Oldsmobile’s sales had been steadily collapsing by the time the new Aurora arrived in 1995. Its arrival came as a surprise to those who still paid attention. It looked like nothing else in Oldsmobile’s lineup, and it’s no wonder. The 1989 Tube Car concept on which it was based wasn’t originally meant for the division. Instead, according to Chuck Jordan, the Tube Car was created by GM’s stylists as an exercise, and Oldsmobile’s management appropriated it. It was the styling statement the division hoped would reignite its fortunes.
For a car meant to revitalize the division, all references to Oldsmobile were curiously absent. Both in print materials and on the car itself. Whatever the thinking was behind the approach, it might have worked too well. As one survey owner noted “To this day, people compliment my car. Some are still unsure of what kind of car it is. I love telling them that it’s an Oldsmobile and seeing their reaction.”
It was a rather curious way to ‘revive’ an ailing brand.
Regardless, a lot of hope was placed on the Oldsmobile Aurora’s nicely contoured fenders. The automotive press generally praised it and sent much goodwill its way, hoping the car would point the “way out of the abyss” for the division. And when it came to the meaty stuff, the car delivered; the 72 owners Road & Track surveyed were quite pleased with Oldsmobile’s new flagship. With the Aurora’s Northstar-derived V-8, performance and styling were the car’s best attributes, delivering on looks, power, and moves. GM’s stylists also delivered on the Aurora’s cockpit, offering a nicely styled driver-oriented layout.
No mention of any failings on the Northstar-related engines, which must have been lurking in wait. And while much had improved with GM’s assembly since the ’80s, weaknesses still showed up on the Aurora. Assembly, reliability, and finish were amongst its worst-rated attributes, along with mechanical and electrical glitches of various ilk. While none were of a serious nature, they were a blemish on the vehicle’s record. Last, the Aurora’s resale values were miserly.
To the question “Would you buy another?” only 68% of respondents said they would consider it, well below R&T’s survey averages. It was an ominous result. By 2000 it was well known Oldsmobile needed every single sale it could get, as it had become a “matter of life and death” in the words of R&T.
Death actually came while this R&T issue sold on newsstands that Dec. of 2000. On the 13th of that month, GM announced it was going to close Oldsmobile for good.