An Early History Of Cadillac: The Second-Oldest Automobile Brand In The World

Cadillac is a leader of luxury cars in the U.S., and is the second-oldest existing brand in the world, behind only Buick – which was the original parent company of General Motors, the company which now owns both brands.

In this article, we’ll take a brief look at the history of Cadillac, to help you understand the history of this luxury brand. 

Founding And Early Years

The company was actually founded by previous members of the Henry Ford Company – Ford’s second company, which he left in 1902. Henry M. Leland, an engineer, was brought in to help reorganize the company – which rebranded as Cadillac, in honor of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the man who founded Detroit.

The first automobiles, the Runabout and the Tonneau, were completed in 1902, and they were practically identical to the Ford Model A. At the New York Auto Show, the company impressed buyers – and the company gathered more than 2,000 orders for the vehicles.

Precision, Power, And “The Standard Of The World” 1908-1941 

The biggest selling point of early Cadillacs was precision. Their cars were simply built to be more precise and higher quality than the competition, using precision engineering and a luxury finish. The company was acquired by General Motors in 1909.

In 1915, Cadillac introduced a powerful new V8 engine which would allow its cars to achieve speeds of 65 mph – higher than roads at the time could accommodate. In addition, the company developed a more quiet and efficient manual transmission, and continued developing V8, V12, and even V16 engines.

During the Great Depression, auto sales were dramatically lower, falling by 84% from 1928 to 1933. However, the company quickly recovered, boosting sales by the time World War II came around.

Post-Depression And World War II 

This is often considered a “golden age” of Cadillac design. Many of the features that became synonymous with the brand in the future were innovated in this era – including extensive use of chroming on body parts, large and pointed tail fins, wraparound windshields, and a new grille and bumper design that was more subtle and low-key than the previous “”Dagmar” design, which was inspired by artillery shells.

New Innovations In Luxury, Style, And Size – 1960s-1976

In 1966, Cadillac had its best-ever year of sales, selling more than 192,000 units – an increase of 60% compared to the previous year. This was driven by many modern innovations, including an automatic heating-air-conditioning system, dual-reservoir brake master cylinders, and a more streamlined and elegant design that relied less on chrome and other “flashy” stylings.

Cadillacs also continued to grow in size throughout the 1960s. Cars such as the 1972 Fleetwood reached lengths of 252.2 inches. For comparison, a modern GMC Sierra pickup truck maxes out at a length of only 238.9 inches with a crew cab and the largest possible bed.

From The 80s To Today – Smaller Cars, Smarter Technology, And A New Approach 

By the late 1970s to the 1980s, Cadillac focused less on enormous cars, and began downsizing their fleet to improve fuel economy and practicality. Powerful new engines like the Northstar Engine were introduced, and while sales continued to decline somewhat, Cadillac remained the most popular American luxury marque.

Today, that spirit of innovation continues, with Cadillac focusing on a new “Art and Science” body style, and focusing on advanced features like driver assistance and automation, as well as electric vehicles, hybrids, and more.

Cadillac – A Long History And A Long Future 

As one of the oldest extant car brands in America, Cadillac has a long track record of success – and it’s likely that this brand will remain popular for years to come, with best-selling vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade, CTS, and XT5. A dedication to precision and advanced engineering are the trademarks of Cadillac, who have been providing customers with top-notch vehicles for more than a century.

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