The Continual Innovation and History of Cadillac

Updated March 31, 2017

The History of Cadillac

Cadillac has become the top name in American luxury vehicles and through the company’s history we see a plethora of innovation that helped move automotive design into the future. The Cadillac name was derived from the 17th century explorer that discovered what “Motor City” Detroit is today. What is not commonly known is that Cadillac was actually formed under the Henry Ford Company and was built upon the remnants left over from a deal that went south due to investor qualms. A mechanic and entrepreneur by the name of Henry Leland is accredited with starting the company under the Cadillac name in 1902 and the coat of arms that we have come to recognize with Cadillac comes from  Antoine Cadillac’s coat of arms. Once the company was started we see that throughout the history of Cadillac the engineers were set out to provide the latest innovations as well as luxury designs in order to become the prominent American luxury vehicle manufacturer. The Cadillac Company merged and made its public debut sometime in 1903. The company was set to deliver vehicles that offered interchangeable parts and it was this type of attention to the needs and wants of potential customers that would shape the company for years to come.


The following years we would see many first innovations being introduced by Cadillac as the company was first to offer an electrically assisted engine starter. Whilst other manufactures engines had to be hand cranked in order to start them and led to many broken wrists, the Cadillac owner could simply start the vehicle from inside the vehicle cabin. Other technologies would be implemented such as electric ignition as well as lighting. Cadillac would also be the first manufacturer to offer an enclosed cabin therefore making their vehicles more versatile for owners as they could operate them in more inclement weather. Engine and transmission design was a main focus as work would continue on Cadillac producing the first V8 engine that would allow their vehicles to reach an unprecedented speed of 65 miles per hour. This was a major feat for vehicles of the time as the road conditions for most areas of the country could not accommodate such a high rate of speed. It must have been trying for Cadillac owners as their speed was simply confined by inadequate road conditions, thus probably helping to get more funding for roadways.

Through the years Cadillac would continue to create automotive firsts such as V-12’s and even V-16’s that would deliver at the time an awe-inspiring 165 horsepower. This would continue to add popularity to the Cadillac name as the world was starting to realize just how innovative the company was. In 1926 Cadillac’s reach was expanding and so was it customer base. The company brought on Harley Earl to design such vehicles as the 1927 Cadillac LaSalle making it the first ever car where the exterior was designed by as designer and not an engineer. During the Second World War the Cadillac factory would go on to produce vital powertrains for military fighting vehicles such as the M8 Howitzer. An unintended reaction to the wartime was Harley Earl’s fascination with the superior P-38 fighter that had a dual tail section. Harley incorporated this design into the 1940’s Cadillac’s and thus starting a styling trend used throughout the industry for decades to come. After WWII Cadillac would go on to sell over 100,000 vehicles annually thus more than doubling previous years of production and sales. During the 1950’s Cadillac would become synonymous with America’s obsession with the car.

During the 1960’s Cadillac wanted to work on delivering vehicles that looked sleeker and more squared off by design thus losing the bulbous look of the 50’s era vehicles. We would continue to see first from the manufacturer as it would move into the less popular 70’s and 80’s. Due to changing times and an oil crisis we watched as American auto manufacturers worked to deliver somewhat cleaner and more efficient vehicles. The problem was that import auto manufacturers were gaining sales quickly as they were already delivering more efficiency as well as lower emissions. So Cadillac was losing sales and decided to offer a vehicle catered to more individuals rather than just the wealthier buyers looking for luxury. Thus we would see the introduction of the Cadillac Cimarron, this was a four-cylinder vehicle that offered the first manual transmission by Cadillac since 1953 and was not received particularly well by faithful or new customers. The Cimarron started at a base price of what would be $32,000 today therefore it wasn’t had to see why customers were instead buying BMW’s and Mercedes-Benz’s.


The 1990’s were a little better to Cadillac as they were able to bring back more innovation into their vehicles as well as power and style. Vehicles such as the Deville and Seville would offer Cadillac’s Northstar engine design that utilized dual-overhead camshafts in their new V8’s. This would help them to draw in customers as the engine was advertised that no tune-up was needed until 100,000 miles had been placed on the engine. These designs would also help cover up the Cadillac Catera that would be another take at affordable luxury by Cadillac, yet resulted in an unreliable vehicle that would place a burden on the Cadillac name. 


Today we see Cadillac going strong as they are once again working on innovation and luxury in their designs. We are seeing powerful V-8 engines as well as performance and luxury based models that make the company a sought after brand. As of today we see many new models coming to the Cadillac family such as the ATS, XTS, and ELR. These vehicles will feel niches for the company as it looks to boost sales. We see that Cadillac will be setup like Buick to have three sizes of sedans and two crossovers to choose from. The ELR will be a Cadillac electric assisted variant of the Chevrolet Volt that will offer both all-electric and gasoline assisted extended range. Look for the company to continue on a path that merges the design of both nostalgia as well as contemporary looks.



Uriah Nazario
About Uriah Nazario

If you are easily offended and like to comment about how your feelings are hurt then you won't like my style of writing. I speak my mind (which is deranged) and yes it is often offensive. I am open for debate but not whining. I appreciate all my readers and hope my articles put a smile on your face.

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