Cadillac is a brand of luxury vehicles owned by General Motors. Cadillac vehicles are officially sold in over 50 countries and territories, with the majority sold in the United States and Canada. In the mid-20th century, the name became a synonym within the United States for ''high quality'', used in such phrases as ''the Cadillac of watches,'' referring to a Rolex. Cadillac's current slogan is Life. Liberty. And The Pursuit., in reference to the inalienable rights mentioned in the United States Declaration of Independence.
Cadillac was formed from the remnants of the Henry Ford Company when Henry Ford departed along with several of his key partners and the company was dissolved. With the intent of liquidating the firm's assets, Ford's financial backers, William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen called in engineer Henry M. Leland of Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing Company to appraise the plant and equipment prior to selling them. Instead, Leland persuaded them to continue the automobile business using Leland's proven 1-cylinder engine. Henry Ford's departure required a new name, and on August 22, 1902, the company reformed as the Cadillac Automobile Company. Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing and the Cadillac Automobile Company merged in 1905.
The Cadillac automobile was named after the 17th century French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who founded Detroit in 1701.
Cadillac helped to define advanced engineering, luxury and style early in automotive history and its vehicles would come to be known as among the world's finest-made. Precision manufacturing of truly interchangeable parts was an award-winning industry first in 1908. Cadillac was the first manufacturer to release cars with a fully enclosed cab as factory equipment in 1910. In 1912, Cadillac was the first manufacturer to incorporate an electrical system that consisted of cranking, lighting and ignition. In 1915 they were the first to regulate engine cooling by thermostatic means, and in 1922 the first to introduce thermostatic control of engine carburetion. Cadillac was also the first to build inherent balance in the V-8 in 1923.
In 1912 Cadillac became the first manufacturer to offer an electric starter as standard equipment. It was developed by Charles Kettering and was marketed as a convenience device for female drivers. Anecdotally, Henry Leland insisted on this after a close friend was killed by a hand crank when his engine backfired. By allowing anyone to safely start a car, the electric starter ensured the dominance of the internal-combustion engine over steam or electric, even though the internal-combustion engine was not necessarily superior to steam in emissions, fuel economy, range, or performance at that time.
In July 1917, the United States Army needed a dependable staff car and they chose the Cadillac Type 55 Touring Model after exhaustive tests on the Mexican border. Several Cadillacs, used as testing platforms, passed the rigorous tests and as a result, 2,350 units of the Model 55 were supplied for use in France by officers of the American Expeditionary Force during WW I. Not one mechanical change was needed other than the requirement of khaki-brown paint.
Cadillac was the first manufacturer to utilize the skills of a designer to style a car's body instead of an engineer in 1927. It introduced shatter-resistant safety glass in 1926. In 1928, Cadillac's engineers were the first to design a fully-synchronized manual transmission using constant-mesh gears to prevent clashing upon executing a shift which increased drivability. The marque was instrumental in the early development of the automatic transmission beginning in 1932; then in 1941, it became the first luxury car nameplate to offer an automatic transmission, GM's Hydra-Matic (introduced the previous year by sister division Oldsmobile).
For the 1914 model year Cadillac introduced the first production V8 engine, and at this time many defects were being discovered in the new V8 Touring model. The competition, most notably Packard, was having a field day with these discoveries in their ads, so the MacManus advertising agency realized something had to be done quickly. Their response to the critics was the beautifully written ''Penalty of Leadership'', a one-time-only print ad which became a huge success. Cadillac salespeople requested copies for themselves as well as their customers, and the sales immediately rebounded. In 1945 (nearly thirty years after it ran), this ad was voted the best ad of all time by those in the industry. According to Advertising Age, this campaign is ranked 49th out of the top 100 ad campaigns of all time (Advertising Age 1998). Cadillac offered a production V-16 engine (that included the world's first hydraulic valve lifters) from 1930 through 1940,as well as a V-12 from 1931 through 1937. Cadillac, along with Buick and Oldsmobile, introduced the production independent wishbone front suspension in 1934. The marque introduced tailfins for 1948. From the late 1960s onward, Cadillac offered a fiber-optic indication system which alerted the driver of a failed light bulb.