A little over 111 years ago, on July 29th, 1909, General Motors (GM) bought the Cadillac Automobile Company for $4.5 million. Unknown to many, Cadillac was formed from the remains of the Henry Ford Company. Because of a dispute with investors, Henry Ford left the his own company in March 1902 and eventually launched another car company, the Ford Motor Company. William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen, Ford’s former financial backers, were left to mull over what to do with the remaining Henry Ford Company assets.
Murphy and Bowen contacted engineer Henry M. Leland of the Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing Company to appraise the company plant and its associated equipment. Instead, Leland ended up convincing Murphy and Bowen to continue auto manufacturing using Leland’s single-cylinder engine, and the Cadillac Automobile Company was born. The company name came from French explorer Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who is considered as the “founder” of Detroit. The original Cadillac crest was designed after the explorer’s coat of arms while the modern updated crest retains the explorer’s colors.
The first Cadillac models combined a Ford frame with a 10-horsepower single-cylinder engine. The first units rolled out of the Cadillac factory in October 1902 and debuted at the 1903 New York Auto Show. Offered as a more reliable alternative to rival products, including the nearly identical Ford Model A, Cadillac ended up selling 2,500 units in the first year of production.
Cadillac quickly established itself as one of the premier luxury car makers in the U.S. In 1909, GM purchased Cadillac and added the luxury car brand to the top of its vehicle hierarchy, which at the time included Buick, Oldsmobile, Oakland, and a few years later, Chevrolet.
Over the years, Cadillac continued to establish itself as a technological leader, becoming the first auto manufacturer to offer an advanced electrical system for ignition, lighting, and starting. Cadillac was known for developing the first automotive V8 engine for mass production in 1915 and for introducing the tail fins that defined American car styling in the 1950’s.
In the 1950’s and the ’60s, Cadillac was considered as the “Standard of the World” when it comes to automotive design, performance and luxury. Today, Cadillac models are distributed in 37 markets around the globe, with sales hitting a record 390,458 units worldwide in 2019, just over a century and a decade past.