One name comes to mind when people think of luxury vehicles: Cadillac. Read here to learn about the history of Cadillac and their plans for the future.

There’s hardly a person on Earth who hasn’t heard of Cadillac by now. Over time, it’s become one of the most iconic brands in the auto industry.

With signature models like the Escalade and the DeVille, Cadillac rose to prominence. In fact, in 2017 alone, Cadillac sold 356,467 vehicles globally.

A Brief History of Cadillac

Despite their ubiquity, however, few know about Cadillac’s history. It’s a shame because its story is as riveting as any other. Here’s a brief biography.

A Shaky Foundation

The history of Cadillac is as old as the invention of the car itself. Cadillac was founded in the ashes of the short-lived Henry Ford Co. Henry Ford had a dispute with his investors and decided to ditch his own company along with a few of his major partners.

The remaining financiers of the Henry Ford Co. asked an engineer named Henry Leland (every car maker in that era seemed to be named Henry) to appraise the Ford factory’s assets and prepare for the company’s liquidation.

But Leland happened to have a patent for a single-cylinder engine. He persuaded Ford’s financiers to make cars with his new patent. So a new company was formed on August 22nd, 1902, called the Cadillac Automobile Co. It was named after French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who founded Detroit.

Cadillac: The First Generation

Cadillac manufactured its first vehicles, the Runabout and Tonneau, in October that same year. They were 10 horsepower, two-seat horseless carriages that looked almost identical to the Ford Model A.

There wasn’t much in the way of originality or safety. But what the Cadillac’s lacked in originality, they made up for with precision engineering. These cars were much more reliable and better-built than its competitors.

General Motors Acquires Cadillac

In 1909, Cadillac was purchased by General Motors, the largest auto manufacturer at the time. Cadillac became GM’s crown jewel atop its vehicle hierarchy. Cadillac became its luxury brand, as well as its go-to when GM produced commercial vehicles like ambulances and hearses.

With GM’s capital behind them, Cadillac experimented with new, more powerful engines, like the 70 horsepower V8 engine, introduced in 1915. In 1930, they introduced a 165 horsepower V16 engine, which let its cars go much faster than the era’s roads could handle.

In this between-war period, Cadillac debuted the LaSalle, which made it the premier car manufacturer for the upper class.

Post-war Cadillac

After the World War II, Cadillac really began to have fun. It redefined auto-body styling. In 1948, Cadillac introduced a line of cars with tailfins above the rear headlights. It also added another signature look, the Dagmar bumper, named for a famous and voluptuous actress of the time. The bumper guards, added to the front, were rounded and made of chrome.

Cadillac also started manufacturing their De Ville series, one of their most iconic models. In 1949, Motor Trend magazine gave its first “Car of the Year” award to Cadillac.

Cadillac’s Heyday: 1960-1980

During these decades, Cadillac had its best sales. In 1966, Cadillac set its record for their best annual sales, selling 192,000 units (most of which were the de Ville). Just two years later, Cadillac broke its own record by selling more than 200,000 vehicles in a single calendar year.

In 1967, Cadillac introduced yet another trademark model, the El Dorado. It boasted a more understated yet luxurious design than the chrome-out models of the 1950s.

In the 1970s, Cadillac introduced the Fleetwood and Seville. They became known for their long frames and smoother, more even rides. They made record sales.


In the last two decade of the 20th century, Cadillac struggled to keep up with new auto-styling trends. It made its cars smaller, sleeker and more compact. Its premier models were given smaller engines and more safety features, and they shed a ton of weight. Unfortunately, their models also lost some of their personal charm.

The Art & Science Era

In 2000, Cadillac adopted a new design philosophy called Art & Science. It required new Cadillac designs to have “sharp, sheer forms and crisp edges – a form vocabulary that expresses bold, high-technology design and invokes the technology used to design it.”

With these principles, Cadillac returned to prominence. It produced vehicles like the Escalade, a remodeled de Ville and the Cadillac CTS, ATS and SRX.

The Future of Cadillac

Building on an exciting history, Cadillac has even more exciting things planned. It intends to re-tool their current sedans and introduce a downsized Escalade. That should be good news for anyone who’s wanted an Escalade but couldn’t stomach the mileage costs.

Cadillac also plans to add its first-ever hands-free driving system to newer cars like the 2018 Cadillac CT6 Sedan. It will also add a CT6 V-Sport, with a powerful Twin-Turbo V8 engine and innovative power train, to its 2019 lineup.

Want A Caddy of Your Own?

Few car brands have been around as long, and with such a successful legacy, as Cadillac. Since 1902, it’s innovated automotive technology and challenged the automotive conventions of every era since. Thanks to its fabulous track record, Cadillac should be around for many years to come.

If you want a part in Cadillac’s storied history and promising future, check out the models we have available on our showroom floor. You’ll be floored by their design and performance.

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