Cadillac History

Cadillac History

Imagine Lifestyles is proud to offer luxury Cadillac Car Rentals in Miami, FL, South Florida, Los Angeles, CA, New York, NY and Chicago, IL.

Learn more about the history of these luxury cars below, or about our complete fleet of luxury car rentals.

Cadillac Beginnings

On August 22, 1902 the Cadillac Automobile Company was formed from the residuals of the Henry Ford Company. Henry Ford left Ford financial backers, William Murphy and Lemuel Brown, behind to appraise their plant and equipment. Murphy and Brown, not knowing much about the automobile industry immediately called in an engineer by the name of Henry M. Leland, of Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing Company, to help them appraise the plant and sell off the equipment. Rather than help sell the parts, Leland convinced the financial backers to continue manufacturing cars even though they weren’t Ford cars. Leland proposed that they build their own brand of cars using his authenticated 1-cylinder engine design. Thus, the Cadillac Automobile Company was formed and merged with Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing in 1905. The name Cadillac was used conceived after the 17th Century French explorer  Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who founded Detroit in the 18th Century (1701).

The General Motors Era

General Motors Corporation (GM) is a multinational corporation headquartered in the United States and was founded a year prior to buying Cadillac in 1909. As of 2008 GM is the largest automobile production company and the fifth largest publicly traded company in the world. GM has been a leader of sales for the last 77 calendar years and retails in 35 different countries under the brand names Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GM Daewoo, GMC, Holden, Hummer, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall. GM set Cadillac in a more prestigious division which was committed to producing luxury vehicles for the upper class market. The Cadillac marquee met GM’s goal before World War II, by producing cars with 12 and 16 cylinder engines which were revolutionary in the 1930’s. The superiorly built luxury cars were mass produced for high class clientele.

Cadillac Turmoil

Post World War II was not met with the same successes Cadillac had known before the war. For the last half of the Century, Cadillac hit many low points, disappointing sales and failures due to lackluster designs, production errors and growing market competition. Although the Cadillac DeVille and Eldorado hit record sales in 1973 it wasn’t enough to buffer the company’s profits during the American energy crises. Cadillac decided to downsize luxury sedans to coupes as a result of the American hysteria over gasoline shortages. Coupe’s had never been part of Cadillac’s core market and didn’t boad well for the company, because prior to the gasoline shortages the Cadillac brand name had been synonymous with grandiose dimensions and excess. As Cadillac tried harder to downsize their models they caught harsh public criticism for their “drive-alike, look-alike” cars. Basically there was nothing new and absolutely nothing that set Cadillac models apart from other car brand models that already existed. In 1985 the Cadillac Seville was badly redesigned and couldn’t be told apart from the Buick Electra or Oldsmobile 98. Later in 1985, the Ford Company who was Cadillac’s main competitor, harshly ridiculed Cadillac in a series of television advertisements. The advertisements were so detrimental to the Cadillac brand that they were asked to be taken down.

In an additional effort to increase sales during the gasoline shortages of the 70’s and re-align with their past tradition of big cars, Cadillac introduced an Oldsmobile V8 engine that used diesel fuel in 1979. The diesel engine had an appearance much like a gasoline engine but had thicker and heavier castings and required professional maintenance which buyers and sellers where unaware of. Ultimately in a “gas and go” society the engine just didn’t work, gaining a troublesome reputation, the effort backfired again for Cadillac.

During the 1980’s another low point was the variable displacement engine, named the L62 V8-6-4. Cadillac marketed the engine as revolutionary technology but it proved to be unreliable and was taken off the market the next year. The Variable Displacement engine was replaced by a smaller aluminum 4.1 Liter, V8 engine. The 4.1 Liter was used in most Cadillacs in the 1980’s but it suffered from coolant leaks and warped intake manifolds. These problems led to many unhappy customers which resulted in a loss of Cadillac brand loyalty.

By 1987 European and Japanese cars were quickly filtering into the American market and Cadillac desperately tried to rebuild their image. New designs were tested on the Cadillac Seville which was reduced to match BMW 5 series dimension and appeal. Cadillac tried to compete with the import sports market again in the Allante model, the convertible body was designed and produced by Pininfarina in Italy and then flown in on a Boeing 747 to meet its engine in America. There were no added options offered and the engine proved to be below target market expectations. People saw that Allante’s power didn’t match up to its high $55,000 price and concluded that Cadillac was just incapable of building a performance car.  More potential customers were turned off, further damaging Cadillac’s reputation in the high end market. Even with engine upgrades the Allante never reached expected sales and was taken off the market.

A New Era for Cadillac

The Lincoln Navigator was introduced to market in 1998, which propelled Lincoln’s sales past Cadillac’s for the first time in 48 years. This facilitated Cadillac to enter the sports utility market. Thus, the GMC Yukon Denali-based Escalade was introduced for the 1999 model year.  Cadillac’s sales jumped from 960 in November to 3,642 by December that year, due in large part to the Escalade. From the Escalade on, the Cadillac brand has focused attention on trying to be ahead of the curve, rather than just mimicking other brand’s designs and models. Although Cadillac is one of the oldest American brands they have resisted the urge to bring back cars, like the Ford did with the Thunderbird and Volkswagen did with the New Beetle. This is most likely due to the fact that Cadillac realized the past hurt and the only way to actually move forward into the 21st Century, was to actually move forward with a new design philosophy. Today, sharp, sheer lines, crisp edges and high technology designs have propelled Cadillac back into the high-end luxury market. The image has also been revamped and modernized in part to a fabulous marketing team creating brand awareness. Popular celebrities are now being used in all commercials and for the last 3 years, Cadillac has been a proud  sponsor of the Super Bowl. Last Super Bowl XLII, New York Giants football quarterback Eli Manning was honored with keys to a pre-production 2008 Hybrid Cadillac Escalade. The 2008 Hybrid Escalade getting 20 miles per gallon will be available this fall.