Owner Magnetic began with the revolutionary drive system design of Justus Entz. Since 1898 Entz was experimenting with automatic transmission designs. Not a successful business man, Entz collaborated with the RM Owen Company to market his innovative design. 1916 saw the introduction of the groundbreaking, if overly complex, Owen Magnetic. One of the first truly automatic motorcars ever produced, the drive system was an engineering marvel. It used a magnetic drive system similar to that of a locomotive, where that the motor produced electricity that could then power the wheels. A system of complex speed controllers and a speed selector on the steering column allowed the driver to select a speed range but the car had no clutch.
The drive combination gasoline and electric drive system is not unlike a hybrid drive system of today except that the car is not equipped with propulsion batteries. The system did work as advertised and the cars were very easy to operate and quiet due to the elimination of gear noise. All this sophistication came at a price – Owen Magnetics were extremely expensive motorcars. One could spend the equivalent money of a Pierce Arrow or more on one of these high tech machines. Although they were popular with celebrities, they were ultimately a market failure and the company failed in 1921.