Don Butler tells how blacks helped save Cadillac from extinction during ABFF Festival

IMG_0227Actually, we will let Don Butler give the short version of the history of Cadillacs and black Americans. Sitting alongside legendary filmmaker Spike Lee and General Motors’ Jocelyn Allen, Butler relays how this demographic that was not even allowed in the showrooms to look at Cadillacs actually rescued these prized cars from being fading into history:

“It’s absolutely true. It’s something that I found out when I started with Cadillac more than three years ago,” Butler beings. “And I wanted to find out what was this connection between Cadillac and black Americans. And it’s deep, it’s really deep. 

“What happened was, during the Depression in the 1930s the economy was depressed and Cadillac was in really bad shape. They had actually considered shutting down the brand. There was a service engineer — he was German — an he asked to make a presentation before the GM board of directors. He said ‘I have an idea on how I think we can save Cadillac.’

“What (the service director/engineer) had noticed was that black men were bringing in their Cadillacs. Now, normally, he thought that black men were bringing in their (white) owners’ Cadillacs. But, no, they owned these vehicles and they were brining them in for service. He was confused because at the time, unfortunately, (GM) was not selling Cadillacs to black Americans. It was forbidden to sell a Cadillac to African Americans walking into the showrooms. 

“What he detected were that African Americans, who had accumulate the means, were hiring white men to go buy Cadillacs for them. I invite you to “Google” this, to look it up. What he essentially said is that we (GM) need to begin to market directly to African Americans and tell them that we are open for business for Cadillacs. So, in a sense, that was the first diversity marketing, if you want to look at it that way. 

“Black Americans helped keep Cadillac alive. We absolutely did. And so that has a special sense, special meaning for me. The roots of that connection is very, very deep. 

“Our challenge today — and Spike (Lee) alluded to that — is to modernize that connection. Our fondest memories from way back was that of large, comfortable, cushy cruisers.” 

When you add to this fascinating historical fact at how black music moguls, most notably rappers, helped to popularize the Cadillac Escalade in the 1990s by showcasing them in a number of videos, you may come to the conclusion that the two entities were always meant for each other.

 

Terry Shropshire
Terry Shropshire

A military veteran and Buckeye State native, I've written for the likes of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Detroit Free Press. I'm a lover of words, photography, books, travel, animals and The Ohio State Buckeyes. #GoBucks

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