Oldsmobiles were first manufactured by the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan, a company founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897. In 1897 the company produced 4 automobiles. The Olds Motor Co. was incorporated in 1897 with an initial capital investment of $50,000.00! The full name Oldsmobile was first used in 1900. In 1901, while using the first ever automobile assembly line, Olds introduced the Curved Dash Olds which sold 425 cars, becoming the first high-volume car of the day. Olds became, for a few years, the top selling car company in the United States. Ransom Olds left the company in financial difficulties and formed REO Motor Car Company. The last Curved Dash Olds was made in 1907, and in 1908, General Motors purchased the company.
Both before and after acquisition by General Motors, Oldsmobiles were marketed for their technical sophistication. The list of "firsts" is quite extensive:
In 1893, Ransom Eli Olds' company (Olds Motor Works, the predecessory of Oldsmobile) becomes the first American car company to export an automobile. It is a four-wheeled steam-powered vehicle sold to a citizen of India.
In 1901, three Oldsmobile innovations occur. The first speedometer to be offered on a car is on an Oldsmobile. The US Postal Service orders its first motor vehicles from Oldsmobile. Oldsmobile becomes the first car company to outsource parts to third-party suppliers. It is forced to do this when a fire destroys the main Oldsmobile plant in Lansing, MI, and cripples the company's ability to build cars using its own parts.
In 1903 the Olds "Pirate" sets a World record at Daytona Beach covering 5 miles in 6.5 minutes. In 1905 two Oldsmobiles complete the first transcontinental race from New York, NY to Portland, Oregon in 44 days.
In 1922 an Oldsmobile establishes another record, traveling 1000 miles in 15 hours. Cannonball Baker drives a 6 cylinder Model 30 from New York to LA in 12 Ã‚Â½ days
In 1926, Oldsmobile begins chrome-plating the radiator surrounds and other parts on its cars. This is the first automotive use of chrome plating.
In 1929, Oldsmobile introduces the first monoblock V8 on its Viking model.
1932 sees Oldsmobile become the first manufacturer to offer automatic choke on an automobile.
In 1940, Oldsmobile introduces "Hydra-matic Drive," the first fully automatic transmission to be offered on a widely-available automobile. This is the forefather of every automatic transmission offered today.
Their 1949 [[Oldsmobile V8 |Rocket] engine] was made notable as the first mass-produced OHV V8.
While not the first U.S. built passenger car to use front-wheel drive, Oldsmobile's 1966 Toronado was the first of its type to prove successful in the American marketplace. It won Motor Trends Car of Year in 1966 with its unique and innovative styling.
In 1974, Oldsmobile became the first American car company to offer a driver-side airbag. It was available in the Toronado full-size FWD coupe model.
In 1988, Oldsmobile breaks a world closed course speed record with the Oldsmobile Aerotech, driven by legendary race car driver A.J. Foyt.
1988 also saw Oldsmobile introduce a Heads Up Display option (HUD) on the Cutlass Supreme International Series. When turned on, this allows drivers to view the speedometer reading on the inside of the windshield. This option later became available on the Corvette.
Oldsmobile was also the first carmaker in the world to offer a GPS-based navigation system on a production automobile. The system, called GuideStar, was a $1995 option on the 1996 Eighty-Eight LSS model. This in turn led to the introduction of GM's current 'On-Star' system.
Oldsmobile was also frequently early with other features, such as automatic headlight dimmers and the 1950's panoramic windshields. Their "Rocket 88" theme hood ornament treatment was also the reference name for their advanced over-head valve V-8 engines, from 1949 onward.