The highways and roads of America have been home to many great automotive makes and models. Cars made by Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn, Plymouth, Mercury, AMC and Saab have left their marks on automotive history. While these automotive nameplates are no longer manufactured, you can still find parts to keep these vehicles on the road. Better yet, available parts are not limited to used ones found at salvage yards. Brand new alternators, starters and other automotive replacement parts are still being manufactured and sold. If you own one of these makes, you can keep on driving them into the foreseeable future.
History of iconic automotive nameplates
Oldsmobile was founded by Ransom E Olds in 1897 as the Olds Motor Vehicle Company. General Motors purchased the company in 1908, keeping the brand as one of its divisions until discontinuing production in 2004. In the General Motors lineup, Oldsmobile appealed to a mid-market segment, somewhere between luxury and economy. The highpoint for Oldsmobile came in the early to mid-1980s when sales reached more than one million annually. As time marched on to the 1990s and early 2000s, Oldsmobile started to lose its appeal. To appeal to younger people, the marketing slogan “This is not your Father’s Oldsmobile” was adopted. In a cost-cutting move, General Motors shut down production with an Olds Alero being the final vehicle.
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Pontiac was a venture started by the Oakland Motor Car Company that was founded in 1907. General Motors absorbed Oakland in 1909, and Pontiac was launched as a sideline brand to Oakland. As time went on, it became apparent that Pontiac was more popular than Oakland, ultimately leading to Oakland’s demise. Pontiac was branded as General Motors' sports and performance division. For awhile, it was marketed with the slogan “We Build Excitement.” Pontiac was glorified in the 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit, in which Burt Reynolds eluded law enforcement in a Pontiac Trans Am. By the end of the first decade of the 2000s, General Motors was in financial crisis. Pontiac was selected for closure and production ended in 2010.
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In 1985, Saturn was founded by General Motors, but it operated outside of the legacy organizational structure of its parent company. It was an experiment based on trying new methods for manufacturing, marketing and pricing. In fact, the company was branded with the slogan “A different kind of car company.” Saturn was launched to see if a different business model could better compete with Japanese models that were taking market share from General Motors. In the early years, General Motors hid its backing of Saturn and instead wanted it to appear as an independent automaker. Saturns were sold at dealerships totally separate from other GM legacy brands, and they were sold on a no-haggle, no-negotiating basis. A list price was assigned to the car and that’s what buyers paid. Saturn fell victim to General Motor’s financial crisis of 2008 and was dissolved after failed attempts to sell the brand.
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Chrysler launched Plymouth as an economical, entry-level model in 1928 to fill out its lineup in the automotive marketplace. Plymouths were displayed alongside more luxury-branded Chryslers. During the Great Depression when people were struggling financially, Plymouth was credited with keeping Chrysler afloat. In the 1960s, Plymouth competed in the muscle and sports cars markets with the Fury and Barracuda. The high sales point for Plymouth came in 1973 when over 973,000 vehicles rolled off the assembly line. However, the fortunes of Plymouth started to dim as the brand’s identity became less defined in the 1980s and ‘90s, with sales plummeting to about 200,000 vehicles annually in the 1990s. The demise of the Plymouth brand was sealed with the acquisition of Chrysler by German automaker Daimler. Plymouth ended its run in 2001.
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In the 1930s, Ford offered fewer makes than its main competitors. It has its mainline Ford division serving the general market and its Lincoln brand serving the luxury market. Executives at Ford started thinking they needed a model to appeal to a market segment in between economy and luxury. Edsel Ford was tasked with the launch of a new brand, and Mercury was paired with Lincoln for the dealership sales network. Mercury started strong, being well received by the automotive buying public. It followed trends affecting the entire automotive industry, with performance cars of the 1960s to more compact and fuel-efficient cars of the 1970s and ‘80s. In later decades, Mercury started sharing more features with its parent division to save on design costs, but that led to a loss of identity. Demographics of the average Mercury buyer grew older, and Ford decided to retire the brand in 2011.
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American Motors Corporation (AMC)
American Motors Corporation, also known as AMC, was an independent American automobile manufacturer. The company came into being when the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Motor Car Company merged in 1954. As consolidation rolled through the automotive industry, AMC was a small player in a field of giants. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were commonly referred to as the Big 3. Sometimes AMC was thrown into the mix and known as part of the Big 4. But more accurately, the domestic automotive lineup was the Big 3 and the Little 1. Not having the same resources as its big competitors, AMC tried to distinguish itself with unique designs that stood out. The Gremlin, Pacer and Matador were distinctly AMC. As competition with imported cars heated up, AMC struggled to keep itself afloat. It formed a short-lived alliance with Renault and eventually sold out to Chrysler.
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Saab was a Swedish automaker that was created out of the aircraft industry. In 1945, a group of aircraft engineers were tasked with designing a passenger car. The marketing slogan “Born from Jets” was a natural. Saabs served the luxury car market as a European import with a devoted niche following. General Motors made a 50% controlling interest in Saab in 1989 and acquired the entire company in 2000. By 2008, Saab was caught in General Motors’ financial strife. Saab was eventually sold, but those efforts ended in bankruptcy and dissolution for the automaker.
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New Parts for Classic Cars of Yesteryear
The opportunity to buy new electrical components for discontinued automotive makes is a great way for owners of classic cars to keep their vehicles running. With a source of new parts for these vehicles, you can still keep driving these cars down a real road instead of just memory lane. It’s a way of preserving an important part of automotive history.