BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 17:22 GMT
Oldsmobile: A rear view
Early days: The first Oldsmobile production line
Early days: The first production line
The General Motors shake-up has stunned the industry, but it will be the loss of Oldsmobile that will most sadden car lovers.

When it disappears in the next few years America will have lost its oldest carmaker and one of its most enduring and best-loved brands.

Millions of Oldsmobiles have been sold to America's middle-class drivers unable to afford a Cadillac or a Buick, and its sports cars have won it a romantic place in American culture.

Oldsmobile was founded by Ransom E Olds in 1897 in Lansing, Michigan.

Just four years later he had created the first production line to build the $650 Curved Dash, becoming the first mass producer of petrol cars.

One hundred years on: The 2001 Oldsmobile Aurora
One hundred years on: The 2001 Oldsmobile Aurora
Oldsmobile, which joined the General Motors stable in 1908, quickly became a leading name in the industry, using publicity stunts to boost each new model.

The Model S launch featured a tug-of-war with a mule team.

Innovations continued inside the cars too. By 1940 Hydra-Matic drive was offered in all makes - the first fully automatic transmission.

And in 1966 the desirable Tornado became the first modern front-wheel-drive car.

Oldsmobile's sporting pedigree was further enhanced with the 442 hardtop, launched in 1969.

With such speed on offer it was fitting that the firm introduced driver's side airbags as early as 1974.

Low sales

In 1997 Oldsmobile celebrated its 100th birthday in grand style, manufacturing the winning car in the Indianapolis 500, after many years of providing the pace car.

Oldsmobile's range is now lead by the Aurora, but sales have fallen to a 40-year low.

For several years car historians had been warning of the death of the firm.

Over the next few years their fears look set to be realised as an American classic reaches the end of the road.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

12 Dec 00 | Business
GM to axe jobs worldwide
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories