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The Oakland was a brand of automobile manufactured between 1907-1909 by the Oakland Motor Car Company of Pontiac, Michigan and between 1909 and 1931 by the Oakland Motors Division of General Motors Corporation. Oakland's principle founder was Edward P. Murphy, who sold half the company to GM in January 1909; when Murphy died in the summer of 1909, GM acquired the remaining rights to Oakland.
As originally conceived and introduced, the first Oakland used a vertical two cylinder engine that rotated counter-clockwise. This design by Alanson Brush (inventor of the Brush Runabout) lasted one year and was replaced by a more standard 4 cylinder engine and sales increased to approximately 5,000 automobiles per year.
Under General Motors, Oakland was slotted above price leader Chevrolet and below the more premium Oldsmobile and Buick brand cars. Oakland initially flourished, however by the early 1920 production and quality control problems began to plague the division. In 1921 under new General Manager Fred Hannum, a consistent production schedule was underway and the quality of the cars improved. One marketing tactic was the employment of a quick drying bright blue automotive lacquer by Duco (a DuPont brand product) – leading to Oakland being marketed as the "True Blue Oakland."
Impact of General Motors "Companion Make" Program
General Motors pioneered the idea that consumers would aspire to buy up an automotive product ladder if a company met certain price points. As General Motors entered the 1920s, the product ladder started with the price leading Chevrolet marque, and then progressed upward in price, power and appointments to Oakland, Oldsmobile, Buick and ultimately to the luxury Cadillac marque.
However by the mid 1920s, a sizable price gap had been created between Chevrolet and Oakland, while the difference between an Oldsmobile and a Buick was even wider. There was also a product gap between Buick and Cadillac. To solve this, General Motors authorized the introduction of four companion marques priced and designed to fill the gaps. Cadillac would introduce the LaSalle to fill the gap between Buick and Cadillac. Buick would introduce the Marquette to handle the higher end of the gap between Buick and Oldsmobile. Oldsmobile would introduce the Viking, which took the lower half of the spread between Oldsmobile and Buick. This is often referred to as General Motors Companion Make Program.
Oakland's part in this plan was the 1926 Pontiac, a shorter wheelbase "light six" priced to sell at a 4 cylinder car's price point. Pontiac was the first of the companion marques introduced, and in its first year outsold the heavier larger Oakland. By 1929, GM sold 163,000+ more Pontiacs than Oaklands. The end of Oakland was announced in 1931 and the Oakland Motor Car Company was changed to the Pontiac Motor Company by its owner GM. The Pontiac would be the only one of General Motors companion makes to survive beyond 1940.
- Kimes, Beverly R., Editor. Clark, Henry A. (1996). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1945. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-428-4
- Pontiac Oakland Club International
- Image of the Oakland Motor Car Company Factory, circa 1990. Photo by Gary Lewis, local resident
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