By on January 4, 2009

Coming of age in the 70’s (lucky me), Cadillac represented everything I didn’t like about American cars. Like its lesser-priced sibs, it was an anti-sports car. With the possible exception of Lincoln’s Continental Mark My Words This Car is as Good as a Cadillac, a Caddy was THE anti-sports car. The idea of hustling one of those land yachts around a corner was laughable. And for me, it was all about the handling. (Driving a Dino had changed my life.) I remained contemptuous of America’s love affair for Caddy’s “sofas on wheels” right until the moment I met a girl in Aspen who drove a meticulously maintained 1962 Cadillac convertible like the one shown. Suddenly, all the curves I needed were inside the car. You know that song Slow Hand by the Pointer Sisters? It was on the Caddy’s radio during one especially memorable drive. I got it. And Caddy, I reckon, has lost it.

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83 Comments on “Rant: What Is A Cadillac?...”


  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    The idea at the time was to glide rather than drive to your destination.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Cadillacs of my youth were big gaudy ugly boats that had trunks big enough to stuff a classroom of dead children in and were driven only by bluehaired old people who forgot the turn signal they left on that would flash incessantly for over three miles.

    This obsession with Cadillacs of old needs to stop. If they built them like that, nobody younger than my great grandmother would be interested in them. Certainly nobody younger than my grandmother is interested in the vehicles that’s one step down (Buick) that offer the plush ride, riverboat handling, and overassisted power steering that allows you to turn the wheel using your pinky. It’s about time somebody yanked Cadillac into the 21st century, and if it means they have to give up the things that used to make a Cadillac a Cadillac, then so be it.

  • avatar
    Packard

    Some folks still don’t get it. Cadillacs don’t need to be “yanked” into the current century. Cadillac needs to get back to doing what it always did best – luxury and style, with a certain element of ostentation.

    A Cadillac needs a certain size, a certain heft. But, what it most needs is to be anticipatory – recognizing what features a driver/owner might want before others, rather than copying features already introduced by others.

    And, of course, it need quality – and a dealer network that treat its customers as kin.

    What used to make a Cadillac a Cadillac is still what they will need to include to make a Cadillac a Cadillac in the future. It’s the essence of the brand.

  • avatar

    The best American luxury car on the market is the new Lincoln MKS. It’s quiet, spacious, has a great stereo, rides well, runs down the freeway like an arrow, and brings you to your destination without irritation.

    Unfortunately, the press is busy crucifying it for not being a BMW competitor.

    The current Cadillac lineup is a group of technically excellent, hugely impressive cars that simply don’t provide traditional “luxury” virtues any more.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    My Cadillac Story:

    Since I was young, I always liked Cadillacs. When I was in high school in the late 1990’s my father, who owned an auto body shop, restored a 1971 Cadillac Sedan deVille for me as my first car. It had a off white leather interior that was in excellent shape. He eliminated the vinyl top, painted it 1993 Cadillac Allante red, (I think it was called Crimson Pearl) put 1.6″ white walls on it and gave it to me. It was truly a spectacular sight.

    One sparkling south Florida winter day I was driving three beautiful 17 year old female classmates home from Catholic school, with the windows down in my big, red, shiny, early seventies deVille.

    As we’re stopped at a traffic light, up rolls a young man in a yellow Porsche convertible. He looks over… The girls started giggling because they think that they are getting checked out. The Porsche driver then says “What year is that Cadillac, it is really awesome” It was amusing to me that the Porsche driver thought I was the one driving the hot car.

    To me a Cadillac must be large, flashy, and uncompromised. I do not think there is a car built by any auto maker right now that really fits the description of what a Cadillac is. The classic Cadillacs are awesome vehicles but todays Cadillacs should be better than those. Like a new Mercedes or BMW makes one from the 70’s or 80’s look like a joke, the classic Cadillacs should pale in comparison to the new ones, not make the new ones look like a shadow of their former self.

    Cadillacs should be of their time. A technological tour de force. Americans like smooth riding car but the handling does not have to be sloppy. It should be on its own platform, not shared with other GM rigs. They should have amazing engines and transmissions. They need to be large because it is human nature to think bigger is better. ( I think GM has enough other brands to sell great quality small cars under)

    The problem is that the Cadillac image has gone to seed for a long time. It should have been cultivated over generations and is not something that could be won back over night.

    But I think it is a battle worth fighting for.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Cadillac needs to be a Rolls/Bentley competitor. GM’s peculiar obsession with avoiding the gas guzzler tax has hurt that brand more.. I was about to say more than anything else, but there is a lot of competition for that title.

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    [Beavis voice on] Heh, heh!…..he said Evoq…heh!heh! [Beavis voice off]

    http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/1162/Cadillac-Evoq.html

  • avatar
    davey49

    The only Cadillacs I ever really liked were the 2 door ones.
    I like the Lincoln Mark series a lot.
    I’m a big fan of personal coupes, anti-sports cars but still cool enough for a person with no kids own. I think the biggest problem with the car biz was the “family values” hoopla where every car suddenly had to have 4 doors and roomy back seats and latch anchors. Plus excessive attention paid to family vehicles. Either that or supposed “sport cars” that were cramped and designed for high schoolers.
    Driving a Dino and meeting a girl in Aspen explains a lot of the viewpoints and opinions on this site.
    Especially on the D3 and bailouts and bankruptcy.
    Isn’t the Evoq on that page the XLR?
    I suppose it would be cool if Cadillacs were ridiculously expensive cars like RRs and Bentleys . It would mean more to the press than to GM. If GM did go that route, they would have to keep Buick and/or Saturn around to sell the semi-luxury cars.

  • avatar
    renkeyes

    I think that npbheights has pretty much nailed it. Unfortunately, I have no story involving 3 beautiful 17-year-old coeds to perk up my comment, so I’ll be succinct:

    Size, Power and Style. In any given vehicle class, a Cadillac should be bigger, more powerful, more comfortable, and more boldly styled (in a “Pimp My Ride” sort of way).

    This likely means compromises in the handling and various details of the car (such as silky-feeling switchgear, perfectly engineered hood struts, etc), but the handling and details should be on par with the top family cars, so buyers don’t feel shortchanged when the novelty of the stylishness wears off.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” says it all.

  • avatar
    dugiv

    big 2 door personal luxury coupe. Big brash styling with acres of fine leather and aluminum as interior furnishings. 18 feet long with still little room in the back seats, rear wheel drive 6sp auto and a big v8 up front. Then slap a little battery on it and call it a hybrid.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    There’s still a place in the world for a real Cadillac.

    Big, fast, solid, a little flashy. To me, the look of the CTS is about right – except it seems like a deflating ballon of a Cadillac. It literally needs to be longer, lower, and wider (except for the a$$ which needs to lose a visual ton or so).

    Really, a 3/4 size 1964 Caddy with a Corvette engine and the CTS suspension – that’s the 21st century car they should build.

    I guess nbpheights said it better:

    Cadillacs should be of their time. A technological tour de force. Americans like smooth riding car but the handling does not have to be sloppy. It should be on its own platform, not shared with other GM rigs. They should have amazing engines and transmissions.

    Give that man a cigar, and a new Caddy.

  • avatar
    tced2

    A Cadillac needs to be a first class car. It is not any particular body style but it is admired. It should have top-of-the-line engineering since the builders have a bigger budget. You should be able to tell a Cadillac from a Chevrolet.

  • avatar
    Jeff Niman

    If “Cadillac” still meant something, Cadillac would have built the Lexus LS600hL.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Cadillac essentially suffers the same problem as Hummer – done right, Cadillac represents the tastes of a bygone era. Premium import brands can sell premium-ness for its own sake, but Cadillac will never be able to do that. The window for redefining the Cadillac brand in such a way has closed. Cadillac’s existence is assumed to be essential only because GM “needs” a premium brand. But can any domestic automaker really convince people outside the flyover states that it is capable of building not just solid automobiles, but top shelf products? I don’t think so.

  • avatar

    quasimondo : This obsession with Cadillacs of old needs to stop. If they built them like that, nobody younger than my great grandmother would be interested in them. Certainly nobody younger than my grandmother is interested in the vehicles that’s one step down (Buick) that offer the plush ride, riverboat handling, and overassisted power steering that allows you to turn the wheel using your pinky.

    Have you driven a new Camry? Seriously, its a bargain basement yacht in the spirit of the Ford LTD or Chevy Caprice Classic. Everyone loves Cadillac dynamics of yesteryear, they just haven’t drawn the connection yet.

    And its absolutely no surprise that (one of?) the best selling late model Caddies is the Escalade.

    ————
    Jack Baruth : The best American luxury car on the market is the new Lincoln MKS…Unfortunately, the press is busy crucifying it for not being a BMW competitor.

    Or (rightly) panning it for being less of a Lincoln than the Hyundai Genesis 4.6. Sure it has the gadgets, but reskinning a Taurus in the “where did it come from?” luxurious spirit of the Acura RL is a recipe for another failed iteration of this platform.

    And its not exactly setting the sales charts on fire, even with Employee pricing and a catchy lease deal that’s meant to lure Retail Town Car buyers away from the yacht they love. (according to my inside source)

  • avatar
    TR3GUY

    I understand where you are coming from Robert. I had my dad’s TR in the 70s. My folks best friends always had an Olds 98 but they wanted a Sedan de Ville. Those people today would likely have a Lexus LS. In those days your foreign options were limited to MB, Jag, and for crazy people like us a Rover. But they were much stiffer than a caddie. It was considered the best us car. The term “it’s the caddie of________”

    agree here: I guess nbpheights said it better:

    Cadillacs should be of their time. A technological tour de force. Americans like smooth riding car but the handling does not have to be sloppy. It should be on its own platform, not shared with other GM rigs. They should have amazing engines and transmissions.

    Better the use the Brooks Brothers model. Change enough to keep new customers interested while keeping the target demo. Caddy has done neither. I go to Brooks for a number of reasons one is my dad did and if it was good enough for dad….. But I can buy a striped shirt there now and the shirts are AS baggy.

    I think it’s too late.

  • avatar

    Or (rightly) panning it for being less of a Lincoln than the Hyundai Genesis 4.6. Sure it has the gadgets, but reskinning a Taurus in the “where did it come from?” luxurious spirit of the Acura RL is a recipe for another failed iteration of this platform.

    Ah, I think we could go around a couple times about this. :)

    To begin with, calling the MKS a “reskinned Taurus” is a little facile. It doesn’t even share all the hard points; there’s more difference between an MKS and a Taurus than there is between an Accord and a TL.

    The Genesis is a pastiche of imitation; it looks like nothing so much as everything else. The exterior is heavily imitative of Lexus, which is to say it’s a second-generation imitation of the W220 plus flame surfacing. The interior resembles nothing so much as that of the outgoing 745i viewed through a Cybil Shepherd filter.

    By contrast, the MKS is a dynamic styling statement inside and out. The taillights are a little Quattroporte but that’s it.

    With the exception of the Phantom, I’ve driven or owned all the major luxury contenders throughout the market, and I am hugely impressed with the Lincoln. The MKS succeeds because it tries to be nothing else. It’s simply good at its job.

    It’s not RWD. So what? A luxury car needn’t be rear-wheel-drive; ask Andre Citroen.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    My personal taste in 60s luxmobiles has always been for the Elwood Engel-designed Lincoln Continentals. Through a turn of events, I also became owner of a 1962 Cadillac series 62 convertible that is an exact duplicate of the art car. In the process of doing a frame-up resto on the Cad I gained a great deal of respect for the car and its designers/builders. The dashboard alone is a museum-worthy work of art. No expense was spared and the quality of materials and workmanship was incredible.
    In 1962, the Cadillac, Lincoln/T-Bird and Imperial had no equals. There were some nice Jags and Benzes around, but they had busy 6s, and poor-to-none air conditioning. The Americans were not so good in the twisties, but they excelled at long distance freeway travel. They were rediculously overbuilt (and built to last) and if they needed repair, any gas station could have done it. (Gas stations had actual mechanics on duty back then.)
    Of course, the Detroit products were flawed. Brakes were marginal; ditto the bias-ply tires. The frame/body structures were sometimes not as rigid as they should have been. And fuel mileage was poor. But gas was like .30 a gallon.
    The story of Detroit’s decline begins just a bit later, around 1970. Europe (and later Japan) began to offer superior (and larger) luxury cars that offered many of the bells and whistles that Cadillac drivers expected. Instead of directly confronting the Europeans with cars that could offer luxury and handling, they just offered the same ole thing only more of it. Plus started cost-cutting the construction standards. Reliabilty and durability, long Detroit hallmarks, began to erode.
    After Imperial faded away, Cadillac and Lincoln continued the old formula. Cars like the first Sevilles were neither fish nor fowl. (Foul, maybe.) Lately the Lincoln LS and certainly the current CTS shows that Detroit can actually compete with the best foreign models. But only in the intermediate sizes. They offer nothing in the S Class/7 Series/ or LS- type car.

  • avatar
    carguy

    While I like getting nostalgic about classic Cadillacs as much as the next guy, it is an undisputable fact that when the Europeans and Japanese moved into the North American luxury market, many consumers decided that they liked their brand of luxury better than the domestics. Just look at who is getting the bulk of the $60K+ luxury market.

    Its a very competitive segment where consumer expectations are high and the domestics simply haven’t invested enough to be competitive, instead often resorting to thinly disguised badge engineering. Ford and GM need to focus on their real luxury brands by scrapping their Mercury and Buick quasi-luxury divisions, fund the engineering of competitive products, back it with a quality dealer network and promote it with consistent marketing.

  • avatar
    davey49

    The current CTS should be a Buick.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    I have been thinking more about this question, what is a Cadillac.

    A Cadillac should be the ultimate luxury car, a car that makes you FEEL that others are second best. Other cars should put thoughts into your mind as to why they are not as good as the ultimate.

    Imagine if a Cadillac made you think this about the best car from each of these makes:

    Mercedes: The Cadillac is more composed at high speeds.
    BMW: The Cadillac handles better.
    Audi: The Cadillac has more sophisticated running gear
    Rolls Royce: The Cadillac has a fancier interior.
    Bentley: The Cadillac is faster.
    Lexus: The Cadillac is higher quality and is more reliable.

    It should be a car that you would park next to a Maybach and say to it’s owner:
    “Personally, I prefer a Big car”

    That’s how a Cadillac should make you feel.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    You want brash?

    http://tinyurl.com/7wqaar

  • avatar
    westhighgoalie

    “What is a Cadillac”
    Its a show piece: BLING

    As much as I hate it, The Escalade is the quintessential cadillac. 1) It’s BIG 2) its POPULAR 3) Its EXPENSIVE. VIOLA … CADILLAC!

  • avatar

    It’s deco style, seats that envelop you in luxury, and land yacht driving dynamics. The style of the Caddies, Lincolns, and Imperials of ’55-’65 was amazing. The Lincolns of the early to mid-’60s were especially cleanly beautiful in my opinion, and the ’64 Imperial was just a gorgeous and interesting looking car, while the Caddies looked like the automotive personification of Dixieland jazz, the kinds of cars that would probably look in their element parading down Bourbon St. When I was still living in DC, in the late ’90s, the guy who brought Jazz to the Kennedy Center had a ’59 Imperial–very appropriate.

    The modern versions of these cars simply don’t have the style. And as at least one person has commented, the window for reinventing them is closed. Well, who knows, maybe not. But I’m not holding my breath.

  • avatar

    In his latest post, I think npbheights is dreaming. If only GM could dream like that.

    And I think westhighgoalie has a point, although I think the ’50s and ’60s Caddies were far more interesting pieces of bling than the Escalade.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    I’ve ranted about this before, but nbpheights absolutely has it nailed.

    One thing to add: A Cadillac has at least a V-8. No V-6’s, no turbo 4’s. Horsepower is nice, but real Caddillacs have torque by the boatlaod.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    “it should be on its own platform”

    I hate to break it to you all, but all Caddies since the late thirties shared the same “C” body with the “senior” Buicks (Electra) and Olds (98). The only differences was the exterior skin; underneath that, they shared the same body/frame. Yes, the engines were different, but who could tell the difference of one GM big block from another?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Today’s Cadillac: Lexus LS

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    As one of those of the younger generation, the one time I drove one of the giant boats with overassisted power steering, I was blown away. It was awesome. Bone chilling AC, hood out to the horizon, working 8-track, gigantic amounts of leg room, and a steering wheel that nearly floated. It was the only luxury car (and I admit I haven’t been in that many) that actually FELT like a luxury car, rather than an fully loaded Accord.

    If they still built em like that… the DTS I was in a few weeks ago just didn’t have that same je ne sais quoi. It felt like a pale imitation of that old Caddy.

    Of course the old Caddy probably got 12 to the gallon, but you didn’t care when you driving it.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Today’s Cadillac: Lexus LS

    Yes, and a coupe version of the LS.

    Maybe an LX, though if I ran Caddy we’d just leave the Luxury SUV market to Buick.

    RF, I agree with what you said in your podcast –
    The brand is in the mind of the consumer.

    That doesn’t mean it’s frozen in time in 1983, but it does mean that Caddy doesn’t make sports cars, doesn’t make pickups, and DOES make large comfy, floaty cars.

    People who think the maket for larger floatmobiles is gone simply fail to recognize the existance of the Lexus LS. No one pretends this is a driver’s car, and it doesn’t need to be. Few Lexus buyers want a driver’s car.

    Caddy’s should start at about 60K and go up from there. Caddy doesn’t need a competitor for the SC, the IF, the ES, or the IS. That’s what Buick and Olds (oh, wait, um, Saturn?, um well, ) and other divisions are for. (Yes, I’m chanelling Alfred P.) Caddy also doesn’t need an RX competitor – is this what the SRX is for?

    I also want to weigh in on the idea that only old people are interested in caddies – yes and no.

    If they were priced as they should be, few young people could buy one. Most people in fact would never own one – which is as it should be.

    People buying Caddies today didn’t want one 40 years ago. Then, today’s Caddy buyer (or more likely Lexus buyer) wanted a Mustang, or a Camaro, or a Firebird. The idea that Caddy should cater to a young demographic is absurd. People change as they grow older. If you’re young now, Caddy is your future, not your present.

  • avatar
    Monty

    What is a Cadillac?

    Look to the film “Tin Men”. It is a fairly accurate portrayal of what ownership of a Cadillac signified. It made hucksters into legitimate businessmen.

    I am a child of the late fifties and early sixties. Then, a Cadillac, even a ten year old model, was still preferable to a brand new Dodge or Ford or Chevy.

    Way back when in 1969, my wife’s grandfather, swapped a 1966 Cadillac de Ville for a new 1969 Buick Electra 225 Limited, STRAIGHT UP. The used Cadillac was worth as much as a new Buick.

    Giving Cadillac some hope, though, is the fact that a CTS or a SRX or even an Escalade is instantly recognizable as a Cadillac. The same cannot be said of a Lincoln MKS, or a Lexus 400; they’re somewhat generic looking compared to a Cadillac. The CTS is proof that Cadillac can still make a relevant car, and although it may not be the “Ultimate Drving Machine”, it is as close as any of the domestic companies have come to a Beemer.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Cadillac to me is just another car company. Prestige, History and Heritage my butt! Good cars at competitive or near competitive prices. A Ford with RWD, Leather, and a little more daring style. If the old cars were that good, anybody can try and build them. The LS460 and S550 seem to fill that role pretty similarly. Also Big American SUVs act like yachts, like the Escalade. The STS actually reminds me of a car thats not suppose to handle, its just good for getting from point A to point B with minimal demand and/or concentration from the driver. No that anything is wrong with the Old Cadillac, just I think its probably a lot about image and manipulation, not real substance. I may be wrong. For now I’m just irritated by the Cadillac nostalgia.

  • avatar

    Problem is that people who like big floaty cars found their nirvana in sport utes. Hence the reason Cadillac is more known for Escalades then anything else at the moment.

    That is what a Cadillac is now, an Escalade. Everything else they make is just a wanna be something else.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Take everything Anti-American’s hate and implement it in a car. That’s what a Caddie should be. Unapologetic American.

  • avatar

    The Cadillac Sixteen show car should have been made, maybe not with a sixteen cylinder engine, but it should have been made. Perhaps with a hybrid drivetrain. GM should be able to play with the big boys if it really is a world class automobile company.

    We know there is talent in the Tech Center. The CTS is a fine car, but unless GM has a competitive or better product that can go up against the LS460, 745, and S Class, Cadillac can’t even pretend to be The Standard of the World. Assuming that GM survives, a lack of funds is still a problem. Could they develop the STS into a top flight large luxury sedan? It’s possible. After all, that kind of continuous incremental improvement is what people say GM has to do with all their models.

    When the luxobarges defined luxury cars in the USA, I was coming of age in the late 60s and early 70s. The first car I bought was a rather beat up Lotus Elan. That should give you an idea of where my automotive preferences lay. Still, I never disliked big American cars because they did exactly what they were designed to do. They were big and fast and as comfortable as your living room. Okay, so they couldn’t pull .8G on the skid pad, but the mere fact that you can pilot a 500 cu FWD Cadillac Eldorado around a corner without those front tires making any audible complaints is a pretty impressive engineering feat. Getting those cars to ride like glass was also impressive. It’s more than just soft springs and shocks.

    Like I said, the engineers in Detroit are world class talents. If you tell them to make a luxobarge, they can make a fine luxobarge. Give them the reins and say make a working man’s supercar and you get the ZR1.

  • avatar
    PG

    Interesting responses, all. Having grown up in the 90s, I don’t have any preconceptions about what a Cadillac “should be” based on its heritage from the 50s and 60s. I actually like the CTS and CTS-V quite a bit, and I would love to see more Caddies like them. It’s pretty much the only GM car I’d ever consider buying.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing this topic for every GM brand. What is a Buick? What is a Saturn? Someone needs to figure that out, because GM apparently can’t.

  • avatar

    Bone chilling AC

    For a long time US cars were the standard for HVAC. They’re still pretty good. It gets really cold in Detroit in the winter and can get really hot in the summer. I loved the old AMC’s “Desert Cool” setting.

    American automatic transmissions were still the best well into the 1970s. The imports’ slushboxes were not very good in the late 60s and early 70s.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Strippo, we who live in the “flyover” states still buy most of the cars in this country, and frankly we resent having our tastes, and lifestyles denigrated by those who live on the coasts.

    If the American auto industry is to be saved, it will be save by selling cars and trucks to us. I think this is what got GM, Ford and Chrysler into trouble, trying to cater to the over-finicky, whimsical and fickle tastes of the stuffed shirts and pretentious wanna-be intellectuals, while Toyota and Honda came in, realizing that what Americans need is, in this order, reliability, safety, efficiency and comfort.

    we are still making that mistake, because Ford is announcing cars like the Mustang Shelby with 500+ horsepower. For what? Some east-coaster writer says horsepower is the bomb.

    Here in the midwest, we know the value of hard-earned money, and we spend it with companies who recognize the same values. When Ford (which has started to, BTW) and GM start to share those values again, we will consider them. (It is too late for Chrysler.) If they don’t, good riddance. Caddilac, and Lincoln can take their places in history next to Duesenberg and Auburn.

  • avatar
    George B

    What is a Cadillac? Big, bold styling! Cadillac styling should always stand out from the crowd. A Cadillac must have chrome plated metal incorporated into the design. Cadillac hasn’t been a world class top of the line luxury brand in a couple generations, but the good ones have been more interesting to look at than their Chevrolet relatives. A Cadillac can share many of the same parts as a Chevrolet, but only if they are well hidden. Exposed materials should be a step up from Chevrolet to help keep up the illusion of exclusivity. A Cadillac doesn’t have to have land barge handling, but the ride should be comfortable. Three or more passengers should be able to enjoy the Cadillac experience along with the driver. A Cadillac is never compact. The driving experience should feel upscale with smooth power delivery. A Cadillac may have a V6 engine as long as its NVH is up to V8 standards. V8 engine note isn’t essential to being a Cadillac. RWD also isn’t essential to the Cadillac experience, but a FWD Cadillac must not have torque steer.

  • avatar
    Loser

    I remember when I was a kid if something was the best of the best it was called the “Cadillac” of it’s field. If something was garbage people would say “It must have been made in Japan”. Man, how times have changed.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Strippo, we who live in the “flyover” states … resent having our tastes, and lifestyles denigrated by those who live on the coasts.

    We stuffed shirts and pretentious wanna-be intellectuals with over-finicky, whimsical and fickle tastes think you flyover folk should worry a little less about what we think of you.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Are the people commenting here living in the alternate universe? Who foresees a big market for humongous cars with even bigger engines in the future, say 5, 10, 20 years down the road? And who on the Earth thinks that there is going to be a huge demand for the ultra-premium luxury market that Rolls, Bentley, Masi won’t be able to satisfy?

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    I agree with most here in that under the skin, the modern day Cadillac is the Lexus Ls, or perhaps the new large Citroens. However, the body should be that of a 300c. The car should be about style, comfort, and ride quality. No more of this nurburgring crap. This is coming from a 25-year old guy who loves good handling cars above all else. But, I’d still buy a proper Caddy to deal with the pothole-ridden roads of New York.

  • avatar

    Jack, let’s dig deeper.

    To begin with, calling the MKS a “reskinned Taurus” is a little facile. It doesn’t even share all the hard points; there’s more difference between an MKS and a Taurus than there is between an Accord and a TL.

    So? The same is true of the 1988 Continental and the 1986 Taurus. And the 1995 Continental and the 1996 Taurus. The end result was a brand corrosive FWD imitator when imports were doing the same thing better and retaining more customers…and once the Town Car fizzled and the Bro-ham died, it was only a matter of time before RWD American car fans migrated to RWD Lexus and Infinitis.

    The only time the MKS’ strategy ever worked was 1988 and 1989, when Ford could do no wrong with their new offerings. After that Lincoln has been cramming product down dealer’s throats with heavy incentives and unbelievable lease terms. Judging by the MKS’ sales, its mediocre performance would be even worse if they sold the Town Car in more trim levels and actively promoted/leased to retail customers.

    The Genesis is a pastiche of imitation; it looks like nothing so much as everything else.

    But its a Hyundai. Are you really gonna tell me that the MKS looks like a Lincoln? There’s the Grand Prix front, Lexus GS from the side and I won’t give the cheap Chinese knockoff of a Quattroporte from the back any slack: Lincoln has a history of unique posteriors, they didn’t need to make a Hyundai with a four-pointed star.

    The MKS succeeds because it tries to be nothing else. It’s simply good at its job.

    Maybe with Ecoboost I’ll change my tune, but right now the MKS is a mediocre vehicle designed to appeal to nobody in particular.

    It’s not RWD. So what? A luxury car needn’t be rear-wheel-drive; ask Andre Citroen.

    RWD is as important to the Cadillac and Lincoln brand as their corporate logos. It affects driving for sure, but also proportioning. And your analogy to Citroen is fine, but they never made JFK’s limo, or any of the hottest rides for America’s upper crust for 50+ years.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing this topic for every GM brand. What is a Buick? What is a Saturn? Someone needs to figure that out, because GM apparently can’t.

    A year and a half or so ago, TTAC ran a very nice series showing where each of the traditional brands stood on the “ladder of success”. They did Olds, because it was in the middle of the brand hierachy for decades. They didn’t do Hummer or Saab. I can’t recall if they did GMC or not. Anyway, if you can find this in the archives somewhere, it’s well worth your time to read. An interesting feature of the series was that the price of cars was measured against median annual income of the time, and with that we could see that brands like Caddy and Buick have come way way down in price. You can’t be the standard of the world unless you charge for it.

    Today’s cars have to be differentiated on more than wheelbase and horsepower, but still there is more to Sloan’s “laddder” than most people today give him credit for.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Drove a friend’s 2005 DTS recently; now I know why Suburbans are referred to as tall Cadillacs. Very similar feel in general, except maybe a tad bouncy on bumps for the Suburban.

    When I was a kid, Cadillac ads always had a big V emblem in jewels at the top of the page, with a picture of the car underneath. Lincolns were just big Mercurys, and Imperials were almost as rare as Packards. By the time I actually owned a Caddy, it was a 1953 black sedan that I traded a ratty stick-shift 55 Dodge for, in about 1964. Six weeks later I used it as the down payment on a new Barracuda. In the next 30 years I owned a whole series of Chrysler products, from the fin car era to mid-60’s models. Ford and GM guys that I knew were always amazed at how well the Mopars handled, especially the 300L hardtop.

    There were a lot of great-looking Caddies back in those days – I liked the 65 and 66 cars best – but I just never ran across one at time when I was looking to buy a car.

    Now I’ve got a 99 Accord, an 03 Chevy pickup, and an 84 RX7 that’s basically a summer play-toy. Definitely no one’s idea of a Cadillac customer.

    But it’s true that today’s Cadillac isn’t what Cadillac was in the days of the jewelry ads. GM was still making money in those days, and no one thought the whole shitaree was about to go down the tubes. The question now is, will there even be a Cadillac in two years, except for those in our memories?

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I don’t get the point of this thread. For YEARS, the so-called experts and so-called enthusiasts complained that Cadillacs were too big, floaty and thirsty, and that they should be competing with (insert European luxury manufacturer here). It took a while (wither the Catera) but the first generation CTS started moving things in the right direction dynamically, and the current CTS seems to have nailed it pretty good. Now the so-called experts and the so-called enthusiasts are complaining that Cadillac has lost it way and that their cars aren’t big, floaty and thirsty anymore?

    Make up your minds already.

  • avatar

    My favorite Cadillac of all time is the 2002 Eldorado ETC. At one point the northstar powered cadillacs where the fastest front wheel drive production car ever built. At the local speedway on street night I watched one turn a 13.75 quarter mile while it walked away from a Trans Am.

  • avatar

    Nathaniel claims Cadillac = Escalade and the rest of their cars wanna be something else. WRONG.

    cadillac = style, luxury and quality.

    No other cars look like Cadillacs and no other cars America makes, scream “i’ve made it” like a Cadillac does.

    Lincoln and Cadillac are like America;s BMW and Mercedes. If you don’t have a good career, you probably ain’t driving one.

  • avatar
    Ralph Kinney Bennett

    Thanks, RF, for initiating an interesting discussion regarding an American icon, or former icon (sadly) should we say. My own experience as a car owner reflects so much of what has been written here so far.

    My love affair with Cadillac began when I was a kid, hitchhiking into town on a summer day in 1949. A chauffeur, driving a black 1949 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special stopped to give me a ride. I sat next to him in the brown Bedford Cord interior and looked out over the gleaming hood and was overcome with a sort of reverence for the car.

    I went up Sloan’s ladder in later years — a ’68 Olds 98, a 1973 Buick Electra, and then a “previously owned” 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood sedan, “triple black.” It was a wonderful car, smooth, silent, impressive looking (to my mind, at least) and a dream on the long trips we frequently took. My next car was a’75 Fleetwood and my next a ’79 Fleetwood, one of the first of the slightly downsized Caddys. I loved the car, put over 145,000 miles on it, but I was sadly disappointed in the overall workmanship. The fit and finish was not what I had known in a Cadillac. The days when Cadillac still had some unique aura were rapidly vanishing and it was becoming just another big GM car.

    My next car was a 1988 Acura Legend. Friends who had known me as a “Cadillac man” were stunned. My next car was the 1990 Lexus LS400. I will never forget my first drive in that Lexus and my thinking that “this is what a Cadillac should be.” I couldn’t say “what a Cadilla once was” because, in my experience they had never had the total build quality and attention to detail I experienced in that Lexus. Now our “Cadillac” is a a 2004 Lexus LS430 with sport suspension. It is a remarkably civilized and enjoyable road car. I do not expect from it the “fun” I get from my M-B CLK430 Cabriolet, but I love its grand-lux feel, its serenity and its sure-footedness.

    I own, as well, a 1966 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. It reminds me of what Cadillac once was. Majestically handsome, surprisingly light on its feet with its big V-8 and turbo-hydromatic, and a definite attention getter. I do not “hustle it around corners” but I enjoy it on the open road. Those who see it often comment along the lines of “Now that’s when a Cadillac was a Cadillac.”
    Will anyone say that of a CTS or an STS many years down the road? If they do it will be based on a whole new reading of the Cadillac name, a whole new heritage. The old and iconic heritage is gone.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Cadillac makes me think of a hearse and a hearse is for hauling dead people in caskets and that would be such a cool thing to party in (the hearse, not the casket) and as the economy continues to plummet a hearse offers enough room to live within the vehicle if one can not cough up the rent money.

    Yeah!!!! A hearse for the win!!!!

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Dynamic88: A year and a half or so ago, TTAC ran a very nice series showing where each of the traditional brands stood on the “ladder of success”.

    That would be:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/general-motors-branding-fiasco-part-one-sloans-vision-betrayed/

  • avatar
    gakoenig

    Caddy needs to do for luxury cars what Corvette has done for sports cars (and I say this after that ‘Vette vs. 335i thread gave me a profound appreciation for the Corvette).

    Here is how their lineup should look:

    – $50K gets you a BMW 5 series/Mercedes E series competetor that blows both those cars out of the water in the luxury/refinement/waft-ability department. Drop the BS sport pretensions from the Caddy line and focus on opulence. Make $50k the base price for anything with the Caddy badge.

    – $70k gets you the S Class beater. Make it huge, make it luxurious, stuff it to the gills with the latest luxury tech. Don’t skimp on the fit/finish. Same price point gets you the SUV/Escalade model.

    – $100k gets you a Phandom beater. This is a huge, over the top, brand defining car. Basically – build the Sixteen, but with a more practical drivetrain.

    Cadillac should be banned from the Nurburgring. Sure, they have cooked up some impressive vehicles, but race tracks are NOT what a Caddy is about. They are about brash, in-your-face luxury. They are about rappers, and douchebag sales executives, and sports stars with pending charges. Be the car that people who want to flaunt it want to flaunt. Sure, it isn’t the most tasteful brand aesthetic, but there are a lot of people out there who define themselves in this style.

  • avatar
    ktm

    Jimal, I suggest re-reading the original “rant” and comments again. No one is saying that they should be “floaty and thirsty”.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Are the people commenting here living in the alternate universe? Who foresees a big market for humongous cars with even bigger engines in the future, say 5, 10, 20 years down the road? Are the people commenting here living in the alternate universe? And who on the Earth thinks that there is going to be a huge demand for the ultra-premium luxury market that Rolls, Bentley, Masi won’t be able to satisfy?

    Ra_Pro –

    That’s what we said in the mid-70’s. The big cars were dying then, and it was ugly to watch. And in those days, there wasn’t -ever!- going to be enough room in the luxury market for Toyota, let alone Honda.

    However, when Detroit went small with their cars, Americans stayed big by replacing their cars with SUV’s. Except for the styling, they’re really the same vehicles that Americans have always loved – big, roomy with plenty of trunk space, big V8 mandatory, and who cares about handling.

    Here’s the lesson of history:

    The bargemobile, ye shall always have with thee.

    So, the big Caddy would still sell IMHO and there’d be plenty of room in the market for it – done right. But done right doesn’t mean a Lexus copy.

    It would have to have more flash and power than a Lexus. A Lexus is the silent servant who just takes care of (transportational) things. A Caddy has to put a slight grin on your face, produced by the fact that a lot of people are just a jealous of your ride.

    That’s what a 50’s and 60’s Caddy had… and then they turned them into Chevy’s…

  • avatar

    Okay, Sajeev, let’s hash it out once more before it drops off the front page…

    once the Town Car fizzled and the Bro-ham died, it was only a matter of time before RWD American car fans migrated to RWD Lexus and Infinitis.

    I’m not sure there was any such thing as an “RWD American car fan”. The Eldorado and Seville sat effectively at the top of the Cadillac line regardless of drivetrain arrangements. I will bet you solid money that you could poll Lexus LS owners in warm-weather states and that some major percentage of them think their car is FWD.

    Are you really gonna tell me that the MKS looks like a Lincoln?

    It doesn’t look like an Engel Continental, but it doesn’t look like anything else, either. It makes a visual impact.

    Maybe with Ecoboost I’ll change my tune

    I found this statement to be instructive. If an extra 50-100 horsepower would materially change your opinion of a car which is already adequately powered, I’m not sure you and I are looking for the same thing in a luxury car.

    I don’t care how fast my luxury car is, within reason. If I want to drive a fast car, I’ll drive my 911, or I’ll wait until my next NASA race. Speed isn’t part of the luxury equation.

    but right now the MKS is a mediocre vehicle designed to appeal to nobody in particular.

    We’ll have to disagree, and while I believe our opinions to be of equal intrinsic value, I believe I might be slightly closer to the intended market for this car, having bought multiple new “D-class” vehicles in the past decade. I think the car has a lot of appeal and I’ve shown it to a lot of thirty-and-forty-something people who are charmed by it.

    In fact, given that you are a rather sporty fellow who likes to whale his Mark VIII around, I’d suggest that the MKS would be off-market if it appealed much to you.

  • avatar

    JB: I’m not sure there was any such thing as an “RWD American car fan”. The Eldorado and Seville sat effectively at the top of the Cadillac line regardless of drivetrain arrangements.

    Well you’re talkin’ to one. :) While the latest RWD Seville is too bargain basement (and too late in the game) for most loyalists, but I betcha there’s a correlation between Cadillac’s slip in market share, public perception, etc and their insistence on using FWD platforms of far inferior performance (of their forefathers) and quality (of the imports) since the 1980s.

    I will bet you solid money that you could poll Lexus LS owners in warm-weather states and that some major percentage of them think their car is FWD.

    And I betcha these folks will say the Lexus LS’ presence (from its RWD layout) makes it more appealing to them than the ES or many FWD American cars. No matter what, a car that’s based on a Camry or Taurus will not look as luxurious as an LS.

    It doesn’t look like an Engel Continental, but it doesn’t look like anything else, either. It makes a visual impact.

    I think it looks pretty generic from many angles, so this is an agree-to-disagree point. Just like the LS, it needs those stars to have any connection to the brand. Take the badge off, and it looks like any other Asian sedan.

    If an extra 50-100 horsepower would materially change your opinion of a car which is already adequately powered, I’m not sure you and I are looking for the same thing in a luxury car.

    Adequately powered? Even if we relied on the hard numbers, they are are class average at best. Its another wannabe Lexus.

    More to the point, Ecoboost will give (if my time with a 335i is any indication) the kind of turbo torque that emulates the big block 460s and 5.0s of the past. Don’t think about a single number, because its all about area under the curve.

    I don’t care how fast my luxury car is, within reason. If I want to drive a fast car, I’ll drive my 911, or I’ll wait until my next NASA race. Speed isn’t part of the luxury equation.

    If you haven’t flown down the highway at NSFW speeds in a big bore Caddy, Lincoln or the 6.9L Benz, aiming the hood ornament at lesser vehicles, we’ll never see eye to eye. Waftable torque and effortless power delivery at any speed is the TRUE definition of a luxury car’s powertrain.

    In fact, given that you are a rather sporty fellow who likes to whale his Mark VIII around, I’d suggest that the MKS would be off-market if it appealed much to you.

    Again, back to my point, the Hyundai Genesis is the off market luxury car that appeals to the waft-compatible, power hungry, gadget minded individual.

    Hell, I’d get one and put MKS badging on it before I get a reskinned, torqueless, Taurus. (evil grin on)

  • avatar

    Sajeev:

    If you haven’t flown down the highway at NSFW speeds in a big bore Caddy, Lincoln or the 6.9L Benz, aiming the hood ornament at lesser vehicles, we’ll never see eye to eye. Waftable torque and effortless power delivery at any speed is the TRUE definition of a luxury car’s powertrain.

    Truth be told, I don’t fly down the highway much any more; I’m getting old. I do have wheel time in the 300SEL 6.3 and 450SEL 6.9. Loved ‘em both. I also ran a supercharged CL55 for a year.

    We also have some common background: I know you’ve run a bunch of Marks. My second car was a red-with-white-top 1980 Marquis Brougham coupe. Of course, that variable-venturi 302 didn’t have much of anything!

    I will admit to putting one of my Phaetons up the bumper of a 350Z or two at 130+mph on the back straight at VIR, just for the sake of being vicious. :)

  • avatar
    npbheights

    on January 4th, 2009 at 4:24 pm
    Paul Niedermeyer said:

    “it should be on its own platform”

    I hate to break it to you all, but all Caddies since the late thirties shared the same “C” body with the “senior” Buicks (Electra) and Olds (98). The only differences was the exterior skin; underneath that, they shared the same body/frame. Yes, the engines were different, but who could tell the difference of one GM big block from another?

    Never said they didn’t, I am saying they shouldn’t. It was ok back then, but today the “top of the line” sedan, the DTS is very closely related to the Buick Lucerne, and it’s a truly pathetic platform indeed. I also said that today’s Cadillacs should make the old stuff pale in comparison, not the other way around.

    Also, the Cadillac engines back in the day were special, simply because they were exclusively Cadillac engines. A Caddy had a 472 or a 500, which was way better than having some Super Rocket whatever even if it really wasn’t better.

    Someone said that the Cadillac Sixteen should have been made, and I totally agree. It was so simple and so do-able. GM could have made a couple of hundred hand made examples at a loss (what car don’t they make at a loss) and it should have had a V16, that was the whole point. They already did it (a V16) and it was during the Great Depression. Why not now.

    It was said that I was dreaming… I want to thank Farago for the assignment. It’s apparent that GM in its current form cannot/will not make Cadillac what it should be. One can only hope that Cadillac will rise up out of the ashes of GM’s eventual demise and become the car company its founder Henry Leland intended it to be: The Standard of the World”

  • avatar

    Jack, you certainly get my drift. And your 302 VV Merc had no power above 3000rpm, but it still pulled like a proper luxury car. Which all goes back to nurturing a strong brand identity: something I think is probably the best form of competitive advantage you can have in this segmented, globalized market. Its something I’ve been yammering about for almost 4 years now.

    It sounds like either of us could sell the piss out of a proper American luxury car…if they still existed. (obviously the Town Car doesn’t count)

    And +1 to everyone who mentioned the Cadillac Sixteen. I will also add the 2002 Continental Concept since we diverged onto the MKS discussion.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    By the way, that “bone chilling AC” was thanks to the GM Frigidaire A-6 compressor that were in large GM cars for over 25 years. They were so good that Ford bought them from GM and put them in Lincolns and other large Ford products from 1970-1979. They produced something like 27,500 BTU’s of cooling power at 2000 RPM. Powerful enough to cool a small house. A truly awesome compressor.

  • avatar

    I agree with Ronnie Schreiber: GM should have made the Cadillac 16 (though probably not with 16 cyl–8 would have done just fine). That car definitely had the requisite styling.

  • avatar

    npbheights : I know the A-6 compressor you speak of…it can freeze the balls off a polar bear in 100+ degree Houston heat. The unit is larger than the valve covers of small block V8s.

    When hardware speaks like that, you know the car wrapped around it is one serious luxo-machine.

  • avatar
    Qwerty

    I used to think of Cadillac as ridiculously huge monstronsities diven by geezers who might stroke out at any moment. As they drove in a daze, still dreaming of 1955, you had to be on constant alert for fear they might lean fifty feet and what looked like ten tons of steel into your lane. I never found anything attractive about Caddys whatsoever. Ever since the Caddy brand began targeting blingers my opinion has dropped further–way further. Now I would not want to be caught dead in one. They are garish, tasteless, and tawdry. They look like something white trash without a pot to piss in might buy after winning the lottery.

    Although Caddy’s fit well in rap videos as their neuvo riche former pimps brag about their hos and their AKs, there is something pitiful about middle aged suburban honkies rollin’ phat with an overly large chrome grill screaming for attention and way too large wheels shining with way too bright chrome announcing to the world that the driver was dumb enough to pay five big ones for a set of wheels. Cars dripping in chrome may have been popular in the 50s, but so were fins, bras shaped like dunce caps, and toupees.

    Nowadays men have the guts to simply shave their heads when they are going bald. I am tempted to say that modern Cadillacs are the automotive equivalent of a combover, but it is worse than that. They are the equivalent of the forty year old who tries to recapture his youth with the haircut and clothing of a twenty year old slacker. You cannot go back, and you look pathetic if you try. That is what Caddys are today: A sad attempt to relive the past.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    I don’t know what Cadillac should be. I do know that it is what it is because GM was tired of losing comparison tests in the car magazines. Hence all this business about Nurburging lap times.

    I’m not convinced that was a target GM should have aimed for. The people who write this stuff have petrol for blood, so the sportiest car that can maintain an iota of ride comfort always wins. It doesn’t matter whether they’re comparing minivans or exotics, the criteria is always whether or not the vehicle can handle. It’s hardly surprising that BMW always comes out on top.

    The problem is, people don’t give a damn about actual sport, only the idea of it. We live in America, the land of endless highways and traffic. This canyon-carving nonsense is a fantasy for almost everyone. In the real world, floaty land barges aren’t just acceptable, they’re downright desirable. But even though magazines don’t live in this world, their value judgments from test-track land can still sting, and GM’s taken the criticism to heart.

    I’m convinced the rise in Cadillac’s stature in the last few years has been the result of build quality improvements, not the addition of the Nurburgring handling balance. I was driven around in a circa-2007 Audi A6 recently and came away three overwhelming impressions: 1) the interior was beautiful, with high-grade materials, color-matching, and excellent fit in finish; 2) the exterior was the definition of class; 3) the ride was busy, harsh, and inferior to my Camry. The last really detracted from the feeling of luxury.

    If I were in Wagoner’s shoes, I’d give every Cadillac a best-in-class interior and make the suspension even smoother than the LS430. If he’s still chasing BMW, he needs to stop. I can’t imagine the people who care about that stuff comprise more than the smallest minority of luxury buyers.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    There’s a resident American businessman in Australia who has the plate “Cadillac” on his Bentley Turbo R.

    It was his way of complaining that not one of the current super-luxury cars drives like he remembers from his 50s Cadillacs.

    Needless to say VW/Bentley weren’t very pleased…..

    I remember the write-up from a few years ago but can’t find a web version at the moment.

  • avatar
    Terry

    npbheights posted:
    One can only hope that Cadillac will rise up out of the ashes of GM’s eventual demise and become the car company its founder Henry Leland intended it to be: The Standard of the World”

    The way I read the history of that statement is that while most cars were more or less hand-made, with a wide variance of tolerances, Cadillacs were built with parts that were “standardized” in sizes and tolerances, so as to aid interchangeability.
    2 or more Cadillacs were disassembled completely, the parts mingled, and complete cars were then built with the parts, hence the term “Standard”.
    Back on topic…is it possible that Cadillac’s problem is its association with GM?

  • avatar
    CarShark

    I don’t like branding threads. They’re always a long spate of inanimate projection and nostalgic anecdotes and tired stereotypes. How can a brand ever move forward if its always looking back?

  • avatar

    I seriously doubt the average Cadillac buyer of the 60s or 70s could have told you anything about the comparative advantages and disadvantages of FWD versus RWD, or cared.

    I think Cadillac’s current problem is that the Baby Boomers never really did buy Cadillacs in a big way. The kids who grew up driving Volkswagens and Mustangs and turning their noses up at big Detroit iron bought BMWs, Mercedes, and later Lexus. Meanwhile, after cheapening itself in the quest for greater sales volume in the seventies (a Cadillac exec notoriously said of Cadillac’s all-time best year — 1979, when they sold more than 383,000 units — “We didn’t sell 300,000 Cadillacs…we sold 300,000 Buicks”), Cadillac struggled with trying to cautiously modernize while clinging to its existing audience and demographic, even as that demographic aged and died off.

    The dilemma now is that they need to sell Cadillacs to people my age, when the Cadillacs of yore are primarily our grandparents’ cars. The 50s and 60s Caddys have a certain luster as the products of an era before we were born, this imagined golden age, rather than necessarily having a lot of sense of intrinsic worth or gravitas.

    Luxury car buyers are not primarily concerned with driving dynamics or even style; they’re looking for snob appeal, and Cadillac squandered its snob appeal 25 years ago. The same thing is likely to eventually happen to BMW and Mercedes, particularly in Europe, where they’ve gone after the middle market in a big way. How snobbish can a Bimmer be when every shopgirl and druggist owns one?

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ Carshark

    How can a brand ever move forward if its always looking back?

    Because a brand is the sum of it’s history and it’s promise.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    Being a 37 year old Lexus LS430 owner, I do agree that the LS is what Cadillac should have morphed towards. I’m not exactly the target demographic for this car, but I have one, and love it.

    10 years ago I was into sport sedans like the WRX, Lancer Evolution, or 5-series, and 20 years ago I would have taken a 928S4 or Trans Am, but my tastes changed (and let that be a warning for those who swear they’ll never buy a minivan or domestic).

    Personally, the DTS is the spiritual successor of yesterday’s Cadillac, and I find it wanting compared to what’s available from more technologically laden flagships from Audi, Lexus, BMW, and MB. I think they need to get rid of the STS and focus on a true flagship like the Sixteen, as per npbheights standards.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    > Well you’re talkin’ to one. :) While the latest RWD Seville is too bargain basement (and too late in the game) for most loyalists, but I betcha there’s a correlation between Cadillac’s slip in market share, public perception, etc and their insistence on using FWD platforms of far inferior performance (of their forefathers) and quality (of the imports) since the 1980s.

    Do you really think so?

    I think KnightRT summed things up pretty well. Most luxury car owners don’t really care about driving dynamics – though they may pretend that they do.

    It’s hard to immagine a car with more “presence” than a mid ’70s Eldo.

    I tend to think that people with gas in their viens overestimate how much people care about FWD vs RWD. It’s popular for enthusiasts to call FWD, Wrong Wheel Drive, but most people know two things – in the summer, they can barely tell the difference, and in the winter, FWD doesn’t fishtail in the snow as much as RWD.

    If you’re point is strictly about performance, you may have something – maybe. A Caddy should have seemingly endless supplies of torque. At any speed stepping on the go pedal should make you feel the seat in your back – at least a little.

    I had an ’80 Eldo. Great car in the snow – at least for the time. It wasn’t like having a 4×4, but it was a damn site better than RWD.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Why don’t we think a little bit out of the box. There’s alternative way to handle the Cadillac brand.

    First, I’d position Cadillac as a premium brand rather than limit it as a luxury brand. This way, you put the name on a variety of car types as long as they lead their class by every metric for that particular car type.

    Next, they have to eliminate the gray area zombie sibling brands. Just Chevy and Cadillac should. remain. Make it black and white for the buyers.

    Along with the zombie brands, the GM name needs to disappear as well. Use the Cadillac name as the company name instead. The Cadillac Motor Company or something to that effect. Under this scenario, Chevrolet becomes a value priced brand of Cadillac – the Chevrolet division of Cadillac Motors. Never position your premium vehicles as deluxe versions of your value brand. Instead, position the value brand as a lower cost version of the premium brand.

    This is just one possible direction for GM to take, but given their position and image, this is something that could work for them. It’s radical and might not be perfect, but I think it’s the right direction to take and has the best chance of bringing them back.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    A Cadillac should feel like flying: fast and smooth. The first thing they need is fully active suspension. You should never feel a single bump, and you should never hit the cornering limit. The drivetrains need to be large and AWD. Everything else needs to function at the top of the class and with an absolute minimum of drama. You should be able to get anywhere you’d like as fast as you’d like without ever having to worry about it.

  • avatar

    Dynamic88 : I think KnightRT summed things up pretty well. Most luxury car owners don’t really care about driving dynamics – though they may pretend that they do.

    Again, its the RWD chassis and the inherent luxurious presence that comes with its North/South engine layout, long hood and short deck. And yes, the FWD Eldo from the 70s has that look, mostly because its Toronado forefather was designed to be a FWD luxo-beast like a Cord…not a cost-engineered Taurus/Cavalier/Camry with more style.

    BIG difference.

    With that in mind, you can make the case that premium GM’s need a unique chassis made just for luxury. Since the Toronado and Riv are dead, that just leaves Caddy.

    I tend to think that people with gas in their viens overestimate how much people care about FWD vs RWD.

    Can’t vouch for it in person, but C/D and Motor Trend seemed to prefer the Continental Mark III and Mark IV over their FWD Caddy counterpart. Anyone who wanted a personal luxury coupe back in the day obviously wanted some type of commanding feel while driving, and FWD didn’t give it. I’m sure the car rags had more candid comparo tests back then, and they didn’t just like the Lincolns because Frank Cannon said so.

    If you’re point is strictly about performance, you may have something – maybe. A Caddy should have seemingly endless supplies of torque. At any speed stepping on the go pedal should make you feel the seat in your back – at least a little.

    Its not all about performance, but you see where this is going. The motor (no the entire powertrain) should make a sound that makes you feel like you’re the King of the World. Which usually requires a V8 with a respectable cam (or four) and much more intake resonance than the Lexus LS. And torque steer? Not a chance.

  • avatar

    CarShark : I don’t like branding threads. They’re always a long spate of inanimate projection and nostalgic anecdotes and tired stereotypes. How can a brand ever move forward if its always looking back?

    You don’t need an MBA to learn that branding is more than a history lesson. Its about learning from what you did right and wrong, as to not make the mistake of taking whatever platform you have in your corporate portfolio and trying to badge engineer it to the needs of your customer base. (pointing to the Cadillacs of the 1980s, and any American Ford with a Volvo chassis)

    You could say branding is a plan of attack: and as Detroit has shown, their plans have been pretty much terrible.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Paul Niedermeyer: I hate to break it to you all, but all Caddies since the late thirties shared the same “C” body with the “senior” Buicks (Electra) and Olds (98). The only differences was the exterior skin; underneath that, they shared the same body/frame. Yes, the engines were different, but who could tell the difference of one GM big block from another?

    Well into the 1960s, the GM divisions were allowed to make considerable changes to shared bodies. This was especially true of the high-line GM products (the big Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Cadillacs).

    The divisions also had more control over the production – and thus, the quality control – of their products. Cadillacs, in particular, were built in plants devoted exclusively to building Cadillacs, and under the control of Cadillac’s management.

    They may have shared bodies, but in those days, the divisions had considerably more control over the look, feel and quality of their products.

    Jack Baruth: It’s not RWD. So what? A luxury car needn’t be rear-wheel-drive; ask Andre Citroen.

    Exactly how many Citroens have been sold in the U.S.? That should tell you how successful Citroen was in selling its version of luxury to Americans.

    Jack Baruth: I’m not sure there was any such thing as an “RWD American car fan”. The Eldorado and Seville sat effectively at the top of the Cadillac line regardless of drivetrain arrangements.

    The original 1967 Eldorado was introduced when the front-wheel-drive layout was exotic to Americans.

    Unlike the 1980s and 1990s Cadillacs, the engine was not mounted transversely, so the car could be styled with traditional proportions.

    The long, pointed, prow-like hood that graced the 1967-70 Eldorados emphasized the front-wheel-drive layout while negating the space efficiency gains that came with eliminating the transmission hump.

    The second-generation Seville used the same basic drivetrain layout, so it, too, had a long hood.

    Cadillacs of the 1980s and 1990s, with their transverse-mounted engines, lost those proportions, and ended up looking like pedestrian front-wheel-drive family sedans with egg-crate grilles and vertical taillights.

    Today, every family sedan and economy car boasts a front-wheel-drive layout. It’s no big deal anymore.

    Jack Baruth: It doesn’t look like an Engel Continental, but it doesn’t look like anything else, either. It makes a visual impact.

    The MKS isn’t a bad-looking car, but it hardly stands out on the road.

    It is, however, the very best Mercury ever built.

    Dynamic88: It’s hard to immagine a car with more “presence” than a mid ’70s Eldo.

    Those cars were awful. The engine produced a pitiful 150 horsepower from 500 cubic inches. The acceleration and fuel economy were lousy, the cars handled like a well-worn mattress and the build quality was mediocre at best. (The plastic rear-fender caps would quickly fade to a different color from the rest of the body, and then warp.)

    If anything, Cadillac needs to run as fast as possible from its post-1970 cars, as that is when it really began sliding downhill.

    argentla: The 50s and 60s Caddys have a certain luster as the products of an era before we were born, this imagined golden age, rather than necessarily having a lot of sense of intrinsic worth or gravitas.

    In the 1950s, Cadillac truly was still the Standard of the World.

    Its V-8 was reliable, fast and relatively economical (given its size and the car’s considerable heft). The Hydramatic transmission was smooth and reliable at a time when the Europeans were still figuring out how to make an automatic.

    Cadillacs offered effective air conditioning and power assists for the windows and seats when Chevrolets and Fords were considered well equipped if they had a radio, heater and automatic transmission.

    The 1960s Cadillacs didn’t stand apart as much from their cheaper domestic cousins – by 1969, you could option a Chevrolet Caprice to be almost as luxurious and well-equipped as a Sedan DeVille. But the cars were still well-built, reliable, supremely comfortable and sported distinctive styling. The performance was also better than one would think, given their enormous proportions.

    Cadillac really began sliding downhill after 1970. It never responded to the big-engined Mercedes models; the build quality of its products declined; and GM began chasing volume at the expense of everything else – in particular, the division’s air of exclusivity and prestige.

    When I think of Cadillac, I think of four traits that “make the brand:”

    1. Technical innovation: Cadillac pioneered interchangeable parts; the self-starter; made the V-8 engine feasible for closed cars by eliminating the engine’s inherent vibration at about 35-40 mph; introduced syncromesh transmission to America; pioneered independent front suspension among American marques; perfected the overhead-valve, high-compression V-8 engine; and introduced climate control for automobiles to the world.

    The problem is that five of those innovations debuted prior to World War II. GM got lazy in the 1960s, and Cadillac began lagging behind even its domestic competitors. (Lincoln, for example, offered front disc brakes as standard equipment in 1965, and Imperial followed suit for 1967. Cadillac didn’t get them until 1969.).

    2. Styling – The 1927 LaSalle was the first “styled” mass production automobile. Cadillac was much more aggressive about keeping its cars up-to-date in the 1930s and 1940s than Packard and even Rolls Royce. The 1948 models, with their tailfins and egg-crate grilles, were very handsome, and made a Cadillac instantly recognizable as a Cadillac. After things got out of hand with the 1959 models, Cadillac returned to rationality, and produced the very clean and handsome post-1960 models, and followed it up with the 1967 Eldorado, which still looks good today.

    The problem is that by the mid-1970s, Cadillacs looked like caricatures of themselves, and when downsizing hit, the smaller models robbed the cars of whatever presence they had. The 1975 Seville hinted at a promising new direction, but Cadillac never effectively followed up on that car’s potential.

    3. Quality. Cadillacs were better built and more reliable than other cars. Unfortunately, Cadillac quality began declining in the early 1970s, hit the depths in the 1980s, and even today I hear stories of Northstars dying at 100,000 miles, and numerous electrical gremlins popping up before then.

    4. Comfort. Cadillacs rode better than other cars, and offered effective air conditioning and top-quality upholstery and carpeting when other cars were making do with rubber floor mats. Today, it is much harder for any car to stand out in this area, as even lowly Civics and Focuses are designed with ergonomics in mind, and offer a full array of power assists and standard air conditioning.

    Sajeev Mehta: Can’t vouch for it in person, but C/D and Motor Trend seemed to prefer the Continental Mark III and Mark IV over their FWD Caddy counterpart. Anyone who wanted a personal luxury coupe back in the day obviously wanted some type of commanding feel while driving, and FWD didn’t give it. I’m sure the car rags had more candid comparo tests back then, and they didn’t just like the Lincolns because Frank Cannon said so.

    From 1970-74, Motor Trend conducted an annual comparison test between the Lincoln Mark and the Cadillac Eldorado titled “King of the Hill.”

    Generally, the Eldorado handled better, but the Lincoln had better build quality and a nicer, more luxurious interior. The Eldorado’s interior was too much like lesser GM cars. Braking was pretty much a draw. The editors also liked the Mark’s exterior styling better.

    I got the impression that the editors liked the Mark III better than the comparable Eldorado (especially the 1971 Eldorado), and weren’t wild about either the post-1970 Eldorado, or the Mark IV.

    The 1971 and later Eldorados, and the 1972 and later Marks, got bigger without getting better.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Sajeev’s and Farago’s favorite chant line is always ‘Branding, branding, branding’. I think it’s way overstated. Branding is important but its importance varies depending on a business type and even within a business, it may be more important in some segments than others.

    Branding is much more important in fashion business than in car business or any other complex technical endeavor. Despite there being numerous MBA programs about marketing and branding, branding, if it is anything, is art a lot more than it is science. Therefore branding is difficult to teach and to learn. Consequently branding exercises often lead to enormous waste of time and resources when these could be spent much more efficiently in design or engineering. Branding is fine for discussion like this one; it’s entertainment but in the real world I wouldn’t pay for the whole departments to sit around and contemplate their branding strategies. GM and Detroit in general need to get to the basics, the car design and engineering and the branding will sort itself out.

    If you look at successful car companies in the past few decades I doubt any of them had their brands worked out (the plan of attack) before they started making cars. Sure once they achieved decent sale numbers and made some money they started to think about what they were doing from the branding perspective. But I don’t believe Toyota became the ‘reliable’ brand by deciding to make reliability their number #1 objective hoping to make it their most important brand attribute. I think they started making well engineered basic cars that proved to be very reliable and that’s how their brand image came about.

    I grant that in luxury segment where Cadillac is, branding is a lot more important but I don’t believe it still trumps the design or engineering of the car.

  • avatar
    slowrideR

    Bring back bench seats, baby. She don’t have to sit over there.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    The fact that TTAC’s “Best and Brightest”, people that get excited when a new entry in something called “General Motor’s Death Watch” pops up on their computer screen (myself included) will write 80 posts on a Sunday about Cadillac is a testament as to the strength of the brand. Even people that seemingly detest it, give it a larger than life image–

    Qwerty Said:
    …used to think of Cadillac as ridiculously huge monstronsities.. they might lean fifty feet and what looked like ten tons of steel into your lane. … an overly large chrome grill screaming for attention …

    Although they were never that much larger or longer than most other full size American Cars of their time, they are remembered as much larger in people’s minds, thats not my point…

    I think Terry got my point:
    Terry :
    …is it possible that Cadillac’s problem is its association with GM?

    I think that has been Cadillac’s problem since the mid Seventies. They should have looked to innovate, not turn a Nova into a Seville for a quick sales pop. It was down hill fast from there.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re: “…Branding is much more important in fashion business than in car business or any other complex technical endeavor…”
    ra_pro / January 5th, 2009 at 11:50 am

    i really doubt whether product manufacturers and/or service providers like apple or dell; citi or chase; panasonic or sony; saks or bloomingdale’s; porsche or pontiac; mcdonalds or burger king and walmart or costco – plus countless others – would agree with that assertion.

    for savvy consumers, brand names eventually come to serve as some sort of reasonably efficient cultural shorthand for all of the qualities and promises their products and/or services provide.

  • avatar
    minion444

    Cadillac’s in the early days stood for Luxury and technology. “The standard of excellence”. Bold styling, that you didn’t havew to like, but you knew it was a caddy!

    My choice today. The Rolls Phaeton is the Cadillac that Cadillac should be building.

    Thanks for the GREAT podcast.


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