As a volume Chevy dealer, I recall when the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme “ate our lunch” and nearly caused the demise of the Monte Carlo because of Olds' attractive interior styling and competitive pricing policy.

RANSON OLDS FOUNDED OLDSMOBILE IN 1901, and many people consider him to be the founder of the American automobile industry. He built the first automobile factory that used the assembly line manufacturing process and many thousands of these cars ($650) were sold in that era.

After 40-plus years as a Chevrolet dealer, I was saddened over the recent announced demise of Oldsmobile. To my contemporary GM dealers who have experienced the loss of a valued family member we can relate to the void created by such losses.

Of course, the demise of Oldsmobile is not comparable to the loss of a real family member. However the glory days, when Oldsmobile was a powerful member of the GM family, cannot be erased by a simple announced termination.

I am troubled by the GM hierarchy which seeks to ignore the invaluable contributions to the retail car industry made by Olsmobile and replaced this noble nameplate with the likes of Saturn, which is totally confusing as to its place in the GM family.

Oldsmobile pioneered GM's forays into several engineering and innovative designs in the marketplace. For years Oldsmobile was the GM test product with bold styling and engineering innovations. As a volume Chevy dealer, I recall when the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme “ate our lunch” and nearly caused the demise of the Monte Carlo because of Olds' attractive interior styling and competitive pricing policy.

It appears the GM top brass made several less-than-brilliant marketing moves, and it appears this one may rank among the most heartless and stupid to date. Dumping a proven network of 2,800 dealers who have overcome hard times leaves me wondering.

Events such as the death of Oldsmobile don't just happen, especially to a product with the 1980s performance of a car line that sold a million vehicles annually. Somebody dropped the ball! Any market corrections were obviously ignored while GM's top brass fiddled with new car lines that were a day late and a dollar short.

It's too late for “what ifs?” Thousands of factory employees, dealership employees and their families will suffer from the closing of Oldsmobile. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands heretofore proud owners of past Olds models. However, like Tevye's line from Fiddler on the Roof, “On the other hand” perhaps this massive GM action will at least evolve into a blessed bail-out for losing dealers who want to get out of the retail business.

GM Vice President of Sales and Marketing Bill Lovejoy is overseeing the buy-outs of Olds dealers. Mr. Lovejoy has a great reputation as a dealer guy, but he will be constrained by GM liquidation policies plus top execs who are committed to limiting GM's losses simply because they don't understand the required commitment made by their dealers to operating a new car dealership.

The remaining GM dealers must not be complacent. The same faulty decision makers control their destiny as well as Oldsmobile's. GM has been losing significant market share on all their nameplates for the past two decades without any display of panic because their substantial profits came from other than direct vehicle sources. For example, General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) consistently delivers the largest annual profits of any other division.

GM has already demonstrated they are not in the car and truck business as much as the money business. That's inconsistent with the needs and goals of dealers.

Broken dreams of the automobile families who were involved in successorship programs hoping to continue family tradition and history in America's retail automobile industry will bitterly disappoint Oldsmobile families. In many cases a switch in careers is not feasible because of age and family commitments.

Pulling the rug out from under Oldsmobile dealers and their families is shameful.


Nat Shulman was owner of Best Chevrolet in Hingham, MA for many years.