By on July 10, 2009

General Motors has left bankruptcy behind. The MSM is greeting GM’s graduation with guarded not to say advertiser-sponsored optimism. Meanwhile, the populist backlash has begun. Yesterday, for the first time, I heard a “civilian” refer to GM as “Government Motors.” And then, another. Even if you discount the protest as right wing rhetoric (I was listening to Fox Talk), it’s clear that General Motors is becoming a lightning rod for anti-government sentiment. With tax hikes looming and the federal deficit ballooning, the public is starting to see the “new” General Motors as a symbol of federal impudence, intransigence and impotence. In fact, GM could be President Obama’s Iraq: the Gordian knot that strangles his political fortunes. To fully understand the futility of this financial folly, consider Cadillac.

Cadillac is supposed to be the ne plus ultra of automotive brands: the “standard of the world.” Since its pre-War heyday, Cadillac’s brand management has rivaled Neville Chamberlain’s foreign policy for craven expediency. Cadillac has been a deeply damaged division for decades. In 2007, TTAC’s Paul Niedermeyer charted Cadillac’s decline and fall in gory detail. Since then, the brand’s rep has retreated even further into its last redoubt: the consumer’s imagination.

“We all use the expression ‘the Cadillac of toasters’ or ‘the Cadillac of something else,'” deposed Car and Driver Editor Csaba Csere reassures the Detroit News. “It still means ‘the best of’ to a lot of people.” News flash: my thirty-something appliance guy calls KitchenAid the “Lexus of dishwashers,” without apparent irony. Cadillac’s brand expectations have been unrealized for so long that even the idea of Cadillac as the ultimate object of desire is rapidly disappearing.

This transition reflects reality. At best, Cadillac’s current cars are competitive (CTS, Escalade). At worst, they’re pathetic (STS, DTS, BLS). Somewhere in between, they’re inappropriate (SRX, EXT, forthcoming CTS SportsWagon and Converj plug-in hybrid). None of these Cadillac models are class-leading—never mind world-beating.

Cadillac’s mid-year sales stats tell the tale. At 33,043 units, they’re neck and neck with Acura (32,637), trailing Lexus (44,942) and getting crushed by Mercedes and BMW (65,160 and 75,443 respectively). Meanwhile, Audi’s in hot pursuit (28,347).

Equally disheartening for fans of the Cadillac brand, the automaker’s margins are nowhere near those of its competitors. Cadillac is discounting heavily to move the metal—sending exactly the wrong message about the brand’s inherent “value,” eroding Caddy’s cachet to ever-lower levels. Not to put too fine a point on it, they’re in a death spiral.

There’s only way for Cadillac to recapture faded glory. Cut the crap and build the best. The best no-holds-barred luxury cars. Stylish, no excuses vehicles, meticulously engineered, rock solid. And then they have to create a dealer network that kisses customers’ asses like none before.

Never. Gonna. Happen.

Even if we assume Cadillac’s rebirth could happen—that GM could find the courage to cull Caddy’s cancerous cars and trucks, that it could summon the creative and financial resources needed to be the best of the best—the U.S. government can’t let it happen. It’s the wrong image.

America is not as class-bound as, say, any other country on Earth. But using tax money to cater to high society’s personal transportation needs is about politically palatable as a tax cut for the top two percent of income earners. And that’s before we talk about the product-related demands of the Democratic party’s environmental oath of allegiance. Simply put, you don’t put “the people’s money” into a company that builds leather-lined luxury land yachts sold at ritzy palaces of automotive art.

So why not just let Caddy go? Surrender the top of the market to the Axis of Axles, retreat into the mass and mid-market (with some upscale Chevys badged Buicks) and call it good? Other than the inevitable Cadillac dealer backlash, there’s one main reason the company can’t eliminate Cadillac from their rancid roster: corporate psychology.

Old GM was once the standard of the world: the world’s largest car manufacturer and the planet’s most profitable company. Cadillac represents Old GM’s zenith, its ability to put the world to shame. Like the U.K., GM is not ready to face Empire’s end. Even if Cadillac’s become hopelessly tarnished, even if its crown has been stolen by foreign usurpers, you can’t sell the Crown Jewels! For GM, losing Caddy would be tantamount to admitting defeat.

Sadly, facing reality is the one thing that GM—Old or New—cannot do. All of which means that New GM is not about reinvention. It’s about revisionism. We made a few mistakes, got a bit big for our britches, got battered and bruised by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But we’re good. And soon we’ll be better, better than we ever were. Cadillac will rise again!

Cadillac’s survival, its planned model expansion and move down market, highlights the fact that GM still suffers from the worst kind of hubris: taxpayer-funded hubris.

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67 Comments on “General Motors Zombie Watch 11: Cadillac Must Die...”


  • avatar
    TexN

    The simple mantra for GM (or any other business for that matter) should be, “Will this decision make money for my company?”. This criteria should be used for each brand and then again for each automobile within that brand. I don’t see any way that Cadillac is viable using that criteria.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    At this point it is impossible to make Cadillac into an aspirational brand again. That history is dead and buried.

  • avatar
    mo V

    Wow, So many good points in here. I would have to agree that Cadillacs future is that of “American Luxury” (ala Lincoln) and no longer rooted in “Top of Class”.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Back when we used to argue about which brands to keep/cull at GM, I used to argue that GM needs to be just Chevrolet. They can’t keep 4 balls in the air, and have not been able to do so for generations.

    Theoretically it makes sense to have more than one brand – IF focus can be maintained. But focus can’t be maintained.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Not to nitpick, but wasn’t there already a “Cadillac must die” editorial as part of the GM Death Watch series? I digress.

    Considering that many are of the opinion that Cadillac and Chevrolet are the only two “good” brands GM has left, getting rid of half of that (while Buick continues to live and breathe) seems a bit short-sighted.

    The issue is whether the Cadillac brand CAN be restored to its former glory. At the end of the day if Caddy can make low volume/high profit ultra luxury cars that are once again “the standard of the world”, is anybody really going to care if only a few people can afford them or that it took tax dollars the get the ball rolling? Political correctness (or political mettling) aside, if (and I know this is a big ‘if’) GM can right its ship to the point of being able to repay the debt, I don’t know if the “how they did it” is going to matter much.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Of course it’s too late now, but maybe new GM should have been just Cadillac and GMC. Just think, how many people would pony up for an Aveo if it were renamed Calais. Cadillac no longer has the suds to compete in its own market, but there is certainly enough cachet there to cash in on the low end of the market. Cynical, I know, but the way Cadillac has been chasing volume over quality for the last 35 years, it would be the logical conclusion.

    And if Mulally’s guys have any brains at all, they will take advantage of this opportunity and build a REAL flagship Lincoln.

  • avatar
    DPerkins

    Well thought out and presented editorial.

    Dithering with Cadillac and Buick will drag Government Motors down when they should be focusing on Chevrolet.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    A while ago Acura was running an ad where they listed all their luxury competitors..BMW, Audi, Volvo (yeah), Mercedes… and no Cadillac. No Lincoln.

    Yeah, you might be able to fix them. Be a lot easier to start a new brand though.

  • avatar
    AKM

    America is not as class-bound as, say, any other country on Earth.

    Really?

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html

    The CIA disagrees with you on this one. The GINI coefficient is the best proxy for class divisions amongst countries, and the U.S. is about average, doing far worse than many European countries, in particular Scandinavia. And there is less inter-generational class mobility in the U.S. than in Europe as well.

    Beside that, agree re: Cadillac.

  • avatar

    In the near term they won’t have the funds to fix Cadillac. There’s no point in pursuing the very top of the market, but solid competitors for the 5 and 7 would be nice.

    Until GM is rolling in cash again (assuming this ever happens), the best we can hope for is that they don’t debase it as a result.

    jpcavanaugh’s suggestion nauseated me…

  • avatar
    don1967

    many are of the opinion that Cadillac and Chevrolet are the only two “good” brands GM has left

    I used to be one of the “many” who believed this, but Robert’s argument is compelling on all fronts.

    Is it possible that granting GM “two good brands” is really just an emotional concession after stripping away everything else? Maybe it is time to accept reality and just change the company’s name to Chevrolet.

    Think about it. The success of, and even the name, General Motors came from a consolidation of multiple car lines, at a time when there were too many of them. Sound familiar? Why cling to Cadillac now?

    It’s not like there are too many choices here.

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    GM is and will always be Obamas Iraq. It is nothing but an incredible waste of taxpayers money to “save” it and the UAW. As the B&B in this forum already knows, GM was an absolute failure for years before Obama the economic genius was voted in for hope and change by a 52.7% popular vote.

    So now does GM become the defacto gov’t producer of gov’t only fleet vehicles? Will it become the people’s car for gov’t workers? So yes, why should taxpayers be paying for a premiere brand of Cadillac for a socialist business model?

    Heck, isn’t the Toyota Camry recently declared the most American car now plus it is highly visible in that all-American thing called NASCAR.

    Yes, GM is indeed Obamas Iraq.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Great editorial.

    Cadillac was on a roll with GM’s plans to use the Zeta platform as the basis for a flagship, as well as the ‘sub-CTS’ 3 Series fighter. But now?

    I agree. If the ‘new’ GM is just going to go backward on those plans (from RWD to F/AWD and gunning for the Lexus ES350?…I thought that was Buick’s job?) it might be time to just lock up the shop and save your money and resources on making Chevy a better brand.

    I’ll say again…I see bad things in Cadillac’s future.

  • avatar
    don1967

    There’s no point in pursuing the very top of the market, but solid competitors for the 5 and 7 would be nice.

    Nice, yes. But conducive to survival?

    GM needs to be re-born as Chevrolet, and then follow the Hyundai model for building a brand. Start with 4 or 5 core models (ie: Cobalt, Malibu, CUV, truck), then slowly start (re)introducing sports cars and luxury cars as conditions permit.

    The world can live without Cadillac for a little while, whereas GM might not be able to live with it.

  • avatar
    fitisgo

    I agree, hibernation might be the best place for the Cadillac brand for the time being. Bump the Escalade over to GMC if it’s still making money, and heck why not throw the CTS over to Buick.

    But while it’s holed up in its den, transform it into an ultra-high-end skunkworks-like operation, like Bugatti is to Volkswagen – a place for advanced R&D and extremely limited-production cars. Use this to build up a buzz until GM gets back on its feet, then start mass-producing these things, but only a few models and keep the brand pure (no half-assed station wagons on stilts like the SRX).

    This is all a fantasy though, because as stated above, “Cadillac” doesn’t stand for much of anything anymore, aside from a certain nostalgic, Springsteen-esque feeling. I don’t know if this radical brand repair would even be effective in the face of this fact.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    Caddy, Chevy, Boo-yick, GiMiC….new f&#king GM indeed. It’s all one big-ass happy family nightmare.

    The best thing – the only thing – we taxpayers can do now is exercise our freedom of choice and simply NOT buy a GM vehicle. Not now, not ever, not even a used GM vehicle. Basically, f*@k ’em.

    In the end the truth of the market will out…last the largesse of Uncle Sugar. F&#k ’em indeed.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    GM will never EVER kill Cadillac. Period. Even in as much need of a redo as the brand is, GM looks at Caddy as the crown jewel. The history of the brand resonates within GM and GM’s people more than the decades of rebadged Oldsmobiles and failures like the Cimmaron and Catera. Cadillac will continue to limp along as a near luxury brand, or as the highest level of American luxury, but will likely only play a bit part on the world stage for the rest of its existence. Really Cadillac isn’t as bad off as Lincoln, and is far better off as a luxury brand than Chrysler. Of course I know that’s not good enough, but it’s probably the best we’re going to get.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    @ AKM

    Unless I am missing something, GINI measures distribution, not mobility. So Belarus and Belgium have almost identical GINIs. One would not expect a low GINI in a country where entrepreneurship is encouraged.

    And that’s why I like the Nobel M400.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Buying a new Cadillac is like eating roadkill cattle at a fine steakhouse. Nothing really wrong with the meal, it just feels wrong.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Good article.

    It won’t matter-this ship will sink again when political expediency pops holes in the tax funded support bags.

    Time for “GM death of a Zombie” watch?

    Bunter

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Luxury branding, at least until recently and with the credit crunch, had nothing to do with income and ability to afford a really nice car. Where I work, I see secretaries driving Lexus SUVs. Low down payment leases ruined the idea of exclusivity–the raison d etre of luxury cars–with the possible exception of the exotics. But for all the “common folk” I see driving Merc, Audi, BMW, and Lexus, I rarely see anyone driving a Cadillac. The brand just doesn’t have the popular cache. I’m not saying they don’t make worthwhile cars–it’s just that I’ve not owned one, nor do I know anyone who does. But, that’s the point, I guess.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Not buy from GM? That’s a poor strategy. If the issue is tax dollars, how is killing the only chance of recovering those dollars going to help anything? To me this is cynicism of the worst sort. Will the new GM ultimately fail? Probably. It will certainly fail if emotion trumps common sense. That’s true not only for GM, but for the taxpayers on both sides of the border who own most of the company.

    Regarding Cadillac, as I’ve said before, some of us really like American cars. It would be a poorer world without the choices they represent. And, as an STS owner, I strongly refute it’s characterizarion as “pathetic”. I have to wonder if we live in the same universe. The car has its faults and I am not blind to them. But tonight as I’m hustling down a country road with a big grin on my face because the car is just so damned much fun, I’ll banish all thought of this editorial and enjoy the moment.

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    GM almost had something with the Camaro, Corvette and CTS-V. Those really are very nice cars… it’s just that there is so much wasted on whatever else there is. Concentrate on quality, build the quality cars in small numbers.

    Other than that…

    Um.

    Have you driven a Ford lately?

  • avatar

    My seat-of-the-pants, second-morning-cup-of-coffee plan for Cadillac:

    1) PLEASE, for God’s sake, ditch the alphabet soup monikers… as a car guy, I couldn’t even begin tell you the difference between their current nameplates… they are utterly meaningless.

    A simple test: which is more evocative: Coupe de Ville, or CTS? Fleetwood, or SRX? Your grandmother would have a picture in her head of the former; only a car geek would even begin to know or care what the latter is.

    2) Ditch the trucks, ditch the CUV. A Cadillac should be long, low, RWD and above all, a CAR. Two doors or four. Enough said.

    3) GM should mine its own design history for the Cadillac marque and bring back the best of it in a modern package. They have a legacy that is no one else’s to claim, and there are scores of people who it would really speak to if it was brought into the present. I’m not arguing for the resurgence of tail fins, and we can’t make 500 cubic inch blunderbuss sleds anymore… but can’t we at least have some unapologetic Yankee style? Screw the bleeding edge aerodynamics, make it look cool, cool, cool. No one else is doing it right now… hit ’em where they ain’t

    American culture and design still means something, if not here, then in the rest of the world. Look at the success of the Buick brand in China for an example. Harley-Davidson for another. Look at how people’s eyes light up when they see a nice Cadillac from the 50’s or 60’s roll down the street.

    I took a ride in an early 60’s Cad the other day. A striking color-keyed aqua-blue interior. Lots of glass, easy to see out of. Airy, roomy, inviting. An unmistakable, head-turning presence on the road. Serene, quiet and cool as a cucumber.

    Now what do we have? Black plastic interiors, gun-slit windows, alien bug-eye headlamps, wanna-be racer pretensions. Hey, that’s all fine, but you can get that flavor in dozens of other rides, so why bother with a Cad?

    The current stable of Caddies are ghetto clown cars that will be evocative of nothing but the greed, malfeasance and trash bling culture of the last decade… no one will be nostalgic for any of that in ten years time, trust me.

    In closing: Cadillac either needs to claim its own history, or it should become history.

  • avatar
    tced2

    I have long maintained that GM needed to get back to “standard” (Chevrolet) and “deluxe” (Cadillac). The whole range of brands could not be managed and what public awareness that remained was poor. Focus like a spotlight on standard and deluxe.

    Cadillac needs a top sedan. It needs to be exclusive and include major components not shared with other GM models making the price worth the extra money. If they can’t support an exclusive top car then put Cadillac on hiatus.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    beater : 1) PLEASE, for God’s sake, ditch the alphabet soup monikers… as a car guy, I couldn’t even begin tell you the difference between their current nameplates… they are utterly meaningless.

    I totally agree. Once I get beyond A 1,2,3,4 or C, E, and S, I have no idea what is what. This, for me, ruined Acura brand recognition. I understood Legend and Vigor, but I have no idea how to distinguish their current models from their names. It’s just not very intuitive, or compelling.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    @TexN –

    The simple mantra for GM (or any other business for that matter) should be, “Will this decision make money for my company?”.

    This criteria should be used for each brand and then again for each automobile within that brand. I don’t see any way that Cadillac is viable using that criteria.

    IMHO, this approach is exactly what destroyed General Motors. Each brand looked to expand its sales without consideration for the other brands within the family.

    Cadillac pushed downmarket, squeezing Oldsmobile, and Buick, who responded by pushing both upwards towards Caddy and downwards to the cheapest Chevy’s. Chevy unable to go any farther down market pushed upward.

    In the short term each brand made more money because each offered more products. In the long run it’s a lot of what has killed the company.

    As others have pointed out, though, it’s not just them. I’m probably on my last BMW… there are just too many models now (just try to make a list), and the company has diluted its vital essence. Soon someone’s going to have a really good idea about saving money with parts interchangability, and cheap components. Oh, wait, it already happened with the failing wiring for the light assemblies…

  • avatar
    NeonCat93

    I was reminded of an ancient Mad magazine fake ad, “Cadillac – the Rolls-Royce of Automobiles”.

  • avatar
    Dangerous Dave

    The Cadillac brand could be revived by eliminating all their current models. Move the CTS to Buick with an appropriate Buick facelift, grill, ect. To beging the transformation bring out only two models. Start with that beautiful 16, of course powered by a reasonable V8, and call it the Fleetwood. Second would be a more conservitive, but stylish, large 4 door sedan called the Sedan Deville. Both cars built to be the “Standard of the World” and priced accordingly. No cash on the hood – ever!

  • avatar
    AKM

    @detroit-iron: you are indeed correct about GINI. Thank you for the precision.
    However, social mobility is still lower in the U.S. than in most western countries, according to a study by the London School of Economics:

    http://www2.lse.ac.uk/ERD/pressAndInformationOffice/newsAndEvents/archives/2005/LSE_SuttonTrust_report.aspx

  • avatar
    mtr2car1

    The Cadillac thing thru this process has been a head scratcher for me and I think goes to the root of GM’s problems – they just don’t have the talent to properly execute that brand anymore.

    They keep Chevy b/c its a product that they can execute (middle of the road, needs to be good but doesn’t need to blow people away) and its a pricepoint they can deliver, Buick and GMC is the same thing (kinda like advanced placement for the smart Chevy guys). Those are brands that fit into a hierarchy that they can execute.

    They’ve always wanted Cadillac (and SAAB and Saturn) to be THE BEST, but they just can’t pull it off – just like even at 6’3 I can lay it up but just can’t dunk!

    They did a good job with the CTS, but just don’t have the bullets to fully develop the line and should now be spending their time elsewhere.

  • avatar
    commando1

    It’s so simple:
    Chevrolet: Good cars.
    Buick: FWD and Better cars.
    Caddy: RWD and the Best cars.

    why do they find that so hard?

  • avatar
    twotone

    I’d love to own a Cadillac — 1933 V-12 dual cowl phaeton thank you very much. Nothing made after 1935, however.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Buick and GMC will die before Cadillac and Chevy. All Buicks could become Cadillacs, and all GMCs could become Chevys. Then they could cull the overlap and actually have distinction between the brands.

    Any Converj should be named Cimarron II. It’s the dumbest Cadillac product since the EXT pickup truck.

    But I will argue about one point: KitchenAid is no Lexus. We now buy $6 hand mixers because we’ve had such poor luck with alleged “Lexus” mixers. Come to think of it, my brief Honda Odyssey ownership experience went the same way.

  • avatar
    paulie

    RF…

    I don’t know what has gone wrong with my taste lately, but I earlier proclaimed I LIKED the newest Honda hatch while everyone else on TTAC disliked it.

    And I must now admit, I like the newest Caddy wagon.

    f course, I have also started hiking up my pants above my stomach and stripes seem to go well with my plaid pants.
    Hmmmm.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Cadillac stays, simply because it makes money, or at least loses less money than, say, Buick or Chevy (or Saturn or Hummer or Pontiac or Saab, although those are all gone already). GMC is probably as profitable (or loses no more money) than Cadillac, but that’s it.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    Absolutely disagree Bunkie. Taxpayers should never have been forced to foot this bill to begin with. And if you believe “we” will ever see a return on “our” investment”, why, I’ve got some Madoff futures you might wanna consider adding to your 401k.

    Better to let this taxpayer subsidized zombie bastard of a company die of its own dis-accord as soon as possible before more taxpayer $billions are utterly wasted. And send a resolute message that the federal government has no goddamned business keeping dying businesses afloat in order to pay off unions and other favored political interests.

    This whole thing is total stinking bullshit and everybody knows it. This isn’t emotion, it’s the bare ugly truth.

  • avatar
    Matt51

    It is too late to save Cadillac, it is too late to save GM. Pontiac G8 has been selling at the same rate as all of Cadillac. So they killed the one good car they had, and kept the crap (Cadillac).

    Cadillac = Studebaker 1964. RIP.

  • avatar
    Bank of China

    If all auto design and engineering were done in Uganda I think Cadillac could re-emerge as the “standard of excellence” and bad taste.
    Seriously and of course it will never happen….Cadillac is well regarded in China, along with Buick, Avon, McDonalds and every other bottom feeder brand from America. Could they be the third worlds standard of excellence? At least for a time.
    Could they bypass the competition they can never step up to and become an entry level luxury brand, there are certainly enough Chevy and Opel platforms to share.
    GM, Old GM, New GM, The New Improved Totally Meaningless GM will go down as as the Woolworths of the Industrial Age.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Why not to buy from GM?

    Because if you don’t like the govt. doing stuff like this, helping ensure its an expensive career killer for the politicos behind it will prevent future interventions, that’s why.

  • avatar
    King Bojack

    So….. a day or so out of Bankruptcy and we’re already sounding the death bells due to sales of shit that’s all happened pre-bankruptcy?

    Including canning Caddy? HA! That’s so rich. Where would TTAC be if the big 3 really did go away?

    Heh, cancelling a source of millions in revenues, sheesh, why didn’t they think of that? Just stop making everything! Can’t make a loss if you don’t make anything to start with right?

    The more correct course of action would most likely be to slug it out and improve the vehicles little by little to justify to the consumer the increased cost of sale. Canning Caddy would do little except hurt the company for essentially no benefit.

    Several parts of this editorial are also built on the pre-supposed idea that GM will be entirely Government run forever. This will likely turn out false.

    The editorial also compares Caddy sales figures to the import Lux crowd, then fails to take into account how most of them sell FAAAAAR more models and vehicle styles than Caddy. Basic marketing is that if you build something it will probably sell at least a little so selling 4 or 5 1,3,5,7 series, alongside z4s, 3 different SUV’s alongside M class models means BMW better outsell the shitt outta Caddy or they’re doing something VERY wrong. Caddy sells fewest models of all listed Luxury makes. Selling less in this case is not as bad as Mr. Farago makes it seem. IF they sold as much variety as Bimmer and still had those sales, yeah they’d be screwed. As of now they aren’t doing that badly.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    My mother grew up in a blue-collar Pennsylvania town in the 40’s. She remembers that when Great-Aunt Mary, who had married into some money, came to visit in her Cadillac, everyone’s head turned. That is the magic GM needs to recapture. I’m not saying it’s easy; even an S class Benz doesn’t turn heads anymore.

    I would suggest that Cadillac’s design team be locked in a room with a fully restored ’66 Fleetwood Brougham. And yes, I agree the whole point should NOT to make something that looks like every other car. Take that ’66 and do as little changing as possible to legalize the body and interior today. Absolutely every substitution of plastic for metal, fabric or leather must be justified. Drop in an engine unique to Cadillac. Yeah, that means actually taking the time to fix the oil consumption and other issues of the Northstar.

    The result will be expensive. It will not appeal to everyone. It will be a low production car. That’s the point. That’s how you re-establish the brand. Only after GM has gotten heads turning again should they start thinking gingerly about another model with slightly broader market appeal.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    Take that ‘66 and do as little changing as possible to legalize the body and interior today.

    No one wants a retro 66 Caddy. Ok, maybe few want a retro 66 Caddy…

    But I do agree that Cadillac (and Lincoln) should stop chasing the Europeans and simply be themselves. Be American, and be proud of it. That’s what made the Chrysler 300 so cool. It was an American creation, fully steeped in American tradition. Big, powerful, stylish. Forget that it looked a bit like a Bentley.

    When Caddy and Lincoln stayed true to their roots, the 66 you like so much, they were cool, and life was good. It’s when they chase the Euros, that it all falls apart.

    As far as the Northstar, I’ve had one and found it to be a great engine. It consumes (a little) oil because of the aggressive cross-hatching of the cylinder walls. The engineers did this to lubricate the rings. The result, is a little oil is always left at the top of the combustion chamber, and it gets burned. They didn’t have to do this, but decided to design it for reliability at higher RPM’s. That’s all.

    The sound of the engine at those higher RPM’s is quite nice.

  • avatar

    beater : 1) PLEASE, for God’s sake, ditch the alphabet soup monikers… as a car guy, I couldn’t even begin tell you the difference between their current nameplates… they are utterly meaningless.

    I totally agree. Once I get beyond A 1,2,3,4 or C, E, and S, I have no idea what is what. This, for me, ruined Acura brand recognition. I understood Legend and Vigor, but I have no idea how to distinguish their current models from their names. It’s just not very intuitive, or compelling.

    Thats the whole point, they’re supposed to be meaningless. To the point where you simply say, I drive an Acura. The theory then goes, a friend also drives and Acura, so does a woman in your office, a neighbor, a saleman, a factory worker, etc. So it appears that many people have Acura’s so I should buy one too.
    Otherwise, the old way goes, you have a legend, he a vigor, she a integra, him a coupe, her an enesex – so it appears nobody drives an Acura. So I guess I’ll buy a Lexus
    That decision like every other one made today in corporate earth are made by focus groups and costs millions. Because its the right decision.

  • avatar

    As far as the Northstar,… It consumes (a little) oil because of the aggressive cross-hatching of the cylinder walls. The engineers did this to lubricate the rings. The result, is a little oil is always left at the top of the combustion chamber, and it gets burned. They didn’t have to do this, but decided to design it for reliability at higher RPM’s. That’s all.

    So it must burn oil in order to be reliable. This is flawed logic. Lexus and mercedes as examples both had high revving engines that were reliable and had perfectly working rings that did (and still do) not burn oil.
    The Northstar was a technologically advanced engine when it came out for about 8 months. Five years ago it was a dinosaur.

  • avatar

    All of which means that New GM is not about reinvention. It’s about revisionism.

    And as long as it’s all about revisionism, GM, in all of it’s forms, will continue to set sail for FAIL.

    GM revisionism means shuffling a few Buick offerings in place of some Cadillac offerings with the appropriate rebadging in order to sop up the last of the gilded geriatrics, while continuing to push out CUV after bland and non-Caddylike CUV.

    Thats the whole point, they’re supposed to be meaningless. To the point where you simply say, I drive an Acura. The theory then goes, a friend also drives and Acura, so does a woman in your office, a neighbor, a saleman, a factory worker, etc. So it appears that many people have Acura’s so I should buy one too.
    Otherwise, the old way goes, you have a legend, he a vigor, she a integra, him a coupe, her an enesex – so it appears nobody drives an Acura. So I guess I’ll buy a Lexus

    I assume those who were looking for a Legend, Vigor or Integra and instead found a RL, TL and RSX decided to lease a BMW. Or an Infiniti. The G37 sedan and coupe are effectively the successors of the old Legend.

  • avatar
    Campisi

    The more correct course of action would most likely be to slug it out and improve the vehicles little by little to justify to the consumer the increased cost of sale. Canning Caddy would do little except hurt the company for essentially no benefit.

    Agreed. Hell, look at Hyundai, everyone’s favourite success story; they went from one repugnant vehicle to a line of decent or better cars in less than twenty years. Their current crop of cars serves as a far-superior starting point than Hyundai’s first offering in the American market as well, so to suggest that Cadillac has no chance and must die is ludicrous.

    From what I can see, Cadillac’s biggest problem at the moment is that so many continue insisting that it be a luxury car in the most “American” tradition. Modern design is at the point where a comfortable highway experience need not come packaged with acres of sheetmetal and U.S.S. Monitor handling. The German tradition of luxury car design has won out in the hearts and minds of most professionals and other luxury-car buyers around the world, and if Cadillac wants to be taken seriously as a competitive luxury marque then it needs to offer what their chosen target demographic has voted best with their wallets.

    If you want a stylish and comfortable luxury car that cares as little about track competence as you do, then GM will be happy to sell you one of its Buicks, before Lexus gets their hooks into you.

  • avatar
    vento97

    Even though the “New GM” has reorganized (and rid itself of some crushing liabilities in the process), it appears that they still haven’t shaken the habits of their old corporate culture.

    Until that happens, the “New GM” will turn into the “Old GM, Part Deux” in short order…

  • avatar
    skor

    Sorry, but reinventing Caddy is Mission Impossible. Caddy’s current vibe is geezers(cars) ganstas(trucks). Serious people under 60 won’t go near them. Ever. Without that demographic, they can’t survive.

  • avatar
    Bridge2far

    “Lexus and mercedes as examples both had high revving engines that were reliable and had perfectly working rings that did (and still do) not burn oil.
    Lexus has no oil consumption problems? Really…

  • avatar
    rudiger

    “There’s only way for Cadillac to recapture faded glory. Cut the crap and build the best.”At this late stage of the game, that’s just not possible and can be explained in one simple word:

    Cimarron

    For decades, GM was always able to make a healthy profit with Cadillac (and the rest of the up-market lines) by being able to cleverly disguise the (limited) commonality with the rest of the GM line-up, even if it was only using the same roof stamping on all car lines. It was a great business model which worked well and put GM on the top of the automotive world.

    Too well, as it turned out. GM executives (all from finance) figured out that the more components shared between brands, the more profits could realized. Ultimately, though, all the brands would suffer as the differences became less and less, and none suffered more than Cadillac. The marque was forever damaged beyond repair when the illusion was clearly and obviously broken by the Cimarron when it became all too clear that “Hey, a Cadillac is nothing more than a fancy Chevy!”.

    After the Cimarron debacle, there was no way GM was ever going to be able to regain that illusion, no matter how cleverly GM hid the shared components (which is at the very heart of the way GM makes their profits).

    Many people point to vehicles like the Corvair, Vega, Citation, Olds Diesel, Cadillac V8-6-4, and Aztek as being major players in the demise of GM. While they were certainly all ultimately colossal failures which cost the company dearly in the long term, none of them really did GM in like the Cimarron.

    Making a Cadillac by adding a leather interior and slapping a different grille onto what was obviously a Chevy Cavalier was the worst decision that could ever have been made by GM executives. It completely negated the idea of ‘moving up’ to a more expensive (and more profitable) GM product, the idea of which was at the core of the highly successful business model Alfred P. Sloan had originally envisioned for the company and led to unprecedented success.

    To this day, despite all the improvements and differences GM tries to inject into the Cadillac brand, the vast majority of consumers will look at a FWD Cadillac DTS and think, “I’m not spending thousands more for what is nothing but a fancier Chevy Impala…”.

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    AKM :

    However, social mobility is still lower in the U.S. than in most western countries, according to a study by the London School of Economics:

    http://www2.lse.ac.uk/ERD/pressAndInformationOffice/newsAndEvents/archives/2005/LSE_SuttonTrust_report.aspx

    Thank you for mentioning the above web site. I had assumptions in this area and now I find my assumptions were wrong.

    We in the U.S. need to do work on our education system to make sure everyone has more opportunities or find ways to encourage kids to get educated so they have opportunities for financial and social advancement.

    Just teaching kids enough economics that they know a 5 year car loan will probably keep them in a lower social class would be a big help:-)

  • avatar
    CamaroKid

    As far as the Northstar, I’ve had one and found it to be a great engine. It consumes (a little) oil because of the aggressive cross-hatching of the cylinder walls. The engineers did this to lubricate the rings. The result, is a little oil is always left at the top of the combustion chamber, and it gets burned. They didn’t have to do this, but decided to design it for reliability at higher RPM’s. That’s all.

    I have one too… I have to say this engine is a total embarrassment. It burns oil (LOTS) and what it doesn’t burn it LEAKS (LOTS)… But as Willy Mays would say.. But wait there is more!.. HEAD BOLTS!… OMFG… GM designed this engine using the same bolts as the Quad 4… and like the Quad 4 this engine is known for going about 80,000 miles and then blowing head gaskets… The issue is not the gaskets… its the bolts … They physically pull out of the block…

    Every NorthStar owner that I know keeps one eye on the coolant gauge for fear that it moves off of the “normal” hash… If it moves we all know we are in for a $5000 head gasket/timesert job.

    In MY 2000 (8 years after the introduction) GM attempted to fix the engine by using longer bolts… these engines are a little better, head gasket issues about 90% less but they still fail and these engines still burn oil and have half case leaks… In 2004 GM worked on the bolts again… This time using LS1 style bolts and TA-DA problem solved (12 years after the introduction)… But these engines still use oil and they still leak…

    I could add a cooling system that is a plumbers nightmare or the fact to do almost any maintenance on this engine requires that car be removed from the engine…

    IMO The NorthStar’s ONLY claim to fame is that it is better then the HT(High Tech) 4100… Of course a hamster in a wheel is better then a HT4100

  • avatar
    Accords

    mpresley
    beater

    I am truely amazed..

    People at TTAC cant figure out the simple nomenclature of a dozen different companies…

    I thought the best of the best.. was here.

    How hard is it to figure out…
    STS
    CTS
    SLS
    XLR
    XRS
    All come from Caddy.. I can go into specifics of each vehicle…

    How hard is it to figure out.
    SLR
    SL
    CL
    CLS
    SLK
    CLK
    GLK
    ML
    All come from Mercedes… And I can go into specific engine and tranny details not to mention price points for each.

    How hard is it to figure out
    RDX
    MDX
    RL
    CL
    TL
    TSX
    RSX
    All come from Acura…. I can go into more info.

    Trick question…
    G8
    G6
    G3
    G5
    All come from… where?
    Point for those who can name… the real names for each..

    IS
    SC
    ES
    LS
    GS
    LX
    RX
    GX
    Is made by whom..
    Can ya tell me which frame the vehicles are based on?

    How about
    X6
    M6
    1
    3
    5
    7
    X5
    X3
    X1
    M5
    M3
    All come from.. where?

    The whole point for certain automakers to do the alphabet soup.. is so that they will tell others they drive a MB or a BMW or an Audi. Few if anyone… EVER tells others the full name of the car they bought. Its often just the maker. Which is why Acura switched from names.. to alphanumerics in the 90s. To emphasize the BRAND, NOT the name of the car.

    But as Caddy is showing..
    They got to the b.s game late.. and cant build a decent brand for the cars for its fogeys to remember what the car actually is.

    Id also like to point out…

    Companies..
    Honda
    Toyota
    BMW
    MB
    Lex

    Spend hundreds of billions of dollars to get the name of the car out to people.

    Just ask Ford or Gm how many cars they’ve canned.. only to have a replacement right behind it.. and people still don’t know what they are buying.

    But walk into a Toyota or Honda store…
    And you will ALWAYS find a Accord, Civic, Corolla or Camry and you will be able to find one of each… going back almost 40yrs.

    That is brand recognition.
    An if ya cant remember / identify what automaker makes what cars.. by looking in ya rear view mirror, at night in the rain… then SOMETHING is truely wrong here.

  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    I took a ride in an early 60’s Cad the other day. A striking color-keyed aqua-blue interior. Lots of glass, easy to see out of. Airy, roomy, inviting. An unmistakable, head-turning presence on the road. Serene, quiet and cool as a cucumber.

    Now what do we have? Black plastic interiors, gun-slit windows, alien bug-eye headlamps, wanna-be racer pretensions. Hey, that’s all fine, but you can get that flavor in dozens of other rides, so why bother with a Cad?

    This is so true. More than anything, it’s the market test, New Coke mentality that has killed Cadillac. Make a modern interpretation of the classic Eldorado, Coupe DeVille, Sedan DeVille, something like that would at least be unique in the marketplace. Trying to out-German the Germans is a loser’s game.

  • avatar
    Accords

    I hate to say this…

    The whole retro theme… is old news.
    The VW Bug came out.. 10yrs ago and they STILL cant figure out what to do with it / how to update it.

    The PT Loser is coming on 10yrs old.. with very little difference in design. Least they could do is change the body or make the engine with more hp.

    The HHR.. is designed by the same guy as the Pt Loser, and thats not going to be redone either!

    Mustang… is a fluke. I think somehow.. Ford will keep it going. But Fiatsler / Chrapsler.. doesnt have the ability or the scratch to rework that fat ass aka Challenger. Its too damn big, too damn heavy.. and the interior just doesnt work. TOO DAMN CHEAP.

    Camaro.. is the same way. I dont think there is stayin power for either.

    As for redoing the Eldorado.. they tried with the XLR.. and that didnt work.

    The De Ville an Se Ville = DTS / STS.. just doesnt work. Theyve gotten so large and boring that there isnt much difference in the two. Apparently one was the front driver, the other was rear. The point for actually selling two VERY similiar cars.. side by side.. and having to choose.. is pointless.

    They wont redo either car in a retro design. = Retro is only for image cars — like that shit box Tahoe / Suburban for Caddy.

    As for out-German-ing the Germans…
    The battle has remained between MB and BMW.
    Both are eating away at pointless niche vehicles.

    And Audi is actually doing better than both
    As for outdoing them..

    Lexus hasnt taken off well outside of the U.S. Only Americans by Luxury and think they are hot shit.

    Its also possible to out do the germans by sticking with what ya know.

    Dont offer RWD or a V8.
    DOnt offer extremely high costs and high depreciation.

    Acura isnt great.. but a better solution.
    Infiniti may have them dead in their sights. And the G is a nicer smaller car in right size class than the 3.

    Also used to be if ya had a BMW ya were a big shit..
    Now its all leased.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Okay…then let’s can BOTH Cadillac and Buick (at least in the U.S.) monikers, merge the G8 into the fold and re-brand the entire line as LaSalle.

    Near-luxury MAY work for NewGM…true luxury, I’m not so sure.

  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    As for redoing the Eldorado.. they tried with the XLR.. and that didnt work.

    A Blinged Out, Northstar Engined Vette badged as a ‘Cadillac’ is hardly a reinterpretation of the classic Eldorado. If GM’s Product Development people thought it was, they should have been flogged on their way out of the building.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    “h82w8 :
    July 10th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Absolutely disagree Bunkie. Taxpayers should never have been forced to foot this bill to begin with. And if you believe “we” will ever see a return on “our” investment”, why, I’ve got some Madoff futures you might wanna consider adding to your 401k.”

    You made an illogical assumption that I supported the bailout. I did not. To re-state, all I said was that boycotting GM guarantees failure. Personally, I’d like to see us (the taxpayers) get that money back, no matter how slim the chance.

    Regarding Mr. Madoff, I work in financial services and that has taught me that there ain’t no such thing as a reliable 15% return.

  • avatar

    1) PLEASE, for God’s sake, ditch the alphabet soup monikers… as a car guy, I couldn’t even begin tell you the difference between their current nameplates… they are utterly meaningless.

    Absolutely! What kills me most is Lincoln, I can barely HEAR the difference between MKX and MKS let alone know what it’s supposed to mean.

    John

  • avatar
    akear

    Without the Ultra V8 engine Cadillac is one of the few luxury car makers without a world-class high-end engine. Things looked good when the first NorthStar engine came out. Now Cadillac is on the way down.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    @ MadHungarian :

    It wasn’t so much the styling that turned heads when your Mom’s aunt came to visit in a Caddy – it was the price level.

    At the time (you said the ’40s) people in working class neighborhoods may have only seen a Caddy once or twice a year. Maybe not that often. Certainly no one in the neighborhood owned one.

    Now the only neighborhoods where you won’t see several Caddies are those upper income enclaves where people drive Lexi and German hardware.

    Sloan had something with those separate price points.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Accords :
    July 11th, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    mpresley
    beater

    I am truely amazed..

    People at TTAC cant figure out the simple nomenclature of a dozen different companies…

    I thought the best of the best.. was here.

    How hard is it to figure out…

    A bit harder than you think. You used CL twice. There is no obvious reason that the XLR doesn’t come from the same people who do the SLR. They sound a lot alike. Even less reason to suppose that the SLK and SLS don’t come from the same manufacturer. After you see RL and TL, you’d naturally assume an ML came from the same outfit. Once you’ve seen a TSX or RSX why wouldn’t you imagine that an LX or RX or GX come from the same company? Does the RX and RL come from the same maker?

    The SC one would suppose, comes from Mercedes, since some of their car “names” start with the letter S. Then again, Merc has the GLK, so the GS must be theirs too, right?

    Oh, I see, Caddy uses three letters – but wait, so does Accura, and Merc. Sometimes Merc. uses 2 letters, but then, so does Lexus, Acura and Pontiac. Hmmm.

    It appears that the only company that’s got the alpha-numeric nonsense down pat is Pontiac. If it starts with a G, it’s a Pontiac (why not a P?)

  • avatar

    The people, and this really does amount to being mostly women and I am not apologizing for this pigeonholing, go into Mercedes, Audi, BMW & Lexus dealers asking for “The most expensive model”.
    Nope, they don’t know model numbers, they just want gloating rights.

  • avatar
    Accords

    I used “CL” twice.. because the first and second generation Acura coupes (the TL / Vigor / Legend with 2 doors) had that nomenclature.

    MB also used the “CL” Series as a S Class coupe. The CL as a Series = is still in production, whereas the Acura isnt.

    Albiet, the germans (BMW / MB) have the nomenclature down to a science..

    Whereas Acura is still trying to figure out what to do with the RL… even though the TL has been around (I believe) 3-coming-on-4 generations. Acura also had the RSX.. a kind of compact entry fast luxo coupe.. for those who wanted a Si from Acura. They also wanted a entry sedan, like the Integra which brought over the Accord from Japan and made it the TSX. That car was fine in its first gen with a turbo 2ltr (or so) motor, but since the car is now in its 2nd gen the car is larger, and has the same 3.5 motor in the TL. SO two cars, have the same motor and are virtually the same size.. with a few grand in price difference.

    There is no.. rationale thought to how alphanumerics are chosen in the auto business. You would have to look at each individual product line and follow their thought processes as to what gaps might be existing. (Their logic is few and far between, if there is.. I’ve been following it.. for ENTIRELY TOO long and so it makes COMPLETE and TOTAL sense). Then again, If I want to know what car “that” is.. I know its designation, its trim level, its engine type and size, its starting price.. AND… its demographic! I also know where its built, and what frame its on WITHOUT even mentioning the company who builds it.

    And if the MBs nomenclature followed a rationale,… then Mercedes Benz / Daimler Benz would have been spelled out by now (as I actually thought they were aiming for.)

    As for as Lexus’s LX, RX and GX.. they could be thought of as trim levels. Many cars have a LX trim.. maybe not RX or GX, but its not far from happening or unplausible.

    As for as MB…

    C is the entry..

    E is the mid

    And S is the top…

    SO the SL would be their top car as a coupe / convertible with a FOLDING hard or soft top. But this gets murky with the addition SLK as their entry coupe, against the CLK as their mid priced coupe on the E Frame.

    The SLS / STS and DTS moniker’s actually came from shortening Sedan DeVille and or Sedan SeVille. SLS is the Chinese / US Limo / stretched version. Same concept in sizes as MB or BMW in 3/5/7 or C / E / S.

    And..
    Never… absolutely EVER have I thought there is rational reasoning in how names are worked / worded. But within every auto company, there IS rationale.

    Example..
    C is the entry

    E is the mid

    And S is the top.. for MB sedans…

    The Galdenwagen is their top SUV coming from a 2dr L.R background.

    The ML is their midsized soccermobile dating back to 97 as the first Luxo SUV.

    And the now the GLK is their entry… that actually voids the G v M nomenclature. But it DOES fold into the SLK nomenclature of being the largest most vehicle.. but somewhat shrunken, (following the S and G letters in their respective classes.)

    Even how they introduce the cars to market.. makes no sense.. but probably perfect business sense.

    Introduce the largest most OBESE top heavy POS SUV or Sedan… then intro the smaller ones.

    Example..
    For Audi, Q7 first.. then the Q5, Q3 and Q1, just like BMW did with the X5 then the X3, followed by a larger 7 pass X5, and the X1.

    It all makes perfect sense.. if you dont use rationale.







    JK43123:
    I’ve got the answer for you..
    Lincoln is EXTREMELY LATE to the nomenclature “game”. They literally pulled this one right out of their asses..

    MK is supposed to mean MARK. As in the Mark V, VI, Mark VII and so on…

    They wanted to continue the nomenclature from their bleeding, airbag, air-ride coupe from 5-10yrs ago as how their cars are called.

    MarK / M–K / MK X means SUV / CUV.
    MarK / M–K / MK S means Sedan and their TOP level / PRICED sedan.
    MarK / M–K / MK Z aka Zephr aka in (Ford Fusion guise) also means sedan.. but their ENTRY sedan..

    Lincoln also still sells / sells.. (I think) a Truck (F-150 in its most popular trim) decked out in all of its plastichrome plated goodness.

    The vehicle is known as the LT or MarK / M–K / MK LT, for Light Truck.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Albiet, the germans (BMW / MB) have the nomenclature down to a science..

    LOL.

    The only way any of it makes sense is to memorize a manufacturers nomenclature. It may be true that one has to memorize model names too, but it’s easier to remember them.

    I have to go to work, and don’t have time to get into the business sense of doing the alpha-numerics, but it’s not as good a practice as might be supposed. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming everything large corporations do is smart.

  • avatar
    akear

    Lets be honest just about every European luxury carmaker has more prestige now than Cadillac. You could make an argument that even second tier luxury carmakers like Aura have as much prestige as Cadillac. What is a shame is that GM is delusional and believes they are a premiere world luxury brand. Now watch them forget their roots, which is to produce American luxury cars, and produce vehicle that nobody will buy. One of the corrupting influences here is Lutz. He will probably improve the cars slightly; while at the same time disseminating sales.

    The DTS was actually the last Cadillac that sold in any respectable numbers. At one time the Deville/DTS was the best selling luxury car in the country.

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