RICHARD TRUETT

For diehard fans, loving Olds never gets old

COMMENTARY
Richard Truett is a staff reporter at Automotive News.
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April 29 was a bittersweet day for Florida Chevrolet dealer George Nahas.

A decade ago, Nahas sat in the passenger seat of the last Oldsmobile ever built, a dark red Oldsmobile Alero, as it rolled off an assembly line in Lansing, Mich.

When the wheels on that car stopped, a 100-year-old brand was dead.

Nahas, then chairman of the Oldsmobile dealer council, moved on to Saturn. When General Motors killed that brand in 2009, Nahas landed a Chevrolet dealership in Wildwood, Fla., northwest of Orlando. He's selling a lot of cars and trucks these days. But Nahas still thinks of Oldsmobile from time to time and what might have been had GM managed its brands properly.

"It was a great franchise and had one of the best field staffs," Nahas recalls. "I certainly miss it. Much of what I am is from Oldsmobile. We were a tight-knit family."

Nahas says he has been able to retain many of his Oldsmobile customers. However, he says, some quit GM after Oldsmobile and never came back. For example, Nahas says Silhouette customers defected to Honda and Toyota minivans.

So today, a decade later, Oldsmobile may be gone from new-car showrooms, but the brand has a big following among car collectors who have a healthy appreciation for the company's classics.

The big Olds convertibles from the 1940s and '50s with their high-compression "rocket" engines and the Cutlass and 442 muscle cars from the 1960s and early '70s have become some of the most popular post-World War II collector cars. And they are selling for record prices these days.

The V-8 powered, front-wheel-drive 1966-67 Toronado is also a fast-rising collectible, not only for its outstanding styling but for its interesting technical pedigree.

Olds is also a small part of the new GM. Many of Oldsmobile's greatest hits are on display at the GM Heritage Center north of Detroit.

Click on the oldsmobile.com Web site that GM still maintains, and you will see this homage: "For over 100 years, Oldsmobile proudly represented the leadership and innovation of General Motors, winning countless awards and earning a place in automotive history. While GM no longer makes Oldsmobile vehicles, its passion for engineering, technology and design lives on in every Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac on the road today."

That may be so, but some GM customers -- and dealers such as Nahas -- remember Oldsmobile and likely won't ever forgive GM for killing it.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com.


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