Oldsmobile Super 88

Then there was Oldmobile. Jesse Toprak, market analyst for Edmunds.com, said: "Pontiac was GM's performance-, sports-oriented brand, but it was never compelling enough, never good enough. For the most part, it was just a redundant brand. It had some exciting products that would come up and create buzz, but then they would go away."

GM closed Oldsmobile in 2004. Founded in 1897, Oldsmobile lasted for 107 years -- the oldest surviving U.S. car brand before it perished. Once an innovation leader, it was the brand GM selected in 1938 with which to introduce the fully automatic transmission.

As recently as 1985, GM sold nearly 1.2 million cars. But by the 1990s, the brand -- positioned between Pontiac and Buick -- had lost whatever distinctiveness it claimed.

In retrospect, Oldsmobile's shutdown was a harbinger of things to come. The move showed that GM, a company with 20% of the market, could not continue to operate as it did in 1962, when it had 51% of the market. Yet by 2009, GM had become so ossified that the government had to intervene to enforce this line of thought.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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