This is such an interesting question and I have thoroughly enjoyed
researching your answer.
According to http://www.aaca.org/history/cars_40.htm GM was the first
to market to African Americans:
"Automotive History - 1930 - 1939"
"Like most car makers, GM practiced discrimination in its sales--GM
would not sell Cadillacs to Blacks. Dreystadt told the board that many
affluent American Blacks were already buying Cadillacs by
deception--getting White friends to make the actual purchase. Why not,
reasoned Dreystadt, simply include affluent Blacks in the target
market for Cadillacs. In the low-volume, high-margin market for
Cadillacs, even a small expansion of the market could make a real
difference. The GM Board gave Dreystadt 18 months to try. By 1934, the
Cadillac line was back to profitability, and by 1940 it had achieved a
1000% increase in sales. Besides representing one small step in
breaking down racial discrimination in marketing, the Dreystadt
initiative to capture attention of the affluent Black buyer is cited
as the first really effective example of genuine niche marketing in
the auto industry."
"It was for business reasons that the Cadillac division of General
Motors began marketing to blacks. In the 1920s,Cadillac sold to whites
only, to maintain an exclusive image. When the Depression hit, the
division was on the ropes, and executive Nicholas Dreystadt realized
the black elite-singers, boxers, doctors, and lawyers had been paying
white frontmen to buy their Cadillacs. Dreystadt decided that selling
to black Americanswas good business."
(a book review by Bruce Ramsey of "The Business of America" by John
THE WHEN (again) and some additional information
"In 1932, GM seriously considered dropping Cadillac, because of the
weak luxury-car market in the depths of the Depression. Nicholas
Dreystadt, Cadillac service manager at the time, had noticed that the
Cadillac was very popular with middle-class blacks, despite Cadillac's
policy of not selling to blacks.
"At an Executive Committee meeting called by Chairman Alfred P. Sloan
to consider Cadillac's fate, Dreystadt made a surprise appearance with
a scheme to save the car. Dreystadt was one of the last of the
managers who rose to the top from the factory floor. He still spoke
with a German accent, having immigrated to the United States in 1912
at the age of 13 as a member of a Mercedes racing team.
"Dreystadt pointed out that since blacks (Negroes in those days) had
limited access to high-status housing and other signs of success,
wealthy blacks had adopted Cadillac as a status symbol. (Packard was
the favored car of the white old-money class.)
"Dreystadt pointed out that blacks paid a premium to white buyers to
front for them. Demand like this should be exploited, he said. The
committee give Dreystadt 18 months to develop the Negro market. By the
end of 1934, Cadillac sales were moving up and the division was making
"Dreystadt was not a civil rights crusader, but unlike many in the
auto industry he drew no color line. So when as general manager of
Cadillac during the war he accepted a contract to produce aircraft
gyroscopes and skilled workers were simply not to be found, he
startled the corporation by hiring and training 2,000 aging black
prostitutes from Paradise Valley. He and his personnel manager, James
M. Roche, also hired their madams, reasoning plausibly enough that
they could manage the women.
"Dreystadt's unorthodox approach had often put him at odds with the
professional managers who were increasingly taking over the auto
industry, but this episode put him at odds with just about everyone.
In fact, the women did well and eventually surpassed their quotas.
"There were plenty of jokes about Dreystadt's "red-light district,"
but he did not think they were funny. At war's end, the women were let
go because returning veterans had preference and the workers wanted
them out of the plants. Dreystadt felt he had personally failed these
women (several reportedly committed suicide rather than return to
their old lives) to whom he had given a taste of dignity and
"Selling to African Americans is more complicated than merely
replacing white models and actors in general market ads with black
ones, according to Valerie Graves, a former advertising executive.
"Generally speaking, African Americans are motivated more by certain
types of advertising than the general market," says Graves, an African
American who until recently worked for UniWorld, a black advertising
agency in Manhattan. She says black consumers are more likely to
patronize businesses that are seen as "good corporate citizens," a
perception Nissan sought to cultivate with its NAACP contribution,
according to Graves. Another commonly used strategy is to air ads
depicting blacks in a positive light, a move that would just seem to
be common sense."
Since I could only locate half of your answer, the "when," I did not
post this to claim the entire fee. I'll continue searching and,
hopefully, I'll come up with some examples of how GM pitched the
Cadillac to African American consumers. If I do, I'll repost this and
the new information to make a complete answer.
blacks and cadillacs
marketing to blacks cadillacs
negro marketing automobiles
Nicholas Dreystadt marketing blacks
GM Cadillac history
GM Cadillac negro history
"vintage advertising" blacks cadillac
"vintage advertising" negro cadillac