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Oldsmobile Drives Off Into History

General Motors Corp. officials were gearing up Thursday for the final send-off for Oldsmobile, the brand that pioneered chrome-plated trim and gave drivers the Eighty Eight series, the front-wheel-drive Toronado and the Cutlass.

Until now, Oldsmobile was the oldest automotive brand name in the U.S.

Outside Oldsmobile's vast complex in the state capital, officials displayed a dark cherry red metallic Alero, number 78 of the final 500 to be produced. The last car is slated to roll off the line at the Lansing Car Assembly plant on Thursday.

"I'm a little sad Oldsmobile is coming to a close," said Doug Stott, production manager for the brand. "But I'm also happy because we've had such good vehicles over the years."

Stott has owned more than 30 of the company's cars and has worked at Oldsmobile for almost 34 years.

"When you've been with the company for so long, worked so hard on the lineup, it's a part of you. I see this as a graduation of sorts," said Stott. "It gives us a chance to go out on a high note rather than fade into the sunset."

Oldsmobile was named for its founder, Ransom E. Olds, who started the Olds Motor Vehicle Co. in Lansing in 1897. GM later absorbed the company.

Oldsmobile was a victim of changing tastes, reports Jeff Gilbert of CBS radio station WWJ-AM. Even those "Not your father's Oldsmobile" commercials back in the 1980s only reminded people this was the car for another generation.

The Alero is the only remaining vehicle in the brand's once diverse lineup. Olds has been dying model at a time since 2000, when GM announced it was pulling the plug.

"They were losing a billion dollars a year on Oldsmobile. They had to bite the bullet," auto analyst John McElroy told Gilbert, adding that GM tried to save the line.

"There's no question. General Motors poured a lot of money into Oldsmobile at the very end. They were coming out with new products," McElroy said.

But by then, Oldsmobile had the image of a car for another generation, and GM decided it made more sense to spend its money on other brands.

The final 500, described by officials as a collector's edition Alero, boast all the options, including sunroof.

The car is based on the high-end Alero GLS, but is distinguished by a number of unique features such as a specially designed heritage logo on the hubs, trunk, floor mats and the tan leather interior. Each has a numbered brass badge bearing the production number. Workers began producing them late last week. All the vehicles are the same color.

On Thursday, employees will watch the last Alero roll off the assembly line in a private gathering.

The final car, which will have the signatures of the plant employees on the inside of the hood and the truck, will be displayed at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing for about four months.