Sixty years ago, Detroit was one of the richest cities in America. The largesse was on display in its magnificent theaters, the mansions of auto-industry czars, and the 18-foot long luxury sedans cruising Woodward Avenue, many bearing the Cadillac crest or the Lincoln cross.
Racial discord led to the 1967 riots and accelerated the “white flight” movement from downtown to the suburbs as auto jobs also moved further afield. Detroit was never the same, and its decline culminated in bankruptcy in 2013. For much of the past two decades, Detroit has been best known for “ruin porn” videos of its disintegrating city center.
But this once-great Midwestern hub is rebuilding with a dizzying array of corporate startups, taste-making restaurants, sharp bars, and cool hotels—many refurbishing grand old buildings in the process.
The same holds true for Detroit’s iconic luxury auto brands. There was a time when Cadillac and Lincoln cars were American status symbols. People pointed when they rolled by. Cadillac sales hit 335,053 in 1978, and Lincoln was the best-selling luxury brand in 1990 with annual sales of 231,660. Once mighty, both suffered precipitous falls as the brands fell victim to cost-cutting, platform commoditization with mainstream parts, and general product planning malaise. Luxury shoppers opted instead for German and Japanese luxury vehicles. Tesla, the electric startup, became a new symbol of American aspiration.