When Oldsmobile closed its doors on this day in 2004, it was currently the oldest automaker in the United States, at 107 years old. The Olds Motor Vehicle Co. was founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897. Throughout its century and seven year existence it produced more than 35 million cars. It’s early history included becoming the first high volume gas powered auto manufacturer, when 425 cars were produced in 1901.
From 1901 to 1904, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash was mass-produced, making it the first in the industry. It’s manufacturing occurred along an 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.
General Motors purchased Oldsmobile in 1908. For decades Oldsmobile was placed as a luxury brand, and was often used as the runt for new equipment. For the 1940 model year Oldsmobile, along with Cadillac, became the first vehicles to offer a fully automatic transmission, called Hydramatic.
While Oldsmobile remained relatively successful over the decades, it failed to make its mark in the late 1990s. In December of 2000, General Motors announced a probable shutdown of the brand, citing financial issues and low sales volume. The final Oldsmobile to be built was an Alero GLS 4-door sedan. It was signed by all of the assembly line workers and is now located at the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan.