The name REO came from the initials of his name as an acronym , but was pronounced as a word.
Sometimes it was spelled Reo to emphasize this pronunciation. Olds served as president until and later chairman of REO.
General Motors discontinued the Oldsmobile brand in , after a production run of 96 years. Olds was the first person to use a stationary assembly line in the automotive industry. Henry Ford came after him, and was the first to use a moving assembly line to manufacture cars. Olds was the primary financier of the Olds Tower. When completed in it was the tallest office building in Lansing and retains that distinction today. Today this is known as the George W. Romney Building , where the office of the governor of Michigan is located.
Olds was also famous for his auto racing on the beaches of Florida at Ormond and Daytona. He had the first timed run on the beach in a solo run sometime between and Olds was a Republican and served as a delegate from Michigan's 6th District to the Republican National Convention ,  which nominated William Howard Taft for president. Among the home's many technological innovations was a turntable in the garage which allowed Olds to pull in at night and leave again the next morning without driving in reverse.
The mansion was demolished in to make way for Interstate , which was then named for Olds himself. He had another house in Ann Arbor, Michigan , which is still standing and open to the public for tours.
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To expand his facilities in order to meet this demand, Olds sought investors and found one in a Lansing real-estate mogul named Edward W. With Sparrow's capital the Olds Motor Vehicle Company was launched, of which Sparrow held the presidency, but there were problems from the start in By the following year the company had yet to make more than a handful of vehicles, and there were continual problems between the money-minded investors and the less pragmatic Olds.
It nearly went under several times, but then in Pliny Olds's original, still-profitable engine-manufacturing firm was merged into a new venture called the Olds Motor Works. It was backed by a friend of Sparrow's, a retired Michigan copper-mine mogul, Samuel L.
Smith, a Detroiter, and other local stockholders insisted that the Olds Motor Works locate in Detroit, which was already a thriving manufacturing center for carriages, stoves, and other products. At this point, another Detroiter, Henry Ford, was still attempting to launch his own motor-vehicle manufacturing operation; he had incorporated one in , but it failed a year later. The newly-built Olds Motor Works plant and offices on the Detroit River were the city's first permanent auto manufacturing enterprise.
Olds and the board of directors finally agreed to concentrate first-year production on the "runabout, " an open-air vehicle with a lightweight carriage.
Olds himself was responsible for the car's unique "curved dash, " which kept passengers warm, but more importantly, gave it a distinct profile that set it apart from competitors. Production ceased, however, in March of when Olds and his family-he had married Metta Ursula Woodward in , with whom he had two daughters-were returning from a California visit to the now-retired Pliny Olds and his wife Sarah. Olds was on a streetcar back to his home on Detroit's Edmund Place, and spotted a newspaper headline announcing his factory had been destroyed by fire that day.
Fortunately the conflagration occurred on a Saturday afternoon, and no one was killed. The plant, however, was ruined, and the fire would enter the annals of American automotive history as an apocryphal, though not altogether true, tale. Olds would later say that all the plans and patterns had been destroyed in the fire which was not true , and that only one model had been saved by a brave worker-his curved-dash runabout actually, this and several other prototypes emerged safely from a fireproof vault.
The company recovered quickly from the setback, farming out light assembly work to supplier facilities while insurance money financed the reconstruction of the plant. Over four hundred runabouts were produced in , a healthy comeback for the Olds company, but its founder suffered health problems as a result of the stress and was hospitalized that spring.
The company would eventually relocate some of its production back to Lansing-with Olds moving back to manage its plant there-and by the Olds Motor Works was producing 5, cars a year.
Ransom Eli Olds (June 3, – August 26, ) was a pioneer of the American automotive industry, after whom the Oldsmobile and REO brands were named. He claimed to have built his first steam car as early as and his first. Ransom E. Olds: America's First Automotive Pioneer - Kindle edition by Daniel Alef. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets.
Olds worked tirelessly to promote the car himself, and was a well-known American business celebrity in his day. He raced the car at a track at Daytona Beach, Florida, in where he had real estate investments , and his name and visage often appeared in national advertisements. The younger Smith, who usually held the title of company president, handled sales and began questioning production techniques when runabout buyers complained of problems; he claimed that Olds was uninterested in improving the car or certifying that it was free from mechanical defects when it left the plant.
The split between the two came when Smith set up an experimental engineering shop without Olds's knowledge, and by Olds had sold nearly all of his stock and exited the company for good.
He was just forty years old, however, and far from eager to retire. Instead he founded the R. Olds's new venture produced the Reo, which was introduced in , and its plant would turn out a record number of cars between and