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 founded by Ransom E. Olds in August 1904 (the name of the founder also lived on in the Oldsmobile). Olds held 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 Oil Company, the Michigan Screw Company, and the Atlas Drop Forge Company.

Early REO production

REO manufactured automobiles from 1905 to 1936, including the famous REO Speed Wagon light delivery truck, an ancestor of the pickup truck.

By 1907 REO had gross sales of $4 million and the company was one of the top four 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 shrank due in part to competition from emerging giants like Ford and General Motors.

In 1910 REO added a truck manufacturing division and a Canadian automobile plant in St. Catharines, Ontario. In 1915, Olds relinquished the title of general manager to his protégé Richard H. Scott and eight years later he gave up the company's presidency as well, retaining the position of chairman of the board.

Perhaps the most famous REO episode was the 1912 Trans-Canada journey. Traveling 4,176 miles (6,720 km) from Halifax]], Nova Scotia, to Vancouver, British Columbia, in a 1912 REO special touring car, mechanic/driver Fonce V. (Jack) Haney and journalist Thomas W. Wilby made the first trip by automobile across Canada.

From 1915 to 1925, under Scott's direction REO remained profitable. In 1925, however, Scott, like many of his contemporaries/competitors, launched an ambitious expansion program designed to make the company more competitive with other automobile manufacturers by offering cars in different price ranges. The failure of this program and the effects of the Depression caused such heavy losses that Olds came out of retirement in 1933 and took control of REO again, but resigned in 1934. In 1936 REO abandoned the manufacturing of automobiles to concentrate on trucks.

After passenger cars

Although World War II truck orders enabled it to make something of a comeback, the company remained unstable in the postwar era. In 1954 it was sold to the Bohn Aluminum and Brass Company of Detroit, and in 1957 became a subsidiary of the White Motor Company. White then merged REO with Diamond T Trucks in 1967 to form Diamond-Reo Trucks, Inc. In 1975, this firm filed for bankruptcy in the Western District of Michigan and most of its assets were liquidated.



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