There isn’t a more well-known modern Cadillac than the Escalade luxury SUV. And Cadillac’s modern icon (and cash cow) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Introduced at the 1998 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Escalade came to life as the sport utility vehicle segment took off. Americans began swapping their sedans, station wagons and minivans for SUVs; the Escalade arrived to offer the most luxurious take on the segment. In the video above, Greg Wallace, manager of the GM Heritage Center, speaks of the Escalade, and specifically, the first production unit.
Wallace managed the Cadillac historical collection at the time of the Escalade’s debut. When the first production car rolled off the assembly line in Arlington, Texas, in 1998, Wallace campaigned to save the model. Most of the time, first-production cars are scrapped after publicity tours. Escalade VIN 001 became Wallace’s personal car for 28,000 miles before it moved to the GM Heritage Center in 2003.
Throughout the 2000s, the Escalade became a sales darling. After strong initial sales, the second-generation model’s sales leaped more than 35 percent in 2002, and 55 percent more with the Escalade EXT’s launch. In 2004, sales had exploded by 230 percent.
Now, the Escalade prepares for its next form as we await the redesigned 2020 Escalade. The model will likely usher in even more equipment and technology to further differentiate itself from GM’s other full-size SUVs.