The last Oldsmobile drove off the production line 10 years ago today. The final dark cherry Alero marked the end of a brand that had been around since 1897, when Ransom E. Olds founded the Olds Motor Company.
The design of many of the last Oldsmobiles were not especially eye-catching when compared to models made for other General Motors brands. As a result, sales lagged and Oldsmobile was not able to attract the younger buyers they so desperately wanted.
What Led Up to the Last Oldsmobile
During the 1980s, Oldsmobile was strong among older buyers with the Cutlass, Cutlass Supreme and 442 leading the way. But when Olds did an about-face with its advertising, touting the brand as “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” in an attempt to lure younger buyers, it ended up doing more harm than good. Instead of being youthful, contemporary and hip, Oldsmobiles were still thought of in a light similar to Buick.
The last Oldsmobile vehicles were nothing more than re-badged clones of other General Motors cars with different names.
The Announcement Comes
When 2000 rolled around, General Motors had officially decided to pull the plug on the Oldsmobile brand. It was not an easy decision, especially because Oldsmobile was the oldest automotive brand in America. (Later, sister brands Saturn and Pontiac would see their final models roll off the production line in 2009; and the Saab and Hummer brands were sold off as General Motors went through a radical reorganization after filing for bankruptcy earlier that year.)
In the greater Detroit area, the loss was not easy to move on from; some still struggle to this day. In a particularly poignant 2000 editorial the Lansing State Journal said, “Oldsmobile’s imminent demise is like watching an old friend die slowly. And that hurts.”
Along with the great-grandchildren of Mr. Olds, the GM workers are doing their best to preserve the memory of Oldsmobile. The mission statement at their Lansing Delta Township plant begins with the words, “Building on our Heritage.” This statement was enacted on April 28, 2004, the day before their last day.
So what happened to that last Oldsmobile? For several years, it was on display at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. Today, it now takes its permanent residence at the General Motors Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan.