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Cadillac, the all-American luxury car

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/18/2006 | Auto and Trucks

Cadillac, a luxury automobile from the General Motors stable, is synonymous with quality and performance. Its considered to be an all-American car since it is marketed only in North America, and has been owned by some of the richest Americans in the last century. 

The car has an interesting history. It was manufactured by an engineer Henry M. Leland, who had been summoned to liquidate a car company from which Henry Ford had walked out. The new company was named Cadillac Automobile Company, and the car was christened as Cadillac after the 17th century Frenchman who founded Detroit.

The first Cadillac rolled out in 1903. It was an instant hit, and as many as 2,000 customers placed an order for the car at the New York Auto Show. In 1908, the company launched the Model K Cadillac. Three of these cars participated at the Royal Automobile Clubs Standardization Test, and came out with flying colors. The company also received the prestigious Dewar Trophy in 1908.

In 1909, General Motors took over the Cadillac company, and made it its showpiece car. The cars popularity increased with each innovation. In 1911, Cadillac introduced the first gasoline internal combustion engine; this was followed by many innovations such as the first V8 engine, introduction of shatter resistant safety glass and the first fully synchronized transmission.

Cadillac suffered heavy losses in 1932 and there was a threat of closure. To get rid of this, General Motors decided to promote the brand among black customers. This strategy proved to be hugely successful and Cadillac came back with a bang. It went on to have a phenomenal 1000% rise in sales in 1940, as compared to 1934.

After World War II, Cadillac concentrated on mass production of luxury cars which had 12 and 16 cylinder engines. These cars were remarkable as they combined speed with luxury, and came to be owned by the corporate honchos and rich businessmen. Cadillac introduced many innovative and interesting design styles such as the tail fins and wraparound windshields, which added to the cars popularity. Its front bumper design, known as the Dagmar bumpers, was also a great hit.

The fuel crises of 1973 and 1979 forced Cadillac to downsize its vehicles. It also led to the production of the diesel car. But this was not a good time for the company.  In 1981, Cadillac launched the compact Cimarron to appeal to the youth, but the car didnt do well. Similarly, the L62, V8-6-4 engine that was introduced in the early 1980s as a cutting edge technology had to be shelved. The Cadillac Allante, a convertible, which was hugely acclaimed for its design proved to be a commercial a failure. By the late 1980s, Cadillac was forced to switch to small cars to take on competition from European and Asian cars.

In 1999, Cadillacs design division, called Art & Science, unveiled the Cadillac Evoq Concept car at the Detroit Auto Show. The design and style was dramatically different from the traditional Cadillac design, and was much applauded. The 2003 Cadillac CTS was hugely successful and was followed by the SRX Sport Utility Wagon and the Cadillac XLR Roadster. The new Cadillac V series has a range of fantastic sporty models.

Cadillac as a car maker has come a long way to establish itself as a reputed name in the market. It can be proud for being the Presidential Limousine of President George W. Bush at his second inauguration in 2005.