It was also facing increasing competition from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Lexus. Cadillac, at a vast rate of knots, was in danger of becoming an also-ran in its home country.
In order to restore some glamour to its brand, the company rolled out a new 'art and science' strategy in late 1999. 'Art' defined Cadillac's sharp new design language, while 'science' predictably represented the ways in which the company would showcase its engineering capabilities.
On the 'science' front, Cadillac had several options. For example, it had reputedly been studying ways to improve the safety of night-time driving since 1984. Because safety was becoming an increasingly important consideration among buyers, a flagship technology would be of great benefit.
Three types were available at the time. The first was the straightforward image intensifier; this would capture even the dimmest incoming light and output it on frequencies visible to the human eye, granting an 'intensified' view of the scene ahead. Improvements could be achieved by adding an infrared light, not visible to the human eye, which would deliver a far clearer, sharper view - a set-up called 'active illumination'.
Both could struggle when faced with bright light sources, such as oncoming headlights, making them less suitable for automotive use at the time. The third type, thermal imaging, appeared more suitable. The cameras, which measure the difference in temperature between objects by capturing thermal radiation, couldn't be dazzled and didn't deteriorate in rain or fog.
None were new technologies, at this point, mind. Hungarian physicist and inventor Kalman Tihanyi had developed the first infrared-sensitive camera in 1929, in order to allow anti-aircraft gunners a better chance of spotting targets at night. The Germans later outfitted limited numbers of Panther tanks, anti-tank guns and infantry weapons with active infrared illumination in the mid-1940s. For example, the 7.92mm 'StG 44' assault rifle was offered with a night vision scope dubbed 'Vampir'.
The American Department of Defence, frustrated by the warm-up time of cooled infrared systems, had started throwing money at the problem in the 1980s. After all, a system that could let a tank's gunner see at night wasn't much good if, in those few critical moments, the tank had already been engaged and knocked out.
Subsequently, Texas Instruments' Defence Systems and Electronics division - which produced electro-optical systems, missiles and more - found itself on the receiving end of a large DoD contract, the aim of which was to develop sensors with reduced warm-up times. The company's efforts led to the development of uncooled detectors, which operated in a wide range of conditions. Besides being far less expensive, they were also smaller.
By 1992 the uncooled thermal imaging cameras had been declassified and efforts had begun to market them to other businesses. Texas Instruments, it transpired, had been attempting to develop an automotive night vision system for eight years by that point. With the new uncooled detectors to hand, a commercial system was suddenly viable.
Around this time, however, US military electronics specialist Raytheon was looking to strengthen its position in the defence market - and Texas Instruments was losing interest in its military division, as competition was strong and profits were falling. A little consolidation would help its core business survive so, in 1997, it sold its defence systems unit to Raytheon - along with everything relating to the NightSight.
Cadillac's parent company, General Motors, also sold its electronic defence arm - Hughes Electronics, which had also researched automotive night vision - to Raytheon in the same year. GM was aware of the NightSight and, now that the two companies had established a relationship, it made sense for it to take advantage of what was now Raytheon technology. The new Cadillac Deville was due in late 1999 and the NightSight would help the flagship saloon fulfil the 'science' part of the brand's new strategy.
The resulting product, simply called 'Night Vision' by Cadillac, used an uncooled thermal imaging camera mounted in the grille. The image was relayed to the driver via a Delphi-Delco Electronics-developed head-up display, making it easier for drivers to see hazards ahead. At launch, it cost $2,000.
The system was later rolled out in the Hummer H1 and H2. Toyota then ventured into the night vision game in 2002, introducing an active infrared intensification night vision system called 'Night View' in the Lexus LX470 and Landcruiser. Mercedes-Benz wasn't far behind, releasing a similar system in the 2005 W221-generation S-Class.
While Cadillac's night vision set-up initially proved popular, however, cost and image quality issues led the company to withdraw it in 2005. It undoubtedly had benefits compared to image intensification systems but the image quality wasn't as good and in warm conditions its capabilities lessened considerably. It wasn't until 2015, with the launch of the flagship CT6, that the technology had developed enough to warrant its reintroduction.