LaSalle was an American brand of luxury automobiles manufactured and marketed, as a separate brand, by General Motors' Cadillac division from 1927 through 1940.

Alfred P. Sloan, GM's Chairman of the Board, developed the concept for four new GM marques brands - LaSalle, Marquette, Viking and Pontiac - paired with already established brands to fill price gaps he perceived in the General Motors product portfolio.

Sloan created LaSalle as a companion marque for Cadillac. LaSalle automobiles were manufactured by Cadillac, but were priced lower than Cadillac-branded automobiles, were shorter, and were marketed as the second-most prestigious marque in the General Motors portfolio. LaSalles were titled as LaSalles, and not as Cadillacs. Like Cadillac - named after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac- the LaSalle brand name was based on that of another French explorer, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.

General Motors companion marque strategy

The LaSalle had its beginnings when General Motors' CEO Alfred P. Sloan noticed that his carefully crafted market segmentation program was beginning to develop price gaps in which General Motors had no products to sell.

In an era when automotive brands were somewhat restricted to building a specific car per model year, Sloan surmised that the best way to bridge the gaps was to develop "companion" marques that could be sold through the current sales network.

As originally developed by Sloan, General Motors' market-segmentation strategy placed each of the company's individual automobile marques into specific price ranges, called the General Motors Companion Make Program. The Chevrolet was designated as the entry-level product. Next, (in ascending order), came the Pontiac, Oakland, Oldsmobile, Viking, Marquette, Buick, LaSalle, and Cadillac. By the 1920s, certain General Motors products began to shift out of the plan as the products improved and engine advances were made.

Under the companion marque strategy, the gap between the Chevrolet and the Oakland would be filled by a new marque named Pontiac, a quality six-cylinder car designed to sell for the price of a four-cylinder. The wide gap between Oldsmobile and Buick would be filled by two companion marques: Oldsmobile was assigned the up-market V8 engine Viking and Buick was assigned the more compact six-cylinder Marquette. Cadillac, which had seen its base prices soar in the heady 1920s, was assigned the LaSalle as a companion marque to fill the gap that existed between it and Buick.

Design strategy
What emerged as the LaSalle in 1927 was introduced on the GM C platform with the Cadillac V8. The 1927 LaSalle was designed by Harley Earl, who had a 30-year career at General Motors, eventually gaining control of all design and styling at General Motors.

Prior to the 1927 LaSalle, automobile design essentially followed a set pattern, with design changes driven principally by engineering needs. For example, the Ford Model T evolved only slightly over its production run; A 1927 Model T was almost identical to a 1910 Model T, while GM made yearly appearance and model name changes across all brands starting in 1908.

Earl, who had been hired by Cadillac's General Manager, Lawrence P. Fisher, conceived the LaSalle not as a junior Cadillac, but as something more agile and stylish. Influenced by the rakish Hispano-Suiza roadsters of the time, Earl's LaSalle emerged as a shorter, yet elegant, counterpoint to Cadillac's larger cars, unlike anything else built by an American automotive manufacturer.

Built by Cadillac to its high standards but at a dedicated factory at Wyoming Road Assembly, the LaSalle soon emerged as a trend-setting automobile. Earl was then placed in charge of overseeing the design of all of General Motors' vehicles. Earl's design even included a nod to the inspirational Hispano-Suiza H6, with the marque's circled trademark "LaS" cast into the horizontal tie bar between the front lights.

There were two wheelbase choices where Fisher offered eight selections while Fleetwood Metal Body offered four coachwork choices on the shorter 128 in (3,251 mm) while only Fisher offered an additional three coachwork choices on the longer 134 in (3,404 mm). For 1927, the most exclusive Fleetwood body was the Transformable Town Cabriolet at US$4,700 ($70,023 in 2020 dollars [3]). The LaSalles of this era were equipped with Cadillac's "Ninety Degree V-8", making the car fast, while its smaller size made it sportier and more agile.

On June 20, 1927, a LaSalle driven by Willard Rader, along with Gus Bell, on the track at the Milford Proving Grounds, achieved 952 miles (1,532 km), averaging 95.2 mph (153.2 km/h), with only seven minutes given over to refueling and tire changes. In comparison, the average speed at that year's Indianapolis 500 was 97.5 mph (156.9 km/h). The test at Milford would have continued, but a problem in the oil system drew the test to an early close, approaching the 9:45 mark.

The Series 303 continued for 1928, and as LaSalle sales began to progress, engineering advancements, appearance changes and optional equipment choices continued. Shock absorbers were now sourced from Lovejoy hydraulic units and the clutch was now upgraded to twin discs. The list of available coachwork choices from Fisher expanded to eleven selections on the 125" wheelbase and six choices on the 134", while Fleetwood now provided two choices on the 125" and only one choice on the 134", that being the Transformable Town Cabriolet at US$4,900 ($73,851 in 2020 dollars).

The first engine upgrade to the LaSalle was introduced in 1929 with the Series 328, which had slight differences to the Cadillac V8 which was also upgraded. The Victoria and business coupe were replaced with the Landau Cabriolet from Fisher while Fleetwood choices were all cabriolet coupes or sedans. Both wheelbase choices were both available for Fisher and Fleetwood coachwork selections. September of 1929 is when Cadillac introduced its all-new 1930 Series 353, one month before the Cadillac V-12 and the Wall Street Crash of 1929

The ultra-luxury Cadillac V-16 made its grand introduction January 1930, and the LaSalle received another engine upgrade introduced in the LaSalle Series 340. Fisher body selections were reduced to seven closed while Fleetwood choices expanded to six. The only wheelbase used was 134" and a radio was first introduced as a optional item for US$175 ($2,711 in 2020 dollars) and all LaSalle's were prewired with an antenna imbedded in the roof. Wheels were available in hickory artillery style, wire wheels or solid pressed steel discs. The engine displacement of the 1930 LaSalle and the 1928-1929 Cadillac Series 341 were essentially identical so the LaSalle was labeled as Series 340 while the 1930 Cadillac V8 was upgraded to Series 353.[1] In an attempt to further add exclusivity, Fleetwood convertible coachwork selections were further distinguished by the descriptions "Fleetcliffe", "Fleetlands", "Fleetway" and "Fleetwind" which didn't continue for 1931. The next vehicle choice offered by GM was the all-new Buick Series 50 coupe or sedan with a straight-eight engine with a similar appearance and a Fisher Body for US$1,540 ($23,858 in 2020 dollars [3]) while a LaSalle Series 340 sedan was listed at US$2,565 ($39,737 in 2020 dollars).

The 1931 LaSalle's engine was again upgraded and the Series 345-A appeared with the same appearance, engineering and optional equipment changes. Fisher and Fleetwood coachwork choices were again changed based on popularity, and additional optional equipment was added retaining the 134" wheelbase used the previous year. The Cadillac Heron or Goddess hood ornament made the options list for US$20 ($310 in 2020 dollars [3]) while the latest fashion accessory called a radiator rock screen could be installed for US$33 ($511 in 2020 dollars .

From the mid-1910s, a V8 engine was regarded as a luxury expectation, while other manufacturers remained with straight-8 engines, but in 1932 the Ford V8 was introduced with a standard equipment V8 displacing 221 cu in (3.6 L). Body style selections and a wide arrange of Duco automotive lacquer paint color selections, introduced by DuPont, was beginning to become commonplace. The 1932 LaSalle Sereies 345-B and 1933 Series 345-C followed the same pattern of appearance, engineering upgrades and ever growing options list.

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