1896-1908: Olds Motor Works
1908-2004: General Motors Corp.
Oldsmobile, a division of General Motors was first founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1896. First marked for their sophistication and innovative designs and styling the Oldsmobile is credited by many for the first to introduce an automobile with a speedometer, chrome plating, a mono block V8, an automatic choke, and the first with an automatic transmission, to name just a few. During its formative years under the direction of Olds they became known as high volume automobile manufacturer and one of the top selling automobile companies in the United States. However, after facing financial difficulty, Ransom Olds left the company and formed REO Motor Car Company. Oldsmobile was soon after purchased by General Motors in 1908.
1912 saw the first 2 digit model designation by Oldsmobile such as the Oldsmobile 40 and 53. The first number indicated the body size while the second signified the year. Beginning in the 1930s, Oldsmobile used 2 digits to label their models. The first number identified the body size (6,7,8 and 9) while the second number indicated the number of cylinders – 6 and 8. By 1940, Oldsmobile was the first auto manufacturer to use an Automatic transmission, called the Hydramatic, it offered for forward speeds. The Rocket engine was introduced in 1949 and found favor with sports car enthusiasts as well as hot rodders. The engine produced more power that other engines did in that time and featured an overhead valve rather than the flathead straight 8.
With positive reviews and popular designs, such as the Cutlass, Oldsmobile sales went through the roof topping 1 million units through the 1970s and 80s falling just behind Chevrolet and Ford. Unfortunately with the success of the 80s came the downfall of the 90s and General Motors shifted the performance automobiles to Pontiac and Chevrolet. Even though they did garner some success in the mid 90’s with the Oldsmobile Alero and Aurora, by 2000 General Motors announced their plans to discontinue the Oldsmobile brand. The final production day was in April 2004. Before being phased out, Oldsmobile has produced 35.2 million cars and was one of the oldest surviving American automobile manufacturers.