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 closed in 2004, it still remains an active trademark of the General Motors Corporation. The closing of the Oldsmobile division presaged a larger consolidation of GM brands and discontinuation of models during the company's 2009 bankruptcy reorganization.
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 last Curved Dash Oldsmobile was made in 1907. General Motors purchased the company in 1908.
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. 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, and production of the Curved Dash commenced.