Cadillac History

Cadillac history began in 1902, when an engineer named Henry Leland created a car similar to the Ford Model A. What set Leland's car apart was an attention to detail and precision engineering. During its early years, Cadillac would build a reputation for technical innovation, which gave way to a focus on luxury and style.

Early History
Cadillac was founded in 1902 by Henry Martyn Leland. The company was named after the French explorer who discovered Detroit. One of Cadillac's earliest models was the Cadillac Osceola. It was the industry's first concept car and the first closed-body car made in America. Only one Osceola was made, but the car had a powerful ripple effect throughout the industry. Closed-body designs quickly became the norm.

Cadillac's reputation for using standardized parts and its excellent craftmanship made the early models a success-the Model A and the "30" were so successful that GM bought Cadillac in 1909. Cadillac was the first manufacturer to manufacture and use a V8 engine and a thermostatic-controlled cooling system. It was also the first manufacturer to use headlights that were controlled in the dash. Cadillac introduced the electronic ignition system and was the first company to offer power steering as standard equipment on all models.

A Focus on Luxury
After World War II, Cadillac's tailfins and massive amounts of chrome became the trendsetter of style for American cars. The tailfin style was modeled after Lockheed's P38 lightning aircraft. The Coupe de Ville and the El Dorado were common sights in Hollywood and upscale neighborhoods. Governments around the world ordered Cadillac fleets for their dignitaries.

In the 1960s, the tailfins were traded in for vertical taillights, and the Fleetwood Sixty Special became Cadillac's most popular car. Unfortunately for the company, it's early focus on technical innovation was lost as luxury became the brand's top selling point.

A Fall from Grace
The OPEC embargo of the 1970s quickly drove large, gas-guzzling cars out of favor with American consumers. New Japanese imports with smaller, fuel-sipping V4 and V6 engines gained ground against the thirsty V8s that dominated the 1960s and early '70s.

Cadillac's reputation as the standard of luxury also took a hit, as a new wave of German and English cars, including Mercedes Benz and Jaguar, offered similarly luxurious automobiles with advanced engines and safety systems. Cadillac spent most of the 1980s trying to keep up with new safety and fuel economy standards imposed by the US government. Germany, and later Japan, gained considerable ground in the luxury car market during this time.

New Directions
By the late 1980s, Cadillac had lost its reputation as America's dream car. The company rebounded, however, putting its focus back on the quality engineering that had been the hallmark of its early years. In 1998, Cadillac was the first company to offer a front-wheel drive car with traction control. Cadillac pioneered the use of night vision in cars, and was the first to offer the OnStar electronic road-assistance system.

Cadillac returned to form with its Escalade luxury SUV, as well as the sporty DTS. By improving the engineering of their vehicles while still focusing on luxury, Cadillac has reclaimed its place among luxury car makers such as Mercedes and BMW. 

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