When the Smithsonian began collecting cars, curators weren't sure how to deal with them. In 1915, Curator George Maynard, writing about the accession of an 1897 Olds, declared, The machine presented to the Museum by the Olds Motor Company belongs in the regular class of self-propelled vehicles, and is of the type universally known as 'automobile.' I think that is the most consistent and dignified name for it. 'Oldsmobile' is simply an advertising title that means little now and will mean nothing in the future.
Obviously, Maynard was wrong. Manufacturing automobiles quickly became an important segment of the American economy and helped shape the ways that U.S. factories and firms did business in the twentieth century. Additionally, the postwar consolidation of the world's automobile production into the hands of a few carmakers has meant that names like Oldsmobile, Ford,and Toyota have come to mean a lot to consumers.