The 2013 Cadillac XTS comes with only front bucket seats, unlike the DTS it replaced, leaving only one new passenger car in the United States with an available front bench seat. That car, the current-generation Chevrolet Impala, will go away in a few months, too.
Front bench seats — essentially a door-to-door couch — were the default seating mode for most of the American car industry’s history. Benches were cheaper to make than individual chairs, and they provided space for the most passengers. The column-mounted gear shifter, which freed space for a third passenger in the middle of the front seat, was a breakthrough when it appeared on Cadillacs and Pontiacs in 1938.
But as affordable European sports cars arrived in America after World War II, individual seats gained cachet; they spread to sporty American cars, including the first Chevrolet Corvettes, and contributed to the glamorous image of luxurious performance cars like the 1959 Chrysler 300E. In the ’60s, most American brands offered sporty trim packages, like Chevy’s Super Sport option with a bucket-seat upgrade. In the decades since, buckets spread to cars of all sizes and types.