REO Motor Car Company

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The REO Motor Car Company was a Lansing, Michigan based company that produced automobiles and trucks from 1905 to 1975. At one point the company also manufactured buses on its truck platforms.

REO was initiated by Ransom E. Olds during August 1904. Olds had 52 percent of the stock and the titles of president and general manager. To ensure a reliable supply of parts, he organized a number of subsidiary firms like the National Coil Company, the Michigan Screw Company, and the Atlas Drop Forge Company.

Originally the company was to be called "R. E. Olds Motor Car Company," but the owner of Olds' previous company, then called Olds Motor Works, objected and threatened legal action on the grounds of likely confusion of names by consumers.[1] Olds then changed the name to his initials. Olds Motor Works soon adopted the popular name of its vehicles, Oldsmobile. Then instead of two "Olds" companies there were none.

The company's name was spelled alternately in all capitals REO or with only an initial capital as Reo, and the company's own literature was inconsistent in this regard, with early advertising using all capitals and later advertising using the "Reo" capitalization.[2] The pronunciation, however, was as a single word (like "rio"), never as letters (like the band "REO Speedwagon").

Lansing is home to the R. E. Olds Transportation Museum.


Early REO production

By 1907, REO had gross sales of $4.5 million and the company was one of the four wealthiest automobile manufacturers in the U.S. After 1908 however, despite the introduction of improved cars designed by Olds, REO's share of the automobile market decreased due in part to competition from emerging companies like Ford and General Motors.

REO added a truck manufacturing division and a Canadian plant in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1910. Two years later, Olds claimed he had built the best car he could, a tourer able to seat two, four, or five, with a 30–35 hp (22–26 kW) engine, 112 in (2845 mm) wheelbase, and 32 inch (81 cm) wheels, for US$1055 (not including top, windshield, or gas tank, which were US$100 extra);[3] self-starter was US$25 on top of that.[4] By comparison, the Cole 30[5] and Colt Runabout were priced at US$1500,[6] Kirk's Yale side-entrance US$1,000,[7] the high-volume Oldsmobile Runabout went for US$650,[8] Western's Gale Model A was US$500,[9] a Brush Runabout US$485,[5] the Black started at $375,[10] and the Success hit the amazingly low US$250.[8]

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