CADILLAC – A BRIEF HISTORY

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The Cadillac brand is steeped in North American history dating back to the early 18th century when France had a colonial interest in the North American continent. In 1701 a French Military officer and explorer, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, founded a settlement which he called ‘Town at the Narrowest Place’ (Ville d’Etroit in French). It was this settlement of d’Etroit that would evolve into Detroit, the hub of the North American auto industry.

One of the early Detroit automotive manufacturers was the ‘Detroit Automobile Company’ which became Cadillac shortly after an engineer, Henry M. Leland joined as company president when the then struggling company adopted Leland’s new engine design in return for a block of shares. One of his first actions was to rename the company after the French explorer Cadillac as a tribute to the founder of Detroit.

The company celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2002, and with it a hundred years of automotive innovation. The first Cadillac was completed on the 17th of October 1902. It was powered by a 10 hp single-cylinder engine and had a proposed price tag of $750.

In 1903 the Cadillac, the Model A, or rather three of them, were shown to the public for the first time at the New York Auto Show. So enthusiastic was the response that the company received 2 286 orders, no small number given the infancy of the motor industry at that time and a number that was considered to be a complete sell-out for this first vehicle in the Cadillac line.

Leland, a precision machinist by trade, was a hard taskmaster and perfectionist who demanded the highest quality standards for his vehicles. In his quest for precision manufacturing and attention to detail he urged Cadillac workers to “sweat blood for a superior product”.  Setting the foundations for enduring quality he said: “We must make every piston so exact, and every cylinder so exact, that every piston will fit perfectly into every cylinder”. The significance of this was that a Cadillac owner could easily replace either an individual cylinder or piston should either component be damaged. There was no exposure to the expense of buying a matched pair of cylinder and piston.

As a driver of advanced technology, Cadillac led the automobile industry in adopting new innovations. In 1912 the company was the first to introduce a sophisticated electronic system that included an electric starter motor and battery management. Three years later it unveiled the first mass-produced V8 engine. The company also introduced the first two-plane fully counter-weighted crankshaft that significantly enhanced the smooth running characteristic of V8 engines.

In 1930 Cadillac introduced the world’s first V16 engine for passenger car use. The 7,4 litre engine produced 160 hp. This was followed by a 135 hp V12 unit just months later. These two remarkable engines made Cadillac the most talked about automotive brand in an era of large capacity multi-cylinder automobiles that lasted for two decades.

This attention to quality, detail and cutting edge technology, that has its roots in the doctrines of Henry M. Leland, is an enduring hallmark of Cadillac quality for more than 100 years. As Cadillac engineers look to the future with advanced designs there is an ongoing commitment to superior vehicle design and sophisticated technology that has characterised the brand to date.

While many of the early pioneers of the automotive industry failed, Cadillac is one of the few that survived to see in 100 years of vehicle manufacturing in an often tumultuous manufacturing and marketing environment. Economic recession, including the Great Depression; two world wars and many regional conflicts; and fuel rationing, are but a few of the global events witnessed by Cadillac. Along the way Cadillac has imprinted itself on automotive history as an iconic brand and as a measure of excellence.

Cadillac played a defining role in North American culture in the years after World War II. The Cadillac culture extends to countless car clubs, private collections and exotic and creative retrofits based on production models. Cadillac has featured in music productions, movies, TV and even fine art productions as it rose to prominence as the quintessential American automotive brand.

Today Cadillac has evolved into a global brand fully in tune with wider markets and tastes, particularly those of European buyers. The latest range of Cadillacs is building a renewed momentum in the global marketplace as a range of world-class vehicles capable of competing with the best contenders in its class. The latest range of luxury vehicles from Cadillac offers precise handling, a host of active and passive safety features, the latest in infotainment systems and bold styling.

A Cadillac offers a blend of performance and luxury; a demonstration of status and success; exclusivity; a feeling of importance, and a fun to drive experience. The Cadillac experience is a complete blend of emotional and functional needs in car ownership.

The Cadillac global mission statement:

“Cadillac will lead the luxury segment by offering must-have products, that are professionally marketed, and delivered through a premium retail channel obsessed with customer satisfaction and sales/service.”