The Cadillac brand signifies prestige, power and luxury; their “Standard of the World” slogan was adopted over a century ago and is still used today. Their edgy yet elegant design over recent years have succeeded in drawing a younger clientele, and the brand arguably remains the most desirable of General Motors’ divisions.
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Cadillac was established in 1902 by Henry Leland, who named the company after his ancestor and founder of Detroit, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, and used the family crest as inspiration for the brand’s logo. The first model introduced was the Oceola, a 1-cylinder car with the industry’s first completely closed body.
By 1908, Cadillacs reached mass production thanks to the development of the complete interchangeability of its precision-crafted parts. General Motors bought Cadillac in 1909. In 1910, Cadillac became the first car manufacturer to sell standard closed cockpits. Two years later, it pioneered the electric starter in its Model Thirty. The company’s first production V8 engine appeared in 1915. And in 1927, the LaSalle was introduced, becoming a milestone model as the first car penned by a professional designer, Harley Earl.
In 1930, Cadillac launched the V-16, the first production car offering a 16-cylinder under a very long hood, and a V12 engine was also developed shortly afterwards. Production stopped during WWII, but after it ended, Cadillac started designing cars with tail fins, which became a styling trend during the following two decades. In 1950 and 1951, sales exceed 100,000 units for the first time, while power steering and power brakes were introduced in the following years.
Then, in 1959, GM’s luxury brand introduced the outlandish Eldorado convertible, which boasted the biggest and tallest fins ever designed on a car. Cadillac launched the industry’s first climate control system in 1964, followed by automatic headlights and heated seats and a stereo radio.
In the 70s, tail fins were out but exaggerated proportions were still in, as the redesigned Eldorado gets a 400-horsepower, 8.2-litre V8. Cadillac offered industry-first airbags from 1974 to 1976 and electronic fuel injection from 1975. The 1978 Seville is launched with a digital instrument panel.
The downsizing trend started in the energy crisis-stricken 70s brought some new models in the Cadillac product line-up, including the compact and controversial Cimarron. The Seville Elegante, nicknamed the ‘Hunchback’, is also introduced. The Allanté roadster, introduced in 1987, rivalled the Mercedes SL with little success, but eventually was the first Caddy equipped with the newly-developed Northstar V8 as well as an electronic traction control system.
The 90s brought some changes to Cadillac’s line-up. The Fleetwood, their last remaining rear-wheel drive sedan, was retired in order to concentrate on vehicles for younger consumers. The European-designed Catera, launched in 1997, was followed by the successful Escalade full-size luxury SUV, which was added for the 1999 model year.
After the turn of the century, the DTS replaced the DeVille, the STS replaced the Seville and the CTS replaced the Catera. The XLR roadster, based on Corvette mechanicals but with the Northstar V8, as well as the SRX crossover, were added to the line-up, while the Eldorado was let go. The supercharged STS-V and XLR-V versions were also available for a few years.
Today, Cadillac’s range of cars and trucks consists of the CTS, CTS Coupe and CTS Sport Wagon, each offering a high-performance V-Series variant. It also includes the DTS and STS sedans, the SRX and four Escalade versions: the base model, the long-wheelbase ESV, the EXT pickup and the Escalade Hybrid.
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General Motors is now recalling 3.36 million vehicles in North America (the vast majority in the U.S.) because the ignition switch may inadvertently move out of the "run" position if the key is carrying extra weight and experiences some jarring event.