Oldsmobile Brand Returns

David Gluckman
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The Oldsmobile rocket emblem may find its way onto new cars very soon. Though GM ended production of the Alero, Silhouette, and Bravada in 2004, sources say that the brand will be resurrected, but not in the way you might think.

In its quest to become the number one automaker by all counts, Toyota has secured the rights to the Oldsmobile name. That's right, the oldest surviving American marque is turning Japanese.

Details are scarce, but it seems GM's copyright on the Oldsmobile name ran out sometime in 2006. At that point Oldsmobile was apparently out of sight and out of the GM legal department's mind so the brand was not re-registered. Someone in the U.S. Copyright Office was paying attention, however, and reportedly alerted a relative (who also happened to be a Toyota executive) of GM's oversight. The paperwork was filed, the nominal fees paid, and Toyota had a new old brand.

When we first heard of the acquisition, we imagined Toyota would ransom Olds and attempt to sell the rights back to GM for a profit, much like an Internet domain squatter. Instead, it appears Toyota plans to create a fourth brand for the U.S. market.

Toyota will reportedly position the heretofore American brand between Toyota and Lexus to create more of a divide between the consumer and ultra-luxury marques. For now, no new vehicles will be engineered for Oldsmobile but instead current Toyota models without Lexus counterparts will be rebranded. Toyota will continue the Oldsmobile tradition of building American performance luxury vehicles and these days that means SUVs.

Toyota has chosen to use names from the storied brand's recent past to ease American customers into the revival. A luxurious RAV4 will be called Bravada while Intrigue will be applied to leather-lined 4Runners. One nod to the past will come in the form of the Super 88, a rebadged Sequoia. Patterned after the 442 name, Super 88 refers to Toyota's largest SUV's eight-cylinder engine which will be mated to the eight-speed transmission currently found in the Lexus LS.

Though it's unconfirmed at this point, the new Oldsmobile may also leverage Toyota's pickup portfolio. We wouldn't be surprised to see an Oldsmobile version of the Tundra, a luxury truck similar to Lincoln's F-150-based Mark LT. An AMG-like high-performance division has also been discussed with Speedwagon mentioned as a possible nameplate for a turbocharged Sienna variant.

April Fools'.

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