330 CID V8 rated at 310 hp (231 kW) was replaced by a new 400 CID V8 rated at 345 hp (257 kW). The 442 definition was changed to "4" hundred CID V8 engine, "4"-barrel carburetor, and "2" exhaust pipes, and was named by "Car Craft Nationals" as the "top car of 1965". In 1968 the 442 became its own model and got a larger, 455 CID (7.5 L), V8 engine in 1970.
- Oldsmobile Cutlass (1961–1999) - mid-size car. Oldsmobile's best seller in the 1970s and 1980s, and in some of those years America's best-selling car. In 1966 a top-line Cutlass Supreme was introduced as a four-door hardtop sedan with a more powerful 320 hp (239 kW) 330 CID Jetfire Rocket V8 than the regular F-85/Cutlass models, a more luxurious interior and other trimmings. In 1967 the Cutlass Supreme was expanded to a full series also including two-door hardtop and pillared coupes, a convertible and a four-door pillared sedan. It also came with a 6.6L 400 CID engine as an option in 1967.
- Oldsmobile F-85 (1961–1972) - compact sedan, coupe and station wagon powered by a 215 CID aluminum block V8 engine from 1961 to 1963. In 1964 the F-85 was upgraded to an intermediate sized car and the aluminum V8 was replaced by conventional cast-iron six-cylinder and V8 engines. The Cutlass was initially the top model of the F-85 line but became a separate model by 1964 with the F-85 nameplate continued only on the lowest priced models through the 1972 model year, after which all Oldsmobile intermediates were Cutlasses.
- Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser (1964–1977) - a stretched wheelbase Cutlass station wagon, which was stretched to 120" from 115" in the 1964-67 models and to 121" from 116" in the 1968-72 models, the stretched area being in the second-row seating area. This car featured an elevated roof over the rear seat and cargo area and glass skylights over the rear seating area, which consisted of a transverse skylight over the second seat (two-piece from 1964 to 1967, one-piece from 1968 to 1972) and small longitudinal skylights directly over the rear cargo-area windows, and also featured standard second-row sunvisors. The three-seat models featured forward-facing seating, at a time when most three-seat station wagons had the third row of seats facing the rear. From 1965 to 1970, it would be Oldsmobile's flagship station wagon, as no full-sized wagons were produced. The third-generation 1973-77 models no longer had skylights other than an optional front-row pop-up sunroof. This car was merely an up-line trim package on the Cutlass Supreme wagon and carried the Vista Cruiser nameplate rather than the Cutlass nameplate. The optional third seat was rear-facing in the third-generation Vista Cruiser.
- Oldsmobile Starfire (1961–1966) - a sporty and luxurious hardtop coupe and convertible based on the 88. The Starfire featured interiors with leather bucket seats and a center console with floor shifter, along with a standard Hydra-Matic transmission, power steering and brakes (and power windows and seats on convertibles). It was powered by Oldsmobile's most powerful Rocket V8 engine, a 394 CID engine from 1961 to 1964 rated from 330 to 345 hp (257 kW), and a larger 425 CID Super Rocket V8 from 1965 to 1966, rated at 375 hp (280 kW).
- Oldsmobile Jetstar I (1964–1966) - life for the somewhat obscure Jetstar I started in 1964. It was designed to be a low cost option to the successful full size Starfire series - more of a direct competitor to the Pontiac Grand Prix. Standard equipment included the 345 hp (257 kW) 394ci Starfire engine, vinyl bucket seats and console. Keeping the “sport” part of the Starfire, it possessed less of the luxury and glitz. It weighed in at 4028 pounds, and 16,084 were produced for 1964. It was a Starfire without the frills and was informally dubbed “the poor man’s Starfire”. Proving to be an ill-fated model, 1965 concluded the 2-year run for the Jetstar I. Only 6,552 were sold. The introduction of the Pontiac GTO and Oldsmobile 4-4-2 in 1964 insured the future of the musclecars were the intermediates, and the front-drive Toronado loomed big in Oldsmobile's future taking over the flagship status from the Starfire. Further confused with its lesser brethren with the Jetstar 88 nameplate, there was no way but out for the Jetstar I. And close examination of prices revealed that unless one bought a sparsely optioned JS1, there was little financial incentive to buy a JS1 over the Starfire. But lost in the mix was a high-performance car in the ’65 Jetstar I. Trimmed down to 3963#, the ’65 model was an overlooked performance car. The new 370 hp (276 kW) 425ci Starfire engine delivered 470 lb·ft (637 N·m) of torque, was durable, and was quite an improvement over the ’64 394. The new Oldsmobile Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission was a vast performance improvement over the previous “slim-jim” Hydra-Matic transmission. Also, Oldsmobile offered the Muncie 4-speed with Hurst shifter in ’65. Oldsmobile boasted in a 1965 press release that “a Jetstar I proved to be the top accelerator of the entire event” at the 1965 Pure Oil Performance Trials in Daytona beach. Those trials were sanctioned and supervised by NASCAR. Note: between 1964 and 1966, Oldsmobile named its least expensive full size model the Oldsmobile Jetstar 88 which the Jetstar I was not related to, and priced $500–$600 below the Jetstar I.
- Oldsmobile Delta 88 (1949–1999) While the "88" series of Oldsmobile's date back to the 1940s, and were offered in a variety of trim levels, the introduction of the Delta 88, which superseded the Super 88'\ line as Olds mid-level full-sized vehicles, was a watershed event for the division. Better trimmed than the low price Dynamic 88 range, but available in a wider range of body styles than the Super 88 had been, the Delta range was an immediate hit with car buyers. It quickly over shadowed the Dynamic 88 line. To pump life into the Dynamic 88 range, Oldsmobile renamed it the Delmont 88 for 1967. However the Delta continued to climb in popularity to the point where Oldsmobile dropped the Delmont range at the end of the 1968 model run. Eventually the Delta 88 was joined by the Delta 88 Royale, a premium trimmed Delta. The Delta continued to be Oldsmobile's most popular full size line. In an attempt to modernize marketing efforts as Oldsmobile's fortunes declined, the "Delta" name was dropped in 1989, but the car lived on as the Eighty-Eight until Oldsmobile ended its production in 1999.
- Oldsmobile Toronado (1966–1992) - a front-wheel drive coupe in the personal luxury car category, introduced in 1966. At the time, the largest and most powerful front-wheel-drive car ever produced, and one of the first modern front-wheel-drive cars equipped with an automatic transmission. The original Toronado was powered by a 425 CID Super Rocket V8 engine rated at 385 hp (287 kW), mated to a three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. The Toronado was Motor Trend magazine's 1966 "car of the year".
1970s-1980sLogo used from 1981 to 1996, also applied on a few early 1997 models.
Oldsmobile sales soared in the 1970s and 1980s (for an all-time high of 1,066,122 in 1985) based on popular designs, positive reviews from critics, and the perceived quality and reliability of the Rocket V8 engine, 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 early 1980s, model-year production topped one million units on several occasions, something only Chevrolet and Ford had achieved.1970s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 1977 Oldsmobile Omega sedan 1987 Oldsmobile Delta 88 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera
The soaring popularity of Oldsmobile vehicles resulted in a major issue in the late 1970s. 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.
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 dropped.
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, V8) displacement diesel on the 1979 Cutlass Salon and Cutlass Supreme/Cutlass Calais models. These were largely based on their gasoline engines but with heavier duty cast blocks, re-designed heads, 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. 4.3L V6 diesels were also offered between 1982 and 1985.
- Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (1966–1997) - more performance and luxury than the lower priced Cutlass and Cutlass S models, fitting in at the lower end of the personal luxury car market. Models were similar to the Pontiac Grand Prix, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and Buick Regal.
- Oldsmobile 98 - Oldsmobile full-sized luxury sedan that was downsized in 1977 and 1985, became front-wheel-drive in 1985.
- Oldsmobile Toronado (1966–1992) - personal luxury coupe, major redesign downsized the car in 1986, Motor Trend Car of the Year in '66.
- Oldsmobile Omega (1973–1984) - European flavored compact car based on the Chevrolet Nova and later the Chevrolet Citation.
- Oldsmobile Calais (or Cutlass Calais) (1985–1991) - popular compact coupe or sedan on GM's "N-body" platform, similar to the Pontiac Grand Am. The series' name was taken from what was formerly the high-end option package for Cutlass Supreme models.
- Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera (1982–1996) - popular selling upscale mid-sized car based on GM's A platform. During its run, the Cutlass Ciera was Oldsmobile's best-selling model. It consistently ranked among the highest rated vehicles by J. D. Power and Associates; it was ranked the "Best in Price Class" on July 30, 1992 and the "Top-Ranked American-Made Car" on May 28, 1992. It was also named "Safe Car of the Year" by Prevention Magazine on March 6, 1992.
- Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser (1971–1992) - full-size station wagon.
- Oldsmobile Starfire (1975–1980) - sporty subcompact, hatchback coupe similar to the Chevrolet Monza, which was itself, based on the Chevrolet Vega.
- Oldsmobile Firenza (1982–1988) - compact sedan, hatchback, coupe, and station wagon based on GM's J-body, sharing the same bodyshell with the Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac Sunbird, Buick Skyhawk.
1990s1994 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight Royale
After the tremendous success of the early and mid-1980s, things changed quickly for Oldsmobile, and by the early 1990s the brand had lost its place in the market, squeezed between other GM divisions, and with competition from new upscale import makes Acura, Infiniti and Lexus. Oldsmobile's signature cars gave way to rebadged models of other GM cars, and GM shifted the performance mantle to Chevrolet and Pontiac. 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, and climate controls. 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. 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.First Generation Oldsmobile Aurora
Redesigned & new models introduced from 1990 to 2004:
- Oldsmobile Achieva (1992–1998) - compact sedan & coupe
- Oldsmobile Alero (1999–2004) - compact sport sedan & coupe
- Oldsmobile Aurora (1995–2003) - full-size luxury/performance sedan (redesigned for 2001)
- Oldsmobile Bravada (1991–2004) - mid-size premium Sport utility vehicle (redesigned for 1996 and 2002)
- Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser (1971–1992) - full-size station wagon. (Redesigned for 1991)
- Oldsmobile Cutlass (1997–1999) - mid-size sedan
- Oldsmobile Eighty Eight (1949–1999) - full-size premium sedan (redesigned for 1992)
- Oldsmobile Intrigue (1998–2002) - mid-size luxury/sport sedan
- Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight (1941–1996) - full-size luxury sedan (redesigned for 1991)
- Oldsmobile Silhouette (1990–2004) - premium minivan (redesigned for 1997)
2000s2002 Oldsmobile Alero
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 their ideas 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 and turned out to be their final vehicle. The phaseout was conducted on the following schedule:
- February 2001: The 2002 Bravada, the company's last new model, hits Oldsmobile showrooms
- June 2002: Production ends for Intrigue and the Aurora V6 sedans
- March 2003: Aurora V8 sedan production ends
- January 2004: Bravada SUV production ends
- March 2004: Silhouette minivan production ends
- April 2004: Alero compact car production ends
The final 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 final production day for Oldsmobile was April 29, 2004. The division's last car built 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 they retook possession of the car. It is now located at the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
|Model Year(s)||Model||H.P. Rating||Cyl.||Remarks|
|1901–1903||Curved Dash Model R||5||1|
|1904||Curved Dash Model 6C||7||1|
|1904||Model T||10||1||a.k.a. "Light Tonneau"|
|1904–1905||Model N||7||1||a.k.a. "Touring Runabout"|
|1905–1906||Curved Dash Model B||7||1|
|1905||Side Entrance Tonneau||20||2||5-passenger|
|1906||Model L||2, opposed|
|1907||Curved Dash Model F||7||1|
|1908||Model M / MR||4|
|1909||20||22||4||Derived from Buick 10|
|1909||Model D / DR||4|
|1910||Special||40||4||Replaces all previous 4-cylinder cars|
|1910–1912||Limited||60||6||Introduced 1909 as 1910 model|
|1911||Special||36||4||Compressed-air starter (all)|
|1912–1913||Defender||35||4||el. Starter & lighting (all)|
|1913||53||50||6||Replaces Limited and Autocrat|
|1914||54||50||6||"6th Generation Six"|
|1915-16||43||30||6||"4th Generation Four"|
|1915||55||50||6||"6th Generation Six"|
|1916||44 "Light Eight"||V-8|
|1917||45 "Light Eight"||V-8|
|1918||45A "Light Eight"||V-8|
- Oldsmobile Six
- Oldsmobile Eight
- Oldsmobile Deluxe
- Oldsmobile 66 and 68 (1939–1948)
- Oldsmobile 76 and 78 (1946–1950)
- Oldsmobile 88 (1949–1999)
- Oldsmobile 98 (1941–1996)
- Oldsmobile Starfire (1961–1966)
- Oldsmobile 442 (1968–1971 & 1985–1987)
- Oldsmobile Cutlass (1964–1999)
- Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (1967–1997)
- Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon
- Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais (1985–1991)
- Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera (1982–1996)
- Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser (1971–1992)
- Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser (1964–1977)
- Oldsmobile F-85 (1961–1963)
- Oldsmobile Toronado (1966–1992)
- Oldsmobile Omega (1973–1984)
- Oldsmobile Starfire (1975–1980)
- Oldsmobile Firenza (1982–1988)
- Oldsmobile Achieva (1992–1998)
- Oldsmobile Alero (1999–2004)
- Oldsmobile Aurora (1995–2003)
- Oldsmobile Bravada (1991–2004)
- Oldsmobile Intrigue (1998–2002)
- Oldsmobile Silhouette (1990–2004)
- Oldsmobile Starfire (1953)
- Oldsmobile Cutlass (1954)
- Oldsmobile F-88 (1954)
- Oldsmobile 88 Delta (1955)
- Oldsmobile Golden Rocket (1956)
- Oldsmobile F-88 Mark II (1957)
- Oldsmobile F-88 Mark III (1959)
- Oldsmobile X-215 (1962)
- Oldsmobile El Torero (1963)
- Oldsmobile J-TR (1963)
- Oldsmobile Thor by Ghia (1967)
- Oldsmobile Incas by ItalDesign (1986)
- Oldsmobile Aerotech(HyperCar) (1987)
- Oldsmobile Achieva Concept (1991)
- Oldsmobile Aerotech III (1989)
- Oldsmobile Anthem (1992)
- Oldsmobile Tube Car (1989)
- Oldsmobile Expression (1990)
- Oldsmobile Antares (1995)
- Oldsmobile Alero Alpha (1997)
- Oldsmobile Recon (1999)
- Oldsmobile Profile (2000)
- Oldsmobile O4 (2001)
In Canada the range was much more limited, with the Oldsmobile Silhouette and Oldsmobile Bravada being unavailable to Canadian consumers until much later in their production life.
- The Oldsmobile Cutlass (1997–1999 version) was not offered there.
- The Oldsmobile Silhouette was sold in Canada from 1998 onwards, unlike in the United States.
- The Oldsmobile Bravada was unavailable in Canada until its third generation in 2002; previous models sold in Canada were grey import vehicles.
In Mexico all Oldsmobile models were sold under the Chevrolet brand.
The Oldsmobile Alero was sold as a Chevrolet in Europe but it retained Oldsmobile's badge / logo on the front, the Chevrolet name was used due to buyers' unfamiliarity with Oldsmobile in Europe.
Early on in their history, Olds enjoyed a healthy public relations boost from the 1905 hit song "In My Merry Oldsmobile". The well known song was updated in the fifties to sing about "The 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
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." 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.
- A 1902 advertisement for Oldsmobile - Galveston Daily News, December 28, 1902
- A 1904 advertisement for Oldsmobile - Syracuse Post-Standard, September 30, 1904
- A 1905 advertisement for Oldsmobile.
- Oldsmobile four-cylinder touring car (Model S) - Syracuse Herald, April 7, 1906
- A 1908 advertisement for Oldsmobile (Model M) - La Crosse Tribune, May 8, 1908
- A 1910 advertisement for Oldsmobile - Mansfield News, April 23, 1910
- A 1910 advertisement for Oldsmobile - Syracuse Post-Standard, June 11, 1910
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.
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.
Oldsmobile was an engine supplier in the IndyCar Series along with Infiniti starting in 1996. .
Trans Am Series
The Cutlass was used in the Trans Am Series during the eighties. Many vehicles also being used in NASCAR at the time were used in Trans Am and IMSA GTO.
- List of automobile manufacturers
- List of defunct automobile manufacturers of the United States
- Oldsmobile Diesel engine
- Oldsmobile Quad 4 engine
- Oldsmobile straight-6 engine
- Oldsmobile V8 engine
- Irving Jacob Reuter
- ^ Dead at 106: Oldsmobile. CNN, April 2004
- ^ Michigan Yesterday & Today. Voyageur Press.
- ^ "Ransom Eli Olds Commemorative Marker".
- ^ http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Oldsmobile/1926%20Oldsmobile/album/1926%20Oldsmobile%20Foldout-03.html
- ^ "Automatic Transmission Saves Gas And Power" Popular Mechanics, August 1937
- ^ Mateja, James (March 13, 1977). "GM engine lawsuit: When does Olds become a Chevrolet?". Chicago Tribune.
- ^ Stuart, Reginald (April 3, 1978). "G.M.'s Image Under Fire In New Type of Lawsuit; Latest Charges Challenge Internal Operations, Not Size Factors Credibility and Durability 'A Set of Principles' G.M. Image Assailed in New Cases Murkier Waters Today 'Little Attention' Given Approach Challenged". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- ^ 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! WINTER, 2001, RESEARCH INSIGHTS.
- Chevedden, John; Kowalke, Ron (2012). Standard Catalog of Oldsmobile 1897–1997. Kraus Publications.
- Clark, Henry A. (1985). Kimes, Beverly R., ed. The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805–1945. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87341-111-0.
- Clark, Henry A. (1996). Kimes, Beverly R., ed. The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805–1945. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87341-428-4.
- Gunnell, John, ed. (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946–1975. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-096-3.
- Lawler, John (February 1994). "1957-58 Oldsmobile: From Beautiful to Baroque". Collectible Automobile Magazine. pp. 22–37.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Oldsmobile vehicles.|
- Oldsmobile Owner Assistance on GM website
- Oldsmobile.com: 2004 Oldsmobile's website — last year of production
- Encyclopedia of Oldsmobile
- The Olds Holiday Golden Anniversary Special
- Oldsmobile Club of America
- Oldsmobile at DMOZ
- Outright Oldsmobile.com — photo archive, history, concepts, vintage ads, videos, and owners registry.
- Oldsmobile Wiki
- Vintage Oldsmobile Ads
- 442.com: resource for the Cutlass/442 enthusiest
- Radiolive.co.nz: Alan Lewenthal interview, Oldsmobile F88 owner
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|Mid-size station wagon||Vista Cruiser||Vista Cruiser||Vista Cruiser||Cutlass Cruiser|
|88||88||88||88||88||88||Delta 88||Delta 88|
|Full-size station wagon||76||88 Fiesta||88 Fiesta||88 Fiesta||Custom Cruiser||Custom Cruiser|
|Mid-size car||Cutlass||Cutlass Ciera||Cutlass|
|Cutlass Supreme||Cutlass Supreme||Intrigue|
|Mid-size station wagon||Cutlass Cruiser||Cutlass Cruiser|
|Full-size car||Delta 88||Delta 88/Eighty-Eight||Eighty Eight|
|Full-size station wagon||Custom Cruiser||Custom Cruiser|
|Personal luxury car||Toronado||Toronado|
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| 1Marques of SAIC-GM-Wuling (GM up to 44%) |
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Main articles: Automobile and Automobile Industry
|Automotive industry in the United States|
|Ford Model T, 1927. Created in 1908, regarded as the first affordable American automobile|
The automotive industry in the United States began in the 1890s and, as a result of the size of the domestic market and the use of mass-production, rapidly evolved into the largest in the world. However, the United States was overtaken as the largest automobile producer by Japan in the 1980s, and subsequently by China in 2008. The U.S. is currently second among the largest manufacturer in the world by volume, with approximately 8-10 million manufactured annually. Notable exceptions were 5.7 million automobiles manufactured in 2009 (due to crisis), and peak production levels of 13-15 million units during the 1970s and early 2000s.
The motor vehicle industry began with hundreds of manufacturers, but by the end of the 1920s it was dominated by three large companies: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. After the Great Depression and World War II, these companies continued to prosper, and the U.S. produced nearly three quarters of all automobiles in the world by 1950 (8,005,859 of 10,577,426). Beginning in the 1970s, a combination of high oil prices and increased competition from foreign auto manufacturers severely affected the companies. In the ensuing years, the companies periodically bounced back, but by 2008 the industry was in turmoil due to the aforementioned crisis. As a result, General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy reorganization and were bailed out with loans and investments from the federal government. But according to Autodata Corp, June 2014 seasonally adjusted annualized sales is the biggest in history with 16.98 million vehicles and toppled previous record in July 2006.
Prior to the 1980s, most manufacturing facilities were owned by the Big Three (GM, Ford, Chrysler) and AMC. Their U.S. market share has dropped steadily as numerous foreign-owned car companies have built factories in the U.S.
Toyota had 31,000 direct employees in the U.S. in 2012, meaning a total payroll of about $2.1 billion, compared to Ford's 80,000 U.S. employees supplying their 3,300 dealerships and Chrysler's 71,100 U.S. employees supplying their 2,328 dealerships.Total Vehicle sales in the United States
- 1 Development history
- 1.1 Production
- 1.2 American road system
- 1.2.1 State involvement
- 1.2.2 Federal involvement
- 2 International trade
- 3 The Big Three automakers
- 4 Great Depression and World War II
- 5 Unionization of the auto manufacturers workforce
- 6 Decline of the independent automakers
- 7 Post-war years
- 8 1960s
- 9 Federal regulation of the auto industry
- 10 1970s
- 11 1980s
- 12 1990s
- 13 2000s
- 14 2010s
- 15 See also
- 16 Notes
- 17 References
- 18 External links
Development historySee also: History of the automobile
ProductionSee also: U.S. Automobile Production Figures
The development of self-powered vehicles was accompanied by numerous technologies and components giving rise to numerous supplier firms and associated industries. Various types of energy sources were employed by early automobiles including steam, electric, and gasoline. Thousands of entrepreneurs were involved in developing, assembling, and marketing of early automobiles on a small and local scale. Increasing sales facilitated production on a larger scale in factories with broader market distribution. Ransom E. Olds and Thomas B. Jeffery began mass production of their automobiles. Henry Ford focused on producing an automobile that many middle class Americans could afford.
Originally purchased by wealthy individuals, by 1916 cars began selling at $875 (US$19,258 in 2017 dollars ) Soon, the market widened with the mechanical betterment of the cars, the reduction in prices, as well as the introduction of installment sales and payment plans. During the period from 1917 to 1926 the annual rate of increase in sales was considerably less than from 1903 to 1916. In the years 1918, 1919, 1921, and 1924 there have been absolute declines in automotive production. The automotive industry caused a massive shift in the industrial revolution because it accelerated growth by a rate never before seen in the U.S. economy. The combined efforts of innovation and industrialization allowed the automotive industry to take off during this period and it proved to be the backbone of United States manufacturing during the 20th century.
American road systemSee also: Interstate Highway System The "final" U.S. Highway plan as approved November 11, 1926
The practicality of the automobile was initially limited because of the lack of suitable roads. Travel between cities was mostly done by railroad, waterways, or carriages. Roads were mostly dirt and hard to travel, particularly in bad weather. The League of American Wheelman maintained and improved roads as it was viewed as a local responsibility with limited government assistance. During this time, there was an increase in production of automobiles coupled with a swell of auto dealerships, marking their growth in popularity.
State governments began to use the corvee system to maintain roads, an implementation of required physical labor on a public project on the local citizens. Part of their motivation was the needs of farmers in rural areas attempting to transport their goods across rough, barely functioning roads (article).
The other reason was the weight of the wartime vehicles. The materials involved altered during World War I to accommodate the heavier trucks on the road and were responsible for widespread shift to macadam highways and roadways. However, rural roads were still a problem for military vehicles, so four wheel drive was developed by automobile manufacturers to assist in powering through. As the prevalence of automobiles grew, it became clear funding would need to improve as well and the addition of government financing reflected that change.
The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 allocated $75 million for building roads. It was also responsible for approving a refocusing of military vehicles to road maintenance equipment. It was followed by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 provided additional funding for road construction. By 1924, there were 31,000 miles of paved road in the U.S.
The Big Three automakersSee also: Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Chrysler
In the early 1900s, the U.S. saw the rise of the Big Three automakers; Ford, GM, and Chrysler. In the late 19th century Thorstein Veblen introduced his Theory of the Leisure Class which introduced conspicuous consumption and demonstrated that wealth was the basis for social status. Ford and General Motors each played a role in their target market and what social status each consumer belonged to.
Henry Ford began building cars in 1896 and started his own company in 1903. The Ford Motor Company improved mass-production with the first conveyor belt-based assembly line in 1913, producing the Model T (which had been introduced in 1908). These assembly lines significantly reduced costs. The first models were priced at $850, but by 1924 had dropped to $290. The Model T sold extremely well and Ford became the largest automobile company in the U.S. By the time it was retired in 1927, more than 15 million Model Ts had been sold. Ford introduced the Model A in 1927 (after a six-month production stoppage to convert from the Model T), and produced it through 1931. However, while the Model A was successful, Ford lost ground to GM and eventually Chrysler, as auto buyers looked to more upscale cars and newer styling. Ford was also a pioneer in establishing foreign manufacturing facilities, with production facilities created in England in 1911, and Germany and Australia in 1925. Ford purchased the luxury Lincoln automaker in 1922 and established the Mercury division in 1938.
General Motors Corporation (GM), the company that would soon become the world's largest automaker, was founded in 1908 by William Durant. Durant had previously been a carriage maker, and had taken control of Buick in 1904. The company initially acquired Buick, Oldsmobile and Oakland (later to become Pontiac) in 1908. The next year GM acquired Cadillac, along with a number of other car companies and parts suppliers. Durant also was interested in acquiring Ford, but after initial merger talks, Henry Ford decided to keep his company independent. In 1910, Durant lost control of GM after over-extending the company with its acquisitions. A group of banks took over control of GM and ousted Durant. Durant and Louis Chevrolet founded Chevrolet in 1913 and it quickly became very successful. Durant began acquiring stock in GM and by 1915 had majority control. Chevrolet was acquired by GM in 1917 and Durant was back in charge of GM. In 1921, Durant was again forced out of the company. During the late 1920s, General Motors overtook Ford to become the largest automaker. Under the leadership of Alfred P. Sloan, General Motors instituted decentralized management and separate divisions for each price class. They also introduced annual model changes. GM also became an innovator in technology under the leadership of Charles F. Kettering. GM followed Ford by expanding overseas, including purchasing England's Vauxhall Motors in 1925, Germany's Opel in 1929, and Australia's Holden in 1931. GM also established General Motors Acceptance Company in 1919 to provide credit for buyers of its cars.
Walter Chrysler was formerly president of Buick and an executive of GM. After leaving GM in 1920, he took control of the Maxwell Motor Company, revitalized the company and, in 1925, reorganized it into Chrysler Corporation. He then acquired Dodge Brothers in 1927. The acquisition of Dodge gave Chrysler the manufacturing facilities and dealer network that it needed to significantly expand production and sales. In 1928, Chrysler introduced the Plymouth and DeSoto brands. Chrysler also overtook Ford to become the second largest auto maker by the 1930s, following similar strategies as General Motors.
General Motors wanted automobiles to be status symbols and illustrate a defined social class structure. Thorstein Veblen refers to conspicuous consumption as spending money on luxury goods and services to display power or social status. Through offering different makes and models they offered different levels in social status meeting the demands of consumers needing to display wealth.
Ford and General Motors each had their own impact on social status and the type of market they were targeting. Henry Ford focused on delivery one product for the masses. Ford’s focus was one car, one color, all for one price. He not only manufactured a product for the masses, but he provided a $5 a day wage so that there was a market to buy this product. In doing these things he eliminated the social status that went along with owning a car. The contrast of that is General Motors offered a product that catered to those looking to gain status by having that sense of individualism and offering different make, models, and quality.
Great Depression and World War II
The 1930s saw the demise of many auto makers due to the economic effects of the Great Depression, stiff competition from the Big Three, and/or mismanagement. Luxury car makers were particularly affected by the economy, with companies like Stutz Motor Company, Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company, Peerless Motor Company, Cunningham, and the Marmon Motor Car Company going out of business. The decade also saw several companies with innovative engineering, such as the Doble Steam Motors Corporation (advanced steam engines) and Franklin Automobile Company (air-cooled aluminium engines) going out of business. Errett Lobban Cord, who controlled the Auburn Automobile Company (which also sold the Cord) and the Duesenberg Motor Company, was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. His auto empire collapsed in 1937 and production ceased.
Major technological innovations were introduced or were widely adopted during the 1930s, such as synchromesh manual transmissions, semi-automatic transmissions, automatic transmissions, hydraulic brakes, independent front suspension, and overhead-valve engines. The Cord 810 used front-wheel drive, had hidden headlights, and was offered with a supercharger. Exterior styling designs were more flowing, as shown most noticeably on the Auburn Speedster and the Cord 810/812. Radical air-streamed design was introduced on the Chrysler Airflow, a sales flop, and the Lincoln-Zephyr (both of which used unit-body construction). Packard introduced their "Air Cool-ditioned" car in 1940.
When the U.S. entered World War II, all domestic passenger automobile production ceased by February 1942. The industry received $10 billion in war-related orders by that month, compared to $4 billion before the attack on Pearl Harbor. All factories were enlarged and converted, many new ones such as Ford's Willow Run and Chrysler's Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant were built, and hundreds of thousands more workers were hired to produce war material such as armaments, aircraft, and military vehicles. Experts anticipated that Detroit would learn advanced engineering methods from the aviation industry that would result in great improvements for postwar civilian automobiles. These factories produced an astonishing amount of material, including 5.9 million weapons, 2.8 million tanks and trucks, and 27,000 aircraft. This production was a major factor in the victory of the allies.
Unionization of the auto manufacturers workforceSee also: United Automobile Workers
Due to the difficult working conditions in the auto production plants, auto workers began to seek representation to help improve conditions and ensure fair pay. The United Automobile Workers union won recognition from GM and Chrysler in 1937, and Ford in 1941. In 1950, the automakers granted workers a company-paid pension to those 65 years old and with 30 years seniority. In the mid-1950s, the automakers agreed to set up a trust fund for unemployed auto workers. In 1973, the automakers agreed to offer pensions to any worker with 30 years seniority, regardless of age. By then the automakers had also agreed to cover the entire health insurance bill for its employees, survivors, and retirees.
Decline of the independent automakers
The only major auto companies to survive the Great Depression were General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation, Hudson Motor Car Company, Nash-Kelvinator Corporation, Packard Motor Car Company, Studebaker Corporation, and Crosley Motors. The former three companies, known as the Big Three, enjoyed significant advantages over the smaller independent auto companies due to their financial strength, which gave them a big edge in marketing, production, and technological innovation. Most of the Big Three's competitors ended production by the 1960s, and their last major domestic competitor was acquired in the 1980s.
Crosley Motors ceased auto production in 1952. Packard and Studebaker merged in 1954, but ended production of Packard-branded cars in 1958 and ceased all auto production in 1966.
Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was started in 1945 and acquired Willys-Overland Motors (maker of the Jeep) in 1953. Production of passenger cars was discontinued in 1955. In 1970, the company was sold to American Motors.
In 1954, Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson merged to form American Motors (AMC). The company introduced numerous product and marketing innovations, but its small size made it difficult to compete with the Big Three and struggled financially. The French auto maker Renault took control of AMC in the early 1980s, but financial difficulties continued and AMC was purchased by Chrysler Corporation in 1987.
Periodically, other entrepreneurs would found automobile companies, but most would soon fail and none achieved major sales success. Some of the best known included Preston Tucker's 1948 sedan, Earl Muntz's Muntz Car Company, Malcolm Bricklin's Bricklin SV-1, the modern Stutz Blackhawk, Clénet Coachworks, Zimmer, Excalibur, and John DeLorean's DMC-12.
Post-war yearsSee also: American automobile industry in the 1950s and 1950s American automobile culture
Initial auto production after the WWII was slowed by the retooling process, shortages of materials, and labor unrest. However, the American auto industry reflected the post-war prosperity of the late-1940s and the 1950s. Cars grew in overall size, as well as engine size during the 1950s. The Overhead valve V-8 engine developed by GM in the late-1940s proved to be very successful and helped ignite the horsepower race, the second salvo of which was Chrysler's 1951 Hemi engine. Longer, lower, and wider tended to be the general trend. Exterior styling was influenced by jets and rockets as the space-age dawned. Rear fins were popular and continued to grow larger, and front bumpers and taillights were sometimes designed in the shape of rockets. Chrome plating was very popular, as was two-tone paint. The most extreme version of these styling trends were found in the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado and Chrysler Corporation's 1957 Imperial. The Chevrolet Corvette and the Ford Thunderbird, introduced in 1953 and 1955 respectively, were designed to capture the sports car market. However, the Thunderbird grew in size in 1958 and evolved into a personal luxury car. The 1950s were also noted for perhaps one of the biggest miscues in auto marketing with the Ford Edsel, which was the result of unpopular styling and being introduced during an economic recession.
The introduction of the Interstate Highway System and the suburbanization of America made automobiles more necessary and helped change the landscape and culture in the United States. Individuals began to see the automobile as an extension of themselves.
Big changes were taking place in automobile development in the 1960s, with the Big Three dominating the industry. Meanwhile, with the passage of the $33 billion Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, a network of regional and interstate roads continued to enhance transportation. As urban areas became more congested, more families migrated to the suburbs. Between 1960 and 1970, 70 percent of the population's growth occurred in the suburbs.
Imported vehicles grew during the 1950s and 1960s - from a very low base. In 1966, the Big Three (GM, Ford, Chrysler) had market share of 89.6% (44.5% in 2014).  From 1966 to 1969, net imports increased at an average annual rate of 84%. The Volkswagen Beetle was the biggest seller.
The compact Nash Rambler had been around since 1950, and American Motors Corporation (AMC) expanded into a range of smaller cars than were offered by the Big Three. By 1960, Rambler was the third most popular brand of automobile in the United States, behind Ford and Chevrolet. In response to this the domestic auto makers developed compact-sized cars, such as the Ford Falcon, Chevrolet Corvair, Studebaker Lark, and Plymouth Valiant.
The four-seat 1958 Ford Thunderbird (second generation) was arguably the first personal luxury car, which became a large market segment.
Pony cars were introduced with the Ford Mustang in 1964. This car combined sporty looks with a long hood, small rear deck, and a small rear seat. The car proved highly successful and imitators soon arose, including the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, Plymouth Barracuda (actually introduced two weeks prior to the Mustang), AMC Javelin, and the two-seat AMX, as well as the "luxury" version of the Mustang, the Mercury Cougar. Muscle cars were also introduced in 1964 with the Pontiac GTO. These combined an intermediate-sized body with a large high-output engine. Competitors were also quickly introduced, including the Chevrolet Chevelle SS, Dodge R/T (Coronet and Charger), Plymouth Road Runner/GTX, Ford Torino, and AMC's compact SC/Rambler. Muscle cars reached their peak in the late-1960s, but soon fell out of favor due to high insurance premiums along with the combination of emission controls and high gas prices in the early 1970s.
While the personal luxury, pony, and muscle cars got most of the attention, the full sized cars formed the bulk of auto sales in the 1960s, helped by low oil prices. The styling excesses and technological gimmicks (such as the retractable hardtop and the pushbutton automatic transmission) of the 1950s were de-emphasized. The rear fins were downsized and largely gone by the mid-1960s, as was the excessive chrome.
Federal regulation of the auto industry
Safety and environmental issues during the 1960s led to stricter government regulation of the auto industry, spurred in part by Ralph Nader and his book: Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile. This resulted in higher costs and eventually to weaker performance for cars in the 1970s. Seat lap belts were mandated by many states effective in 1962. Under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards required shoulder belts for front passengers, front head restraints, energy-absorbing steering columns, ignition-key warning systems, anti-theft steering column/transmission locks, side marker lights and padded interiors starting in 1968.
Beginning in 1972, bumpers were required to be reinforced to meet 5-mph impact standards, a decision that was revised in 1982.
With the Clean Air Act (United States) of 1963 and the Vehicle Air Pollution and Control Act of 1965, emission controls began being instituted in 1968. The use of leaded gasoline began being curtailed in the early 1970s, which resulted in lower-compression engines being used, and thus reducing horsepower and performance. Catalytic converters began being widely used by the mid-1970s.
During his first term as EPA Administrator, William Ruckelshaus spent 60% of his time on the automobile industry, whose emissions were to be reduced 90% under the 1970 Clean Air Act after senators became frustrated at the industry’s failure to cut emissions under previous, weaker air laws. 
By 1969, imports had increased their share of the U.S. auto market, with Volkswagen selling 548,904 vehicles, followed by Toyota with 127,018 vehicles. In response to this, the domestic auto makers introduced new compact and sub-compact cars, such as the Ford Pinto and Maverick, the Chevrolet Vega, and the AMC Gremlin, Hornet and Pacer. (Chrysler had to make do with importing cars from Mitsubishi Motors and their affiliated Rootes Group.) However, design and manufacturing problems infected a number of these cars and led to unfavorable perceptions of the cars.
The auto industry was severely affected by the 1973 oil crisis Arab embargo. Small fuel-efficient cars from foreign automakers took a sharply higher share of the U.S. auto sales market. Under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act the federal government initiated fuel efficiency standards (known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE) in 1975, effective as of 1978 for passenger cars, and as of 1979 for light trucks. For passenger cars, the initial standard was 18 miles per gallon (mpg), and increased to 27.5 mpg by 1985.
General Motors began responding first to the high gas prices by downsizing most of their models by 1977. In 1979, the second oil price spike occurred, precipitated by political events in Iran, resulting in the 1979 energy crisis. By 1980, the economy slid into turmoil, with high inflation, high unemployment, and high interest rates. The automakers suffered large operating losses. Chrysler was hurt most severely and in 1979 received a bailout from the federal government in the form of $1.5 billion in loan guarantees. One quick fix was a Detroit-built version of their then-new French (Simca) economy car, the Horizon. As a result of its financial difficulties, Chrysler sold its British and French subsidiaries, Rootes Group and Simca.
As bold and confident as the Big Three automakers were in the 1950s and 1960s, the American auto makers in the 1970s and 1980s stumbled badly, going from one engineering, manufacturing, or marketing disaster to another. Ford struggled when it was revealed that the Ford Pinto's gas tank was vulnerable to exploding when hit from behind. Ford knew about this vulnerability but did not design any safeguards in order to save a few dollars per vehicle. They rationalized that the cost of lawsuits would be less than the cost of redesigning the car. GM had a string of miscues starting with the Chevrolet Vega, which developed a reputation for rapidly rusting and having major problems with the aluminium engine. Cadillac damaged their reputation when the four-cylinder Cadillac Cimarron was introduced in 1981 (a gussied-up Chevrolet Cavalier at twice the price) and the "V8-6-4" engine didn't work as advertised. GM's reputation was also damaged when it revealed in 1977 that they were installing Chevrolet engines in Oldsmobiles, and lawsuits from aggrieved Oldsmobile owners followed. Likewise litigation ensued when a trio of diesel engines, designed from gasoline engines and used in GM cars from 1978 to 1985 suffered major problems. Class action lawsuits and efforts from the Federal Trade Commission resulted in buybacks of the cars from GM. Chrysler also suffered damage to its reputation when its compact cars, the Plymouth Volaré and Dodge Aspen, were developed quickly and suffered from massive recalls and poor quality.
In 1981, Japanese automakers entered into a so-called "Voluntary restraint agreement" limiting the number of autos that they could import to the U.S. to 1.68 million per year. One side effect of this quota was that the Japanese car companies began developing luxury cars that had higher profit margins, such as Toyota's Lexus, Honda's Acura, and Nissan Motor Company's Infiniti divisions. Another consequence was that the Japanese car makers began opening auto production plants in the U.S., with the three largest Japanese auto manufacturers all opening production facilities by 1985. These facilities were opened primarily in the southern U.S., in states which disadvantaged unions through right-to-work laws. The UAW failed in its substantial union-organizing efforts at these plants. The Big Three also began investing in and/or developing joint manufacturing facilities with several of the Japanese automakers. Ford invested in Mazda as well as setting up a joint facility with them called AutoAlliance International. Chrysler bought stock in Mitsubishi Motors and established a joint facility with them called Diamond-Star Motors. GM invested in Suzuki and Isuzu Motors, and set up a joint manufacturing facility with Toyota, called NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc.).
On the evening of June 19, 1982, while celebrating his Bachelor party at the Fancy Pants strip club, Vincent Chin, a 27-year old Chinese American from Detroit, Michigan, was approached by two Chrysler employees, Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz, both of whom mistook him for a Japanese person and blamed the global presence of Japanese automobiles for the loss of jobs in the American automotive industry (particularly blaming Chrysler's increased sales of Mitsubishi models as captive imports). One of the club's dancers heard Ebens proclaim, "It's because of you little motherfuckers that we're out of work." The fight between Ebens, Nitz and Chin continued into Detroit's outskirts after they were kicked out of the club. It took Ebens and Nitz 20 to 30 minutes to find Chin before they finally spotted him at a nearby McDonald's restaurant. Ebens beat Chin with a baseball bat four times, cracking his skull. Chin was rushed to Henry Ford Hospital, where he died in a coma on June 23. His 500 wedding guests attended his funeral instead. Ebens and Nitz both received a three-year probation for their deadly crime, but neither served jail time.
Despite the financial and marketing upheavals during the 1970s and 1980s, the decades led to technological innovations and/or widespread use of such improvements as disc brakes, fuel injection, electronic engine control units, and electronic ignition. Front-wheel drive became the standard drive system by the late 1980s.
By the mid-1980s, oil prices had fallen sharply, helping lead to the revitalization of the American auto industry. Under the leadership of Lee Iacocca, Chrysler Corporation mounted a comeback after its flirtation with bankruptcy in 1979. The Minivan was introduced in the 1984 model year by Chrysler with the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan, and proved very popular. These vehicles were built on a passenger-car chassis and seated up to seven people as well as being able to hold bulky loads. Chrysler also introduced their "K-cars" in the 1980s, which came with front-wheel drive and fuel-efficient OHC engines. In 1987, Chrysler bought American Motors, which produced the Jeep. This proved to be excellent timing to take advantage of the Sport utility vehicle boom. Ford also began a comeback after losses of $3.3 billion in the early 1980s. In 1985, the company introduced the very successful, aerodynamic Taurus. General Motors, under the leadership of Roger Smith, was not as successful as its competitors in turning itself around, and its market share fell significantly. While Ford and Chrysler were cutting production costs, GM was investing heavily in new technology. The company's attempts at overhauling its management structure and using increased technology for manufacturing production were not successful. Several large acquisitions (Electronic Data Systems and Hughes Aircraft Company) also diverted management attention away from their main industry. (Ford and Chrysler also joined in the acquisition and diversification trend, with Ford buying Jaguar Cars, Aston Martin, The Associates (a finance company), and First Nationwide Financial Corp. (a savings and loan). Chrysler purchased Lamborghini, an interest in Maserati, and Gulfstream Aerospace jets.) GM started the Saturn brand in the late 1980s as a way to retake sales from imported cars. While Saturn initially succeeded, GM later neglected to provide it much support. Around this time GM also began development on the General Motors EV1 electric car, which debuted in 1996.
The 1990s began the decade in a recession, which resulted in weak auto sales and operating losses. In addition, the Invasion of Kuwait by Iraq caused a temporary jump in oil prices. However, the automakers recovered fairly quickly. In the mid-1990s, light truck sales (which included Sport utility vehicles, Pickup trucks and Minivans) began to rise sharply. Due to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards differentiating between passenger cars and light trucks, the automakers were able to sell large and heavy vehicles without fear of the CAFE fines. Low oil prices also gave incentives for consumers to buy these gas-guzzling vehicles. The American automakers sold combined, and even separately, millions of pickup trucks and body-on-frame SUVs during this period. Imports such as the Toyota 4Runner, Land Cruiser, Tacoma, and Nissan Pathfinder and Frontier were also popular during this time period.
The automakers also continued their trend of purchasing or investing in foreign automakers. GM purchased a controlling interest in Saab in 1990 and Daewoo Motors in 2001, and invested in Subaru in 1999 and Fiat in 2000. They also purchased the Hummer name from AM General in 1998. Ford purchased Volvo in 1999 and Land Rover in 2000. GM and Ford also established joint ventures with Chinese auto companies during this period. GM's joint ventures are with Shanghai GM, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile, and FAW-GM Light Duty Commercial Vehicle Co Ltd. Ford's joint ventures are with Chang'an Ford and Jiangling Ford.
While the American automakers were investing in or buying foreign competitors, the foreign automakers continued to establish more production facilities in the United States. In the 1990s, BMW and Daimler-Benz opened SUV factories in Spartanburg County, South Carolina and Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, respectively. In the 2000s, assembly plants were opened by Honda in Lincoln, Alabama, Nissan in Canton, Mississippi, Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabama and Kia in West Point, Georgia. Toyota opened an engine plant in Huntsville, Alabama in 2003 (along with a truck assembly plant in San Antonio, Texas) and is building an assembly plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi. Volkswagen has announced a new plant for Chattanooga, Tennessee. Also, several of the Japanese auto manufacturers expanded or opened additional plants during this period. For example, while new, the Alabama Daimler-Benz and Honda plants have expanded several times since their original construction. The opening of Daimler-Benz plant in the 1990s had a cascade effect. It created a hub of new sub-assembly suppliers in the Alabama area. This hub of sub-assemblies suppliers helped in attracting several new assembly plants into Alabama plus new plants in nearby Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee.
In 1998, Chrysler and the German automaker Daimler-Benz entered into a "merger of equals" although in reality it turned out be an acquisition by Daimler-Benz. Thus the Big Three American-owned automakers turned into the Big Two automakers. However, a culture clash emerged between the two divisions, and there was an exodus of engineering and manufacturing management from the Chrysler division. The Chrysler division struggled financially, with only a brief recovery when the Chrysler 300 was introduced. In 2007, Daimler-Benz sold the company to a private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management, thus again making it American-owned.
2000sSee also: Effects of the 2008–10 automotive industry crisis on the United States
The 2000s began with a recession in early 2001 and the effects of the September 11 attacks, significantly affecting auto industry sales and profitability. The stock market decline affected the pension fund levels of the automakers, requiring significant contributions to the funds by the automakers (with GM financing these contributions by raising debt). In 2001, Chrysler discontinued their Plymouth brand, and in 2004 GM ended their Oldsmobile division.
In 2005, oil prices began rising and peaked in 2008. With the American automakers heavily dependent upon the gas-guzzling light truck sales for their profits, their sales fell sharply. Additionally, the finance subsidiaries of the Big Three became of increasing importance to their overall profitability (and their eventual downfall). General Motors Acceptance Corporation, the GM finance division, began making home mortgage loans, especially subprime loans. With the subsequent collapse of the sub-prime mortgage industry, GM suffered heavy losses.
The Automotive industry crisis of 2008–10 happened when the Big Three were in weak financial condition and the beginning of an economic recession, and the financial crisis resulted in the automakers looking to the federal government for help. Ford was in the best position, as under new CEO Alan Mulally they had fortuitously raised $23 billion in cash in 2006 by mortgaging most of their assets. Chrysler, purchased in 2007 by a private equity firm, had weak financial backing, was the most heavily dependent on light truck sales, and had few new products in their pipeline. General Motors was highly leveraged, also heavily dependent on light truck sales, and burdened by high health care costs.
The CEOs of the Big Three requested government aid in November 2008, but sentiment in Congress was against the automakers, especially after it was revealed that they had flown to Washington D.C. on their private corporate jets. In December 2008, President Bush gave $17.4 billion to GM and Chrysler from the Troubled Asset Relief Program as temporary relief for their cash flow problems. Several months later, President Obama formed the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry to decide how to handle GM and Chrysler. Chrysler received a total of $12.5 billion in TARP funds and entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2009.
Automaker Fiat was given management control and a 20% ownership stake (adjusted to 35% under certain conditions), the U.S. and Canadian governments were given a 10% holding, and the remaining ownership was given to a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA), which was a trust fund established to administer employee health care benefits.
The Automotive Task Force requested that GM CEO Rick Wagoner resign (although he was replaced by another long-time GM executive, Frederick Henderson). GM received a total of $49.5 billion in TARP finds and entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2009. The U.S. and Canadian governments received a 72.5% ownership stake, a VEBA received 17.5%, and the unsecured creditors received 10%. As part of the bailout GM and Chrysler closed numerous production plants, and eliminated hundreds of dealerships and thousands of jobs. They also required a number of major labor union concessions. GM also sold off the Saab division and eliminated the Pontiac, Hummer, and Saturn Corporation brands. In addition to the $62 billion that the automakers received from TARP, their financing arms, GMAC and Chrysler Financial received an additional $17.8 billion. In addition to the funding from the United States government, the Canadian government provided $10.8 billion to GM and $2.9 billion to Chrysler as incentives to maintain production facilities in Canada.
Ford did not request any government assistance, but as part of their downsizing sold Volvo in 2010 and phased out their Mercury division in 2011. (They had previously sold Aston Martin in 2007, and Land Rover and Jaguar Cars in 2008). Under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program Ford borrowed $5.9 billion to help their vehicles meet higher mileage requirements.
Ford went through 2012 having recovered to the point of having 80,000 total U.S. employees, supplying their 3,300 dealerships. In comparison, Chrysler had 71,100 U.S. employees supplying their 2,328 dealerships during that year.
Data for the beginning of 2014 put the four companies of GM, Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler, in that order, at the top as having the most U.S. car sales. In terms of specific types of vehicles, the new decade has meant Chrysler having an emphasis on its Ram trucks and the Jeep Cherokee SUV, both of which had "hefty sales" for 2014 according to a news report.
- Big Three automobile manufacturers
- Canada–United States Automotive Products Agreement
- Effects of the 2008–10 automotive industry crisis on the United States
- Henry Ford
- History of Chrysler
- History of Ford Motor Company
- History of General Motors
- List of automobile manufacturers of the United States
- List of defunct automobile manufacturers of the United States
- Passenger vehicles in the United States
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- Brungardt, A. O. Book Review:The Automobile Industry: Its Economic and Commercial Development. Ralph C. Epstein. Journal of Business of the University of Chicago, 1, 390-392.
- The Automotive Industry in the United States from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce
- Automotive SPA.gov
- United Automobile Workers
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