By on May 1, 2009

It doesn’t seem that long ago that General Motors was pouring billions of dollars into Cadillac in a bid to create a line of world-class luxury cars. American enthusiasts rejoiced. Now, with GM on the verge of bankruptcy, all signs point to a full-scale retreat. Assuming GM pulls through, within the next five years it will kill Buick outside China–or at least kill its Lexian aspirations—and shift Cadillac downmarket into a “near luxury” position.

Cadillac’s bid for a return to greatness met with an early success. The 2003 CTS’ angular styling might have polarized opinions, but it made a strong statement and grabbed everyone’s attention. The car’s performance suggested that GM was capable of developing a first-rate rear-wheel-drive sport sedan.

The Escalade sold well, but its pushrod powerplant and antiquated chassis did not fit Cadillac’s new mission. A DOHC-powered, independently suspended crossover would be much more fitting. Problem was, in the late 1990s it was hard to tell what would make for a successful crossover. Should the proportions be those of an SUV, or more like those of a station wagon? Cadillac opted for the latter, while the market opted for the former. Combine wagonesque proportions with a BMW-like price, and the 2004 SRX flopped.

The 2004 XLR roadster was sharply styled, but insufficiently luxurious and (like the SRX) over-priced. Perhaps emboldened by the CTS’ success, Cadillac convinced itself that it could give subsequent models Teutonic prices from the start—a bad move. Both Toyota with the original LS 400 and Hyundai with the Genesis recognized that new entries must start low. If they sell, then you can raise the price. So the XLR became strike two.

The CTS had carved out a spot vis-a-vis the BMW 3-Series. Could a rear-wheel-drive Seville replacement do the same against the 5-Series? First, newly hired car czar Bob Lutz delayed the STS. Not a fan of Cadillac’s new look, he ordered that the STS’ greenhouse be redone to add tumblehome—even though such a major change late in the process cost tens of millions of dollars.

Though perhaps an improvement, the revised design both failed to be beautiful and failed to make a strong statement. The interior, though more luxurious than that of the CTS, was still not luxurious enough for the STS’ richer target market, and its styling was boringly conventional. The market yawned, and stuck with the imports. Strike three.

Hyper-expensive supercharged STS-V and XLR-V variants were little more than a distraction. If the basic product isn’t a winner, adding power isn’t going to make it one.

Lutz’ desire to offer a production version of the gargantuan 13.6-liter Sixteen? To those thinking with their heads, the Sixteen seemed overly ambitious and a poor use of corporate resources. Before it could realistically attempt a statement like the Sixteen, Cadillac first needed to succeed not only with the STS but with a never approved S-Class competitor. In retrospect, this embodiment of the Detroit executive ego seems downright ridiculous.

Back in the real world, Cadillac’s upmarket adventure was dealt a fatal blow when the STS failed to carve out a beachhead north of $50,000. In the aftermath, Cadillac couldn’t decide what to do next. Plans to replace both the STS and DTS with a large rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan wandered this way and that, then died. The V8 that would have powered this car met the same fate. Hyundai could field a competitive DOHC V8. Detroit would not.

Yes, the redesigned 2008 CTS has been a hit and deservedly so. But you can’t base a luxury brand on one $35,000 model.

At the same time, Cadillac can’t simply return to where it used to be. The DTS has solidered on, but sales have slowed to a trickle. With the Zeta-based replacement canceled, and no new large front-wheel-drive platform in the pipeline, Cadillac could simply abandon the large luxury sedan segment. With the collapse of the conventional SUV market, the Escalade also seems unlikely to live on in its current form.

So, whither Cadillac? With the foray into Teutonic territory one for four, and no funds for another round, Cadillac’s target must shift from the Germans to entry-level Lexus. For 2010, the SRX switches to an Equinox-related front-wheel-drive platform. Next up: a LaCrosse-based sedan. After that: perhaps a Lambda-based Escalade.

In short, Cadillac’s new focus will be Buick’s current focus: front-wheel-drive-based, comfort-biased vehicles with transaction prices in the thirties to low forties. If the two aren’t to overlap, Buick will either have to shimmy closer to Chevy or become China-only. Among the many casualties of GM’s meltdown, this forced acceptance of Cadillac’s second-tier status could be the saddest. Even Lincoln, which beat a similar retreat post-Nasser, could emerge with a stronger product line.

Want to remember Cadillac at its final zenith? Buy a 2009 CTS-V.

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54 Comments on “Editorial: General Motors Death Watch 249: Cadillac Descending...”


  • avatar
    tced2

    Of course GM doesn’t have billions of dollars to pour into Cadillac. But its new masters in the District of Control have access to lots of green ink and will remedy the situation in short order. And the other problem is that excesses for the rich folks aren’t politically correct.

    The CTS is a great car but it can’t carry the whole Cadillac line. They need a larger unquestionably superior car to be top-of-the-line. But rear-drive and new V8 engine have been cancelled due to (mpg and environmental) regulations.

    You’ll know that Cadillac is succeeding by going down-market when BMW brings out a model based upon the Mini.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Great summary, Michael. Let’s not forget what GM is capable of doing: the Chinese-market STS-based LWB SLS, and its lovely interior. And despite GM’s attempts to elevate Caddy’s status, for the longest time its best seller remained the DTS and its predecessors.

    As for the CTS wagon, I’m in agreement, and as its diesel for the EU market has been cancelled, it’s as good as dead. I can’t help but think of Cadillac as the CTS and its supporting cast, i.e. Escalade, DTS, and the Star Trek equivalent of the red shirts. Now, it’s going to be the new FWD car-based SRX and its supporting cast. At least with the Vue 2-mode hybrid dead, Cadillac use that to go head-to-head with the Lexus RX hybrid.

  • avatar
    MrDot

    Can you blame them? Whatever parts of GM make it out of bankruptcy are going to be under pressure to maximize sales and minimize costs. It’s clear from Caddy’s recent experiences that while making driver-oriented luxury cars is good for getting positive reviews from enthusiasts, the real volume in the segment comes from people buying the badge as a lifestyle statement. Cadillac just doesn’t have the pop culture appeal of a Benz, Lexus, or BMW and probably never will.

    On the other hand, does Cadillac’s retreat open a hole for Hyundai? I guess it depends on whether Hyundai can keep from losing too much money on their Luxury whips while marketing and a recovering economy improves their street cred.

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    To think that Cadillac had come so far, and so close to being the competitor for BMW that we all hoped–and now they’re going to release another generic front wheel drive crap sedan, going back to their old badge-engineered routes. And this is a company worth saving?

  • avatar
    thalter

    At this point, GM is basically starting over. They are basically where Hyundai is now, or Toyota or Honda were 25 years ago.

    You need to earn earn value, reliability, and durability reputation on your mass market line before you can even think about your luxury line. Your volume product pays the bills and makes everything else possible.

    Right now, GM needs to make money, and lots of it. They need to focus solely on Chevrolet, and make these products the most reliable, highest quality, and most desirable vehicles in their particular segments.

    Then and only then can GM leverage this reputation back into the luxury space.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Good Lord! Scrap a bunch of nameplates and what does GM do now? Chevy, Buick and Cadillac all race to the middle of the market. GAAAAAAAA.

    You all know that I have never been much of a GM person, but this is really sad to me. As a college kid in the late 70s I owned a 63 Fleetwood Sixty Special. It was old and had not been very well cared for in the second half of its life, but that car earned my respect for the quality that GM built into its very best product. That car was heavy, quiet and solid. Everything that you touched told you that it was of the very highest quality.

    Was there a car built anywhere else in the world that could beat the entire package (quality, features, performance, durability and style and snob appeal) that was the 63-64 Cadillac? I doubt it.

  • avatar

    This is saddening and ridiculous. GM has a lot of promise with the CTS; I love mine. And the Escalade still sells despite what logic says, I guess it’s an icon of … something.

    God damn the DTS, ftw.

    I have very high hopes for the Buick LaCrosse, I keep saying this, but it has a very impressive interior. I don’t know what platform this is on, but seeing this come into Cadillac with a better exterior would be a good move.

    The STS is ridiculous. After sitting in both CTS & STS at the NY Auto show, the STS just doesn’t make sense. I looked into the STS briefly but quickly gave up on it after reading a lot of luke-warm interest in it from owners (sites like msn-autos) and pro-reviews. The CTS just stands on its own in this regard.

    The full offering price however on either of these vehicles is truly absurd; $55k+ for a standard CTS is too much, $60+ for an STS? They’re excellent purchases used once the prices re-enters our solar system from outer orbit. And why, why does GM even think of putting a manual seat-adjustment option in their premium product line? Stuff like this makes no sense.

    I also think the CTS Wagon is going to be a failure.

    They should drop Buick and continue pushing Cadillac. It needs to be done, they’re on the right track. Lean out the other useless products, not regress!

  • avatar

    What’s with all the STS bashing? When it was introduced it was competative on everything but the interior materials and assmebly.

    I think it’s biggest problem was that it was not appreciably larger inside than the CTS. The CTS is large for the class it competes against (3-series, C-class, A4). Cadillac was selling on size, and since the CTS was larger the STS would have to be about the size of a 7 series to really be the step up model, but it’s competing with the 5 series class, so that’s a failure.

    Cadillac needs to stick to RWD small, medium, and large sedans. Right now they have medium and medium-large.

  • avatar
    Packard

    Cadillac, in all of its existence since WWII, has been the deVille. That the deVille/DTS continued to sell, even as GM poured money into developing other cars – the CTS twice, for example – without putting a dime into developing a new deVille, illustrates the strength of the brand and the opportunity which that market presented, had GM bothered to tend to it.

    The current GM, though, couldn’t even find the money to produce the CTS Coupe, which would have been a clear winner, and plans to produce Volt engines in the plant making the Northstar.

    To the extent that Cadillac has an image, it is of a large, luxurious car. For that, there is a large market: as Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Lexus illustrate. But Government Motors won’t devote money to building a car for that market – Ms. Pelosi wouldn’t approve.

    When people consider Cadillac one of the viable brands at GM, they’re ignoring reality. For their most obvious and stable market, GM has chosen not to build a Cadillac product. For the products they have chosen to build, there is no market. Only the CTS is a small exception, and that will be passe soon enough.

  • avatar
    geeber

    jpcavanaugh: Was there a car built anywhere else in the world that could beat the entire package (quality, features, performance, durability and style and snob appeal) that was the 63-64 Cadillac? I doubt it.

    The post-1960 Lincoln Continentals…? They were quality cars, and better looking than the Cadillacs of that vintage.

    Packard: That the deVille/DTS continued to sell, even as GM poured money into developing other cars – the CTS twice, for example – without putting a dime into developing a new deVille, illustrates the strength of the brand and the opportunity which that market presented, had GM bothered to tend to it.

    They sell to an aging customer base that demands significant discounts. I remember reading that the average out-the-door price of a Deville/DTS was on the order of $35,000, which is hardly luxury territory anymore.

  • avatar
    kkleinwi

    Why is it considered stupid for Cadillac to sell a “FWD-based” crossover and a FWD luxury sedan when its rival Lexus’ two most popular models are the “FWD-based” RX350 and the FWD ES350? And then there’s Acura with its “FWD-based” MDX and FWD TL.

    Smells to me like someone can’t see past his anti-Cadillac bias.

  • avatar
    Stu Sidoti

    The CTS is built on a shortened STS platform; for nowhere near billions, GM could take the current STS, re-skin it, install a CTS-quality(or better) interior for a relatively small investment and ‘Baaaaaam‘ they suddenly have their hotly-styled $45-55K Cadillac above the CTS line. Then they could take the Pontiac/Holden G8, do a mild re-skin and interior design update on that one too, and conceivably have their sub-CTS offering for $25-$35K and of course you would have the CTS that generally sells for around $35K with typical options. Now you have the Escalade, the SRX, and three sedans from $25-$55K as your offerings. Plus you’ll have the CTS coupe and the CTS wagon and all of these models will probably offer optional AWD…Not bad.
    To some, I may be oversimplifying things a bit but not really.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Because they can’t sell a competitor to Lexus, they’ve already tried. They have to sell something that is unique yet covers the basis of the market. Like the CTS or even like Infiniti…you’re only going to catch the sales of those who don’t want the sameness of Lexus and the Germans. Cadillac should be bold, brash, maybe even a little over the top. Yet, be elegant at the same time. That’s how Cadillac and Lincoln used to be. Cadillac started to get the idea with it’s “art & science”, Lincoln is trying to make Lexus carbon-copies and it’s not working quite as well.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Excellent analysis. However, I’m starting to believe that GM might be more successful keeping Buick instead of Cadillac. If GM is to continue, Chevy and the “deluxe” brand are going to have to share more in the years ahead. There’s just no way GM can afford a North American low-volume platform exclusive to its premium offering (because Cadillac is not a world brand and cannot gain international economies of scale like BMW and MB). Further, Cadillac will always be remembered for the great boats of the 50s and 60s, its high-water mark, not the excellent CTS (as good as the Lutz version is it sells no better than the first Zarella version — the image just isn’t there). Cadillacs will never be viewed as Bahn-burners, but Buicks with plebian underpinnings that are quiet, comfortable and stylish are very much in-line with what they’ve always been (and what successful Lexus is today). It’s just more believable for Chevy and Buick to share than Cadillac and Chevy. Finally, the future of the world’s car culture is in China where Buick has made good progress (and where Cadillac hasn’t). Buick in NA should continue with the LaX and Enclave but add a Camaro-based sedan to replace the CTS/STS/DTS/Lucerne, a Riviera based on the Camaro as sharp as the CTS Coupe, the new SRX, the Converj, and maybe a version of the GMT900 Escalade. A 7-model Buick lineup would at least give GM enough near-luxury volume to break through the dizzying brand and advertising din in NA.

  • avatar
    50merc

    So Lutz “ordered that the STS’ greenhouse be redone to add tumblehome—even though such a major change late in the process cost tens of millions of dollars.”

    And sales. The effect was that a rather large sedan wound up with less interior room. Did Lutz think Cadillac buyers yearn for the feeling they’re driving a Lamborghini? What an ass.

    Packard said it well: “Cadillac, in all of its existence since WWII, has been the deVille. That the deVille/DTS continued to sell, even as GM poured money into developing other cars – the CTS twice, for example – without putting a dime into developing a new deVille, illustrates the strength of the brand and the opportunity which that market presented, had GM bothered to tend to it.”

    Geeber recalls reading the out-the-door price of a deVille/DTS has been running $35,000, which is not real luxury territory. Even so, GM could have continued to sell a lot of $35,000 DTS’s at a profit by making refinements that observed tradition (not “more tumblehome”). To be fair, Ford was similarly destructive with Lincoln by throwing away its heritage.

  • avatar
    clive

    GM branding confusion continues. There were 4 or more “aspirational” brands above Chevy (Pontiac, Olds, Buick, Cadillac, Saab, Saturn) but now there’s only two (Buick and Cadillac) who are both trying to be just like Lexus (or Acura?)

    Now they might even share the same car…LaCrosse for Buick and DT-something-or-other for Cadillac? With the Chevy Malibu below the Buick (on the older Epsilon II platform), it still smells like badge engineering to me, and all built at the same Fairfax, KS plant.

    I suppose GM is trying to match Acura/Lexus in offering small, medium and large luxury/performance sedans. Buick would be more Lexus-ish and Cadillac would be more performance oriented, like Acura?

    Sounds like there’s still one GM brand too many. Buicks and Cadillacs are too similar.

  • avatar

    kkleinwi,

    I didn’t say it was stupid for Cadillac to focus on competitors to the RX and ES. I said it was saddening. The ES and TL might sell in healthy numbers, but they will never inspire passion or deserve prestige like a true sports sedan. I’m far from anti-Cadillac. I’m just against a second-tier Cadillac.

    Stu Sidoti,

    The skin is the most expensive part of a car. So there’s no such thing as lengthening and reskinning a car for pocket change.

    It couldn’t make sense to offer a reskinned Commodore as a cheap Cadillac because it would lack the feature content expected in a Cadillac and it’s much roomier than an STS, much less a CTS. As noted in the editorial, they tried to make use the zeta platform for a single STS/DTS successor, dithered a lot, then killed it.

    Problem is, DTS sales have dwindled and STS sales never amounted to much. So any new Cadillac for this space is a risky bet, and GM can no longer afford risky bets.

    Put another way, if a product isn’t guaranteed to make money, they aren’t going to do it. This leaves them with entry-lux, plus the Escalade as long as there’s a market for that sort of thing. Probably not much longer–the Escalade is so yesterday.

  • avatar

    Packard, 50merc:

    As you recognize, both DTS and Town Car sales are a fraction of what they were in the past. Were they bound to die anyway, or did corporate neglect do them in? Both, of course, but what’s the split?

    getacargetacheck,

    Your argument makes a lot of sense. It’s probably much easier to make a case for Buick globally than Cadillac globally.

    Before Tata bought Jaguar, I argued that BMW or Mercedes was the most logical buyer, to economize on powerful engines and RWD platforms.

    This remains true for Jaguar, and now for Cadillac as well, I’m afraid. The best way to save the brand might be to sell it, and then concentrate on Chevrolet and Buick.

    One way out of all this: if GM can figure out how to consistently create desirable and profitable cars, they could make tens of billions in profits. With strong positive cash flow, they could grow Cadillac again–as long as they don’t destroy what remains of its image in the interim. Odds?

  • avatar
    CPTG

    I haven’t felt so ‘CHEATED’ in life since I was a tween-ager at my Grandmother’s house. We had a caste system then—children ate at the children’s table and only when you had the maturity of a 13 old were you allowed to eat with the grown ups, drink wine and do shots of Canadian Club Whiskey with the old men (Iberian Hispanic—its how we did things). I never got to move up to the big table because my Grandmother died on us in 1970!!!

    Same now with Caddy!!! YOU ARE YOUR FIRST CAR and there is no debating it—you is what you is!! I am a Buick Man. Thank God, I’m not a CHEEVE-VEE Man. My first car, at 16 in HS, was a Primo 1967 Buick Skylark (blue with Black Vinyl top)with an air conditioning that would freeze hell twice over. It made girls SWOON just looking at it, let alone playing with the power windows!!! I was supposed to get married, get an OLDSMOBILE and….if successful, get my caddy. My dad, on the other hand, was a CaddyMAN. His first car, back from the Korean war was a 1949 Black Caddy with the torpedo back and fins.
    I have pictures at 3 years old sliding off the back of that great car.

    Then my dad made the mistake of buying a 1980 Buick Regal (TURBO) with that piece of shit 231cubic engine (that TTAC attributed as the deathknell of GM). BRAND NEW CAR went 12,000 miles before the engine seized and GM fought us on the warrantee. Pop put in another engine, it went 36,000 miles and seized. Pop put in a third engine (used 56,000) and it went 14,000 miles before it seized up. Pop then sold his four year car for $84.00 and pick up a used Datsun Pickup. In 1988, he picked up a NEW 1988 Honda Civic Wagon and our Family never went back to Domestics.

    GM lost my parents, my brother and I and my parents grandkids because they knowingly made bad products. Did GM ever learn from such arrogance and stupidity? Ask any mechanic about their Orange DexaCool(?) anti-freeze; Go ahead, ask them!!! Jimmy and Fiasco (FIAT-CO)need a stake driven threw their hearts and die, die, die. As for FOMOCO? I won’t touch a FORD with their 4 year 36K mile warrantee—it needs to be a six year 140K mile warrantee. I now consider myself (kinda a Ford man) Miata Monster. I put 236K miles on my 1991 Miata before it had its first Class A leak. It was still running strong and turning heads at 286K miles before a stoner totaled in on the curb of a coffee shop. Curse you GM!!! Signed Formerly a Buick MAN, never a Caddy Man.

  • avatar
    Jim Cherry

    I don’t think Cadillac should concentrate on being an American BMW, though the CTS shows they can compete in that league, it’s still not their league. Cadillac should reclaim its historic place as the apriational icon at the top of American brands.
    Have to disagree with Robert on the Cadillac 16, to do a production version and slot it in as the DTS replacement, could have re-established the brand as a unique, American approach to luxury. That is, IF the bean counters were prevented from compromising it. For the bean counters, in the end, are the enemy that occupies General Motors:http://feed.examiner.com/examiner/admin/EntryController.cfm?data=%20RDFIczh2Q0szZkZLdjMxQ2xYTWVJa3hOb0h0Vy9kVk9YYTNHMEJoeGdJMD0%3D

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Caddy has been occupying Buick’s slot for years.

  • avatar
    Stu Sidoti

    Quote Michael Karesh: ” The skin is the most expensive part of a car. So there’s no such thing as lengthening and reskinning a car for pocket change.”

    You might have misunderstood me. I said re-skin the STS. Not a new unibody but a MCE-type of re-skin which is not that expensive. A new unibody or lengthening would be cost prohibitive,yes, but a re-skin of the outer body panels is nowhere near as costly as developing a new engine or even a new transmission for that matter. You can do a new outer skin in 12-18 months for tens of millions.

    Quote Michael Karesh” It couldn’t make sense to offer a reskinned Commodore as a cheap Cadillac because it would lack the feature content expected in a Cadillac and it’s much roomier than an STS, much less a CTS. As noted in the editorial, they tried to make use the zeta platform for a single STS/DTS successor, dithered a lot, then killed it.”

    If you changed a G8 into a small Cadillac, it should naturally have less content than the CTS or upmarket STS…No? If you wanted to add features (mood lighting, giga-jukebox etc) you’re right, you might suddenly find yourself into the CTS’s price range and then you’d wind up with a situation like BMW finds itself with the 1-series all too close in price to the 3-series. That would be bad…but I think that if a reasonably priced G8-Cadillac (more room than CTS or not)was able to retail for $29,000 people might eat it up…but I could be wrong. Don’t give up on a Zeta Cadillac….it could still happen but I think the essence of your article is correct, GM is running panicked towards high mileage cars that perhaps they’ve forgotten the essence of Cadillac…

  • avatar
    CPTG

    So now there is talk about ‘DOWNSIZING’ the Caddy. Been there, done that, got the greasy tee shirt!!!

    Does anyone remember the GM ‘fiasco’ (the real fiasco, not the new FIAT-CRYCO alliance) of that cheap-shit Caddy made in the late 70′s/early 80s. It was small and boxy and had the interior warmth and style of a 1986 Yugo.

    I can’t remember it’s formal name but everyone called it the Caddy ‘AS-IF’. People scoffed at you as you drove it around town and the Dealer’s Mechanics would howl in laughter when you announced “Hello, I’m here to pick up my Caddy. There it is, the Red Caddy (AS-IF) in the corner”
    They’d reply “Sir, your car is ‘not a caddy’ Its a Chevy Vega with a caddy badgeplate stuck on the front of it…Hey fellahs, Mr. Bigshot here wants to pick up his Caddy ‘AS-IF’!!! Then everybody would laugh including the Service Manager who charged you the same amount of money to service your re-badged Chevy Vega as a Caddy De Ville.

    NO MORE TRICKS or GIMMICKS. GM needs to make ONE CADDY—their current rave car and pro-actively fix all the problems with it. Then make a larger one with Headsup displays, IPODs, NightVision, Curb Radars, AutoParking, WIFI access, ITUNES downloading on the fly, a mini refer and microwave—just dazzle people with technology. And for christ’s sake, put some fins on her like a 1957 Brougham or a 1961 Fleetwood!!!

  • avatar

    Jim Cherry,

    Blame the bean counters all you want. But let self-labeled “car guys” run the show and you’ll get products like the SSR, Solstice, Sixteen, Viper, Crossfire, etc. If the car guys could be trusted to create marketable, profitable products, then the bean counters wouldn’t be so necessary. But they’ve proven over and over that, for whatever reason, they can’t be trusted.

    You’d think it was only the bean counters that prevent GM from developing the Sixteen and selling it for $45,000 or so. But the bean counters don’t create economic reality, they only try to force the “car guys” to operate within it.

    There’s a reason cars like the S-Class and 7-Series don’t resemble the Sixteen, and it’s not German bean counters.

  • avatar

    Stu Sidoti:

    The just performed an MCE on the STS in 2008. That’s what tens of millions buys you–an uglier car than the original.

    The G8 is far too large a car to be a “small” anythiing, Cadillac or otherwise. Pontiac has totally failed to convey how large this beast is–many seem to think it’s the size of a 3-Series, when it’s close to a RWB 7.

    By “features” I don’t mean exotic stuff. I mean things like power seat recliners. The G8 is a very sparsely contented car.

  • avatar
    AandW

    Another option could be to make Cadillac a niche brand based on the CTS and its variants. No front wheel drive. No rebadged Buicks and Chevys unless they are rear wheel drive. Create a new three brand dealership network of Buick, GMC and Cadillac. It would be similar to thier old plans for Pontiac but done to the standard set by the CTS. At least this way GM could maintain a presence in the minds of enthusiast drivers.

  • avatar
    unseensightz

    “but its pushrod powerplant and antiquated chassis did not fit Cadillac’s new mission”

    What is wrong with GM’s IV generation of LS series pushrod engines? They get better gas mileage, make just as much if not more power, are just as smooth, and in many respects just as technically advanced as ANY OTHER ENGINE IN THE WORLD. Just look at the LS7 and LS9, they are amazing pieces of engineering and world class engines. The LS7 even revs up to 7000 RPM. The new series of LS engines can also be equipped with vvt and cylinder deactivation.

    On top of all of this the engines are far cheaper to fix and maintain than any OHC design.

    The simple fact is OHC offer no real advantage in any measurable category over a good pushrod engine, such as the LS series. They are simply one of the best engines in the world today, able to compete with any engine thrown at it.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    IF they just go back to making really good cars, there is a future for Cadillac. A new DTS, unibody ‘sclade, mid-size crossover wagon thingy and a continually updated CTS should be enough for a comeback. Cadillac still stands for something, at least in the Heartland.

  • avatar

    Judging by how poorly this strategy is treating Buick and Lincoln, it would be the final nail in the coffin. Too bad, as Cadillac had worlds of potential wrapped up in its brand equity.

  • avatar
    ajla

    @Michael Karesh:
    Yea, “car guys” don’t always get it right. Still, aren’t “car guys” also are responsible for the CTS-V which you refer to as the “final zenith” of the Cadillac brand?

    I’d rather see Cadillac fail building designs like the Sixteen and Converj than fade-away by bringing over the BLS and rebadging the Lacrosse.

  • avatar
    CamaroKid

    What’s with all the STS bashing? When it was introduced it was competative on everything but the interior materials and assmebly.

    That’s quite funny… Let me get this strait… The car is a gem, except the interior is cheap and it is put together poorly… Nice way to describe GM’s flagship…

    I’ll be honest I had to look up “tumblehome” But that sums up this car’s fugly look in one word. This car is as sexy as a cardboard box and the “bent” greenhouse just looks odd… exactly like someone tacked it on at the last minute in a fit of design frustration…

    This car, the 2005 STS, will go down in history as Cadillac’s Edsel… Ugly and unloved…

    I know over and over we talk about “Good GM” being Chevy and Cadillac… Cadillac has one car that sells… The DT7 is dead, the Alpha model is dead, the Ultra V8 is dead, the Escalade is going down market, the XLR is dead, the “V” division is dead, the STS replacement is dead, the 2008 update to the STS made things worse (if that was even possible)…

    We joke about the tag line “Pontiac is Car” The truth is “Cadillac is one Car” is more accurate.

  • avatar
    Dorian666

    Bring back tail fins…

  • avatar
    car_czar

    “GM is basically starting over. They are basically where Hyundai is now, or Toyota or Honda were 25 years ago.”

    Good point, except for the fact that GM has still outsold EVERYONE in the US market this year. They’ve sold more than 1/3 more vehicles than their nearest competitor.

    But hey, why let facts get in the way…

  • avatar

    ajla–the V sells in such limited number that it has virtually zero impact on GM’s bottom line.

    Some “car guy” products have enormous appeal–but they don’t sell in large enough numbers to keep the company going.

  • avatar
    BDB

    If I take this editorial at face value, you guys are basically saying–kill Buick outside of China, put Cadillac to sleep, and focus only on Chevrolet for 20 years or so. The resurrect Cadillac a la Mini. Right?

    I if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re essentially telling General Motors to go hang itself from a ceiling fan.

  • avatar
    ajla

    @Michael Karesh:
    Some “car guy” products have enormous appeal–but they don’t sell in large enough numbers to keep the company going.

    I think that appeal, not volume, should be GM’s goal with Cadillac. That would make it an aspirational brand. Let GMC and Chevrolet worry about the big sales figures.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    car_czar
    Good point, except for the fact that GM has still outsold EVERYONE in the US market this year. They’ve sold more than 1/3 more vehicles than their nearest competitor.

    Anyone can sell a lot of mediocre product if you price it low enough. That’s not a winning strategy. GM needs to sell as much good product as they can at a profitable price, although realistically they’ll need to be cheaper than the competition for quite a while.

  • avatar
    akear

    It seems everything Lutz touched at GM turned to crap. Almost all the cars he was involved in will be gone in 10 years.

  • avatar

    BDB,

    It’s not “you guys.” Each article here is the work of the person whose name is on it. RF regularly prints stuff with my name on it that he personally doesn’t agree with, and I don’t agree with everything everyone else writes here, either.

    That said, note that I say “will” not “should.” This piece isn’t my opinion of what GM should do, it’s my prediction of what GM will do, based on what they’ve been doing.

    If anyone is hanging GM from a ceiling fan, it’s GM.

  • avatar

    ajla,

    GM cannot afford products for the sake of image. Frankly, I don’t see any point to such products, anyway. Good products don’t need halos to support them. They also don’t need to be rationalized as halos.

    akear,

    The CTS, Malibu, and Corvette developed on Lutz’s watch are good cars. His pet projects, most notably the GTO, G8, and Solstice, have fared less well.

    Hmmm, he didn’t have a vested interest in calling Pontiac a “damaged brand,” did he? Puts the blame on past history rather than the current products.

  • avatar
    ajla

    @Michael Karesh:

    GM cannot afford products for the sake of image.
    Obviously GM has no money for anything. However, I don’t see how it is possible for a luxury brand to exist without image. If GM is unwilling or unable to invest in Cadillac’s image then, at best, Caddy is going to turn into what Mercury is today. Basically Chevrolet vehicles with plasti-chrome grills. It’ll be 1987 all over again.

    Frankly, I don’t see any point to such products, anyway. Good products don’t need halos to support them.

    Although I am a “halo apologist”, I do not propose Cadillac make any halos. I think they should make unique cars with appeal and image as the main goal- solely for the benefit of Cadillac. Then GM should market them as “This is a Cadillac”, not “This is the new Cadillac- it’s the same thing as BMW or Lexus makes.”

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    I agree with sightunseen, OHC engines are way overated for street use, maybe the indy 500 ect. The pushrod engine can be a lighter, smaller package and less cost. I also think they have less friction loss.

  • avatar
    dubtee1480

    unseensightz:
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve said this for years. The things the GM has done with their pushrod powerplants after everyone else has given up on them is remarkable. For example the Series III 3800 (although not LS based) was the first SULEV rated gasoline V6.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    Cadillac does deserve it’s own line of engines, but the DOHC Northstar is pretty lethargic and needs some serious work to remain competitive. Several smaller V6′s (including Cadillacs) are nipping at its heels not to mention the Ford modular V8.

    Being that the LS engine has always been making similar if not more power than the fancy Caddy motor, GM was probably wise to stop developing it given their lack of cash all around.

    A DOHC V8 making close to 100 hp/l without forced induction that can scream like something from Italy would be nice though. Efficiency and size be damned.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I am a little suprised that GM chose to ax Pontiac. Seems to me that Buick and Caddy have essentailly the same demographic, seperated by money, but Pontiac went after a totally different group. In my mind Pontiac would have all the fast cars, Cheyy all the affordable cars, cadillac all the cushy cars. I guess thats why I dont make the big bucks.

    As far as Cadillac going downmarket, it would need to simultaneously go up market to the same degree. Think BMW 7 series vs. 3 series.

    On a purely personal note, I would get rid of the plague of letter-named models, and go back to DeVille, Seville, etc. It’s classier. Thats the point, right?

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    The first problem in Cadillac’s history is “GM poured billions in”; if GM was enlightened and efficient, it would have only had to pour in millions.

    In my preteen years, I saw my grandmother’s dead Cadillac eternally rotting in our driveway. Broken. Failed. Not worth fixing. What a statement on many levels.

    In my teen years, I saw the ghetto crowd and Hollywood turn Cadillac into their ‘ultimate pimp car.’ What a brand statement. There’s nothing like your halo product being latched onto by the lowest level of society (thanks to nuclear depreciation). What an un-ignorable, rolling, visual statement to family money squandered. Of WTF?

    The first Escalade on the GMT400 platform was a great idea, but the concept of a large luxury SUV was first strongly rejected by GM Clowns, until they saw Ford kicking their ass with the Navigator.

    The 2003 CTS’s styling utterly turned me off, and still does. Styling in the theme of “crack whore,” opposite of elegant, comes to mind.

    The 2004 XLR. I drove one once, it sucked. It fails the ‘would I have more fun driving a GTI test.’ 50% overpriced. It separates the stupid rich, from the really stupid, really rich.

    The Cadillac Sixteen? It’s the high water mark of Bob Lutz’s senility, his lack of magic, and his lack of leadership. With the right eyes, you can see the wave crest and roll back. A rare case of a GM car 10 years too early (to celebrate), instead of the usual ‘10 years to late,’ assuming the eternal GM Resurgence actually happened, you know, and not just on a GM Powerpoint presentation.

    The Cadillac V-Series are worthy machines, but God, they are bought by the crowd that doesn’t even rotate their tires, let alone corner at 0.90g. Leased! What a vote of confidence!

    In truth, the one year old DTS at $25k is my favorite Cadillac. I like it because it’s the last big car. It’s the only niche in the high-dollar market. GM will abandon it, of course. In its last year, of course. It will be at the top of the J.D. Power category, that year, of course. Per usual for GM, of course.

    Back to 2009. GM has no credentials to offer a luxury brand anymore. Their hybrids are a joke, and in the eyes of the public, they can’t even compete with the Civic/Corolla, Camry/Accord.

    American enthusiasts never rejoiced, they were very skeptical at best. “Cadillac,” means nothing positive to me.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The big problem with any domestic trying to sell in the $40k+ range is what I will call the “SUV hangover”.

    People have come to equate “luxury” with 6’6″ tall, 6000lb four-wheel drive vehicles with lighted, auto-retracting running boards, leather captain’s chairs and a gaping maw in the rear that can swallow up a fully-assembled gas grill purchased at Lowe’s.

    Any “sedan” is TOTALLY “down-market” compared to that, and it will be some time before anyone will pay a premium for a “less capable” vehicle.

  • avatar
    akear

    The STS is for those who think the CTS has gone overboard in the styling department.

  • avatar
    BDB

    “It’s not “you guys.” Each article here is the work of the person whose name is on it. RF regularly prints stuff with my name on it that he personally doesn’t agree with, and I don’t agree with everything everyone else writes here, either.”

    I apologize, my mistake.

    If GM does shrink down to just Chevrolet (and a hallowed out Cadillac, which will probably then die too) I don’t see them lasting even ten years after this happens.

  • avatar
    davey49

    “They sell to an aging customer base that demands significant discounts.”

    Do they demand “significant discounts” or a decent price? Maybe the car companies are asking too much?

    shaker- Exactly, for me anything less than a King Ranch F150 is “downmarket”

  • avatar
    shaker

    “for me anything less than a King Ranch F150 is “downmarket”

    Well there ya go. :-)

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    I think both Karesh and getacargetacheck have it right: Buick makes more sense than Cadillac at this point.

    While GM keeps pounding its chest about how important Cadillac is to its North American vehicle line, all current assumptions are off the table. The Feds have proven that over the last 6 weeks. If GM no longer has the resources or public acceptance to make Cadillac a full-line competitive luxury brand — and we all know it doesn’t — how is it any more than a frustrating and expensive diversion? BMW-Audi-Mercedes-Lexus intenders only look at one Cadillac, the CTS. Even that goes up in smoke in a Ch11 scenario. Then, let’s see, if CTS coupe and wagon fail, SRX is stillborn, Escalade dies off, and XLR, DTS, STS are all killed, plus no replacement for the Northstar engine can be developed, what is the point of Cadillac?

    Really, GM’s only hope is to go back to bread and butter. If Chevy and Buick were to be GM’s only US brands, isn’t that a much saner structure? Face it, Buick is the only US GM brand that can function globally. China’s been lovin’ Buicks ever since those big shots rolled down the Shanghai docks in their stylish 1937 Centurys.It means something to them.

    Buick’s brand image may be hoary but good product can change a lot. Here’s an opportunity to keep 2 sales channels with Buick getting the best mid-market GM stuff that doesn’t fit with Chevrolet. That could mean LaCrosse, Enclave and/or SRX, a rebadged CTS, and maybe Lucerne for the old folks and black car fleet buyers who still love the DTS. In this scenario, Chevrolet gets a minicar, Cruze, Malibu, Camaro, Corvette, Volt (heh, heh, heh) a rebadged G8 and the trucks. Look ma, no overlap!

    Will they do it? Nah, I don’t think so.

    The next question is whether GM can make money with 2,500- 3,000 U.S. dealers carrying just 2 1/2 brands and just 12-15% market share?

  • avatar
    Accords

    Hmmmm
    Mr Karesh…
    I have to whole-heartedly agree with you on so many levels.

    I never understood what I believe to be an odd situation.

    The DTS was front drive.
    The STS was rear drive.

    And they both offered a massive wallowing vehicle to sit in (sofa) as they ride down the road.

    Its amazing, Mr Karesh ya nail it on the head.
    Then there is the debate about the entry level Caddy, the BLS. I had heard that this car FAILED in EUROPE because there isnt any value in a Cheap American car.

    But I dont understand the point of the CTS now. This was THE entry car at 35. So is this moving up market, and getting larger? And why are sport versions of this car.. only done in the last gen front and rear clip?

    Caddy.. as I believe is confused.

    Ya got the CTS that brings in the-people-who-want-American-or-not-the-3-series.

    And ya got the Slade and its brethen.. for the thugs who really need… (holds back THOSE comments), or the soccer moms who think its cool to drive around in a overpriced by 25g TAHOE.

    And at this point..
    There isnt much at all that doesnt make them like Saturn or Buick. They have dervatives.

    Then again..
    Buick is even WORSE shape.

    There is no name recognition except for grandpa, and the designs.. arent polarizing. The names are made up and there isnt enough to hold up a fort. They are trying to go after Lexus, but with MUCH less. Worst part… Buick for China, could probably work here, if they spent a coupla bil on marketing.

    Cadillac Desending…
    This is how it starts.
    Ya get the monster of a boat, up against something immovable.. and slice the right side a good 300′ into the ship…

    And its all over.

    Face it, at this point.. it leads me to just wonder whats the point of half to three quarters of what they sell.

  • avatar
    Accords

    shaker:

    I think.. you sir have hit the nail, right on the head. SUVS.. are equated with luxury.

    Sedans and all else.. arent.

    I wonder if.. GMs bankruptcy will settle that notion.


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