Donald Trump has tangled with Ford Motor Co. during his presidential run, threatening to impose a hefty tax on Ford vehicles built in Mexico. But The Donald has always had an affinity for Cadillac, or so it seems.
In October 2013, Trump had a front-row seat for the press unveiling of the 2015 Escalade in Manhattan. Afterward, he told a Cadillac executive: "You did a great job. I think it's beautiful. I want to buy one immediately."
His interest in the brand goes way back. In The Art of the Deal, Trump's 1987 best-seller, he wrote that then-Cadillac general manager John Grettenberger approached him with the idea of developing a superstretch, superluxe Caddy bearing the Trump name.
Two versions were planned. The Trump Golden Series "will be the most opulent stretch limousine made," he wrote, and the Trump Executive Series would be only slightly less lavish. And Trump added that while waiting for the limos to be built, Cadillac "sent over a beautiful gold Cadillac Allante as a gift. Perhaps they felt I needed more toys to keep me busy."
The Golden Series and Executive Series prototypes were unveiled in Atlantic City in 1988, complete with Italian leather upholstery, wool carpeting, a TV and VCR, a fax machine, a paper shredder, pop-out writing desks and even a cellular phone. At the debut, Trump said: "You can see the kind of quality there is. We left nothing out. I'm very honored that they built me the first one and, frankly, I deserve it."
But Grettenberger remembered things differently in a book he wrote and self-published in 2011, Ready, Set, Go! My Life at General Motors, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Opel, and Isuzu. He said Trump had pitched the idea of co-sponsoring a Cadillac limo to be built by a conversion company on Long Island.
"He would input to the interior styling of the vehicle and allow Cadillac to use his name in promotional activity," Grettenberger wrote. "By doing so he intended to purchase fifty of them for his personal use. He was looking for means to transport high rollers from New York City to his hotel and casinos in Atlantic City and return."
Grettenberger, who retired in 1997 after heading Cadillac for 13 years, noted that ""The Donald' has also designed a rather attractive Trump symbol in chrome, which he wanted to place on the rear quarter of the car for added "distinction.'"
Grettenberger went to see Trump in Manhattan and agreed to build the first two limos to cement the deal.
"The two prototypes were built but when it came down to approving the transaction and placing a purchase order for the fifty limos, nothing happened!" Grettenberger wrote. "Donald gave all sorts of reasons for a delay, purchased one for "his father,' but no order for the remaining forty-nine. I'm not even sure what happened to the second prototype. ... So much for the Trump limousine!"