By on January 9, 2015

1280px-Cadillac_BLS_front

In the annals of Cadillac’s history, there is one vehicle that stands above them all as the biggest flop of all time. And it’s not the Cimarron.

The Cadillac BLS was based off of the GM Epsilon platform. Essentially a restyled Saab 9-3, the BLS was built in Sweden and never exported to America. Its sole intention was to give Cadillac a product optimized for the European market. Production averaged around 3,000 units annually, and sales were marginal at best.

But, there was a wagon.

Cadillac_BLS_Wagon_D_front

 

N.B.: Title changed. I was made aware of the original song – I got the original from reference from a Kanye West song. No malice intended.

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108 Comments on “Cadillac’s Strangest Since The Cimarron...”


  • avatar
    bunkie

    Here we go again…

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Yeah, let’s bring Cadillac’s bastard child into the mix

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      Has anyone ever seen Deadweight and TTAC together in the same place at the same time?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Here goes nothing; the sedan above looks fantastic from an exterior design standpoint, IMO, if this was designed to broaden Cadillac’s appeal in Europe or other global markets.

      In fact, being a sucker for more conservatively styled SEDANS, I think the sedan above looks better because it looks more mature and less odd than the angular, wedgy, pointy, crease-laden ATS & CTS (with hideous headlight assemblies).

      I am not speaking to the driving merits of the BLS, only the exterior styling of the BLS.

      The counterpoint to this vehicle, from an exterior aesthetic viewpoint, if one believes Cadillac should be unabashedly American, bold, bad a$$, powerful AND elegant (i.e. long, sexy legs), as I do, would be the CT6 ONLY IF it closely resembles the Elmiraj concept (which, unfortunately, it likely won’t, whether in sedan or coupe form) – WITH A REFINED YET SNARLING ON COMMAND V8.

      Notice that I didn’t say that the CT6 should mirror the Elmiraj concept, but it should borrow heavily from its design cues.

      The whole edgy/wedgy Art & Science theme on the ATS & CTS isn’t aging well. A heavy influence by the Elmiraj styling elements would go a long way towards fixing this important aspect of Cadillac’s current suckage, IMO.

      But again, it won’t happen…because GM.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        You don’t mess with the Zohan’s styling..

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        With the aforementioned V8, a well sorted, stiff chassis, compliant ride, good build quality & reliability, something CLOSE to this would sell the way Cadillac can only now dream of:

        http://www.automobilemag.com/features/news/1409-cadillac-ct6-is-brands-all-new-flagship/photo_10.html

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          That sounds really hard, much easier to half ass it, run commercials, and seek likes on Facebook.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            The paint color, quality & application on that Elmiraj makes a any Benz dull in comparison, not to mention the impeccable, restrained & perfectly implemented use of chrome accent.

            The exterior design as a whole exceeds that of the 2002 Continental concept because its both masculine yet much more elegant, simultaneously.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Great! This seems like a Daily Crapwagon or whatever. Or perhaps a No Fixed Abode.

  • avatar
    hiptech

    “Its sole intention was to give Cadillac a product optimized for the European market. Production averaged around 3,000 units annually, and sales were marginal at best.”

    Bet they never saw that coming… great design too BTW :(

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’d love me a Cadillac BLT.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Hopefully the instrument gauge was worthy or DW will complain.

    In all seriousness JdeN may well work out as he has had experience with a decent luxury auto brand. I agree with DW about Melody, but all companies, even well run ones have wastes of space who somehow manage to survive (and thrive)

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      Agree — look at Ford’s recent management changes.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Not a fan of MkFields?

        • 0 avatar
          bomberpete

          I want to be, but sending Farley to run Europe and bringing LaNeve back to Detroit to run sales doesn’t fill me w/confidence.

          I’ve got a hinky feeling the F-150 launch won’t be smooth, Lincoln’s still a disaster, and there’s no question the Fiesta, C-Max and soon the Focus are dead in the water.

          I fully admit I could be 100% wrong, but I get this “let’s bring back the good ole’ boys” vibe and “Mullets for Everyone!” from him.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “let’s bring back the good ole’ boys”

            If that includes Broncos and Rangers, I’m good with that

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The F150 launch should be smooth based on the people, that I know, who were working on it. The guys they usually send to fix problems elsewhere were running the show on the F150. They’ve all moved on to other projects now (SuperDuty and aluminium Expedition/Navi mostly), so everything could still fall apart I guess.

            The Fiesta is dead in the water. The C-Max is dead because it had bad press, gas prices are low, and it’s a weird car (even if I think it’s the best vehicle they have on the Global C platform). There will be a dedicated hybrid to replace it though. The Focus still sells over 200K units in the US, and the refresh fixes some of the issues. I still think they need to speed up development of a new one.

            Lincoln is still a disaster, but at least they have some product now. If you went into a dealership last year, it was the new MKZ and a bunch of stuff from 2009. It was straight degressing.

            Ford’s saving grace is that people continue to buy CUVs over cars, and once new Edge is out, all of their CUVs will be better than the cars they are based on.

            My biggest hope for MkFields is that he greenlights a Mustang based Lincoln. Since he didn’t want to kill Lincoln, and ran PAG while Lincoln had more competitive cars, maybe there’s a chance….

          • 0 avatar
            baconator

            This month’s Car And Driver has a comparo of the new F-150 vs. new Silverado and updated Ram. The Ford finishes first, but it’s weight and fuel economy are, surprisingly, essentially the same as the Silverado with a 5.3 V-8.

            Aluminum construction and EcoBoost are both more complex that the Chevy’s tech, so I’d assume there’s more profit in the Chevy at any given spec level, and therefore more room for Chevy to offer incentives. It will be an interesting sales duel for this model cycle, especially with Ram providing a more compelling alternative than they have since the mid-90s.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Corporate politics allow many incompetent or otherwise people to not only have jobs, but thrive. in CT Mel-o-dy’s case I would guess the reasons she is still employed would be: (1) natively speaking Mandarin, (2) EEO quotas in this country, and possibly (3) never hurts to be physically alluring in a male dominated industry and also to act as a press object. You have no idea how attractive native Mandarin speakers are right now from a hiring perspective. The woman’s title is apparently: “director of brand and reputation strategy for Cadillac” which is a completely made up requisition *I guarantee*. If they hired her for her skills she’s be a director or VP of marketing or something to that effect. Her title suggests she is to meant be a pretty girl who manages Facebook likes and also *who can also be sent to GM’s huge operations in China and speak for Detroit*. Bingo in my mind.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Exactly her role is made up and she just does as asked. But she does come across as pretty vapid.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Personally in the role of hiring manager I would seek out a native Mandarin speaker -with looks- who was actually educated as opposed to a cast member in Clueless. Plenty of west coast schools churn them out. Mel-o-dy may just have been from the right family in Chinese politics or banged the right people.

      • 0 avatar
        supermassive

        28

        You define a whole demograph by the actions of a few – whether Muslim, Mandarin, female or just not you.

        First you are misinformed:
        http://www.loonwatch.com/2011/12/gil-ronens-fabricated-statistics-about-oslo-rapists-being-all-muslim/

        Secondly, though I may agree that Ms Melody is the antithesis of a car enthusiast and a drone of a businessperson with her buzzwords, you’ve no right to slag her success based on her speaking Mandarin, being a minority or being a woman.

        Your posts smack of a middle aged man facing his hollow, unaccomplished life as you fade out – you are a hater.

        And you bring down the greatest movie of all time.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I like the looks of that wagon; if I was in the market for a luxury wagon at the time (and if it was sold here), I certainly would not have crossed it off my list based on the design.

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      Yes, and a brown diesel stick shift one. You and 500 other people would love it. I can see the business case for it.

    • 0 avatar
      ZT

      You had your opportunity to buy it, as the SAAB 9-3 Sportcombi. Pretty decent cars and available in AWD, a turbo V6, and a 6-speed manual transmission (an enthusiast’s dream in that format and if only it came with a diesel!)

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Anyone see the Top Gear where they review this then do a live radio traffic report?

  • avatar
    John R

    I think I saw an episode of Top Gear where they thoroughly lambasted this thing.

  • avatar

    This would’ve sold here as a $29,995 Early Bird Special.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Yes Top Gear could not explain why anyone would buy one in the UK. They were in a sedan.

    However the wagon seems interesting. How would the interior compare to the Saab?

    What was the build quality like?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The build quality and interior were from Saab, as that’s where it was made, and what it was underneath.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        It was actually very different from the 9-3 interior, related more closely to the first Epsilon Malibu (2004-2007), but with a lot more chrome and soft-touch plastic.

        Outs!de, though, the thing was practically a 9-3 clone.

        • 0 avatar
          linard76

          Dal,

          Perhaps the center stack was influenced by the Malibu but the interior is definitely full of 9-3 DNA especially the switchgear, door panels, instruments, and on and on.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So could you do a Areo or Linear conversion to the wagon?

    It is appropriate somehow that the biggest flop in Caddy’s history is a small footnote in the SAAB story.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Calling this the “biggest flop” is a bit of a stretch. First, it’s a barely badge-engineered 9-3. Second, it was an attempt to establish a brand in a market where they had just about zero presence.

    One could argue that my own CTS Wagon was a bigger flop. With a price higher than an SRX, it proved the point that wagons, much as I love them, are, at best, a narrow market niche. I make my case because the cost of its development almost certainly dwarfed that of the BLS.

    On a personal note, that very same niche means that those who want one, really want one which has resulted in a pretty high resale value. I was pleasantly surprised how much value mine retained.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      It will be tough to beat the ELR for biggest Cadillac flop. The ELR would love to sell 3000 units total, let alone annually.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I could think of a few bigger flops, all within the past 30 years:
      V8-6-4
      Late 1970s Diesel Cadillacs
      Cimarron
      Allante
      Catera
      ELR

      The BLS is just a small footnote about how much GM was trying to screw Saab. They wasted tons on this mongrel while denying Saab of development funds which would surely have resulted in more sales.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Where does the XLR fit in

        Too lazy to look up the sales but it flopped during a high side of our bubble economy.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        You’re forgetting one of the biggest flops (or disasters) in modern automotive history: HT4100. The 368 or “V8-6-4” could be made to run when the cylinder deactivation components were simply removed.

      • 0 avatar

        I wonder how the SRX based SAAB SUV would have done.

        I was called to a clinic (on a list of recent 3 series buyers, apparently) and they cliniced a SAAB SUV, which came out about a year later as the SRX. Im not sure if they really were intending to sell it as a SAAB or if they just wanted opinion on the interior and exterior with SAAB as a distractor. I recall saying it looks too “arts and sciences” to be saab, and would make a good caddy….

        SAAB, in the end, died of the well known Detroit “not invented here” syndrome. Other victims were the GM Opels, Ford Mondeo based cars, and the Holden Pontiacs….

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          @speedlaw

          You do realize there WAS a Saab platform mate to the SRX, yes? They sold very few before Saab was killed, but some are out there driving around today. It’s the 9-4x. They sold 457.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            My understanding from Saab circles is that this vehicle was designed as a Saab first, then it was decided to make the replacement SRX out of it too.

            Having had the Cadillac version as a rental, I can only hope that they let Saab do the inside of the Saab version. And the suspension tuning.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Guys, you misunderstand me:

      “my own CTS Wagon was a bigger flop.” Bigger. Not Biggest. I mentioned it because even good ideas that are reasonably well executed can fail in the marketplace.

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      I tried to buy one of those on a couple different occasions and was stymied by the dealers – no inventory, no willingness to special order, no deal. As far as I’m concerned, the CTS wagon only proved that the Cadillac dealer base is completely clueless about what the BMW / Mercedes (or for that matter Volvo / Acura) buying demographic might want. It also proved that Cadillac’s marketing team is remarkably bad at generating awareness of a genuinely differentiated product.

      Meanwhile, BMW dealers are fighting each other for allocation of 3-series hatchbacks. Because it’s not a “hatchback,” it’s a “Gran Coupe.” And an X1 isn’t a “wagon,” it’s an “SAV.” There’s what luxury buyers (in the U.S.A.) really want (usually highly utilitarian and boring), and how they want to be perceived (sporty and exciting and active and urban), and if you can give them both at the same time, you will sell a bunch of cars with a big MSRP.

  • avatar
    Marcus36

    This model was also sold in Mexico….well I saw them at a dealership, if they actually sold any or not that is a different story.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Last gen Ford Fusion?

  • avatar
    Fred

    The sad story is that GM couldn’t think of what to do with SAAB, except build a Cadillac.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I love the style of this thing, but man that wagon picture is either disproportional or that front end cap is 30% too big….

  • avatar
    david42

    “Strange fruit”? Derek, please consider changing the title of this post. I’m assuming you didn’t do it on purpose, so just check google.

  • avatar
    stroker49

    I´m from Sweden and I had one of these BLS as a rental car a couple of days when my STS-05 was in the workshop. It is a 9-3, but with slightly nicer interior. But is it NOT a luxury car and not as solid as a Mercedes or BMW not even as an Audi. This was the usual fu**up from GM, who did they thought would buy this car here? Normal people would not touch an American car with a long stick here in Europe. And people like me would not like to be seen in a fake Cadillac in daylight. It would have been better to try to sell it as an entry level Cadillac in north America, better but not a good idea!

    Ps Wagons are not niche cars here, at all. But pickup trucks are ds

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      I’m curious, how does the average Swedish “car enthusiast” view US automobiles?

      • 0 avatar
        pkov

        Yes, my question, too.

        What explains “Normal people would not touch an American car with a long stick here in Europe”?

        Is that purely because American cars don’t meet European circumstances and costs or are there some cultural issues involved?

        • 0 avatar
          stroker49

          American car has a reputation to be thirsty, big, too soft. People still think that American cars are like they used to be in the 1950-1980 with the quality of the malaise area during the eighties. Cars are more expensive here in Europe and gas is 8 usd/gl. American cars are not cheaper than European cars and most people are not willing to pay more for a Cadillac than a similar Mercedes or BMW. American cars cost the same if not more to service and repair. In the real world American cars are not that bad and not that thirsty. But American cars are designed to fool the American driving cycle and do very poor when tested against the European driving cycle. So people still believe that they are gas guzzlers. I have to pay 200 usd more in annual tax on my car because of this despite the fact that it is not thirstier than a similar European or Japanese car in the real world. There are not many American cars to buy here. GM are selling Opel/Vauxhall and Ford is Selling Ford made in Europe. Chrysler is selling small quantities and they are often assembled here in Europe. I like America and know that American cars are not THAT bad. I have two Harley Davidson and a 2005 Cadillac STS(five where sold that year in Sweden). When I bought my car it had 24 000 miles on the clock and had lost 40 000 usd in value. So I’m happy to pick up a great car for a low price. But when I had to pay 3000 USd for a head light assembly, even I was almost giving up!

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Type “raggare” into Google. There is an odd subculture in Scandinavia surrounding older American cars, which appeals most strongly to the Nordic equivalent of rednecks. But I doubt that translates into much interest in the newer vehicles.

        http://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/cc-global-american-classics-of-sweden/

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I saw a review of this years ago on Top Gear and they ripped it to shreds.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Huh, no kidding, never heard about it; just skipped the U.S. entirely. (BLS – Bypassed Load o’$hit?)

  • avatar
    blueflame6

    Cadillac’s car killed by a racist lynch mob? Seriously? This headline makes no sense.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Well, as the BLS was based on the Epsilon platform, even if it shares most of the outer sheetmetal with the Saab,on the inside it is still an Opel/Vauxhall Vectra, which was the direct descendant of the Ascona/Cavalier, so this IS a Cimmaron ‘MK3’ technically, ergo it wasn’t a worse flop then the Cimmaron, just a continuation of it…
    As for GM’s uselessness, if they have to make a Cadillac for the European market, the Saab 9-3’s slow sales could have been a hint in the first place, but they could at least have based it on the stretched 9-5, which would have given it at least some luxury car aspirations.

  • avatar
    albert

    Well, the car itself was mot too bad.
    The biggest point however in this case was that GM managed to write the development cost off at SAAB’s expense instead of Cadillac’s.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The strangest is ELR, the answer to the question no customer asked them. The BLS sold at least 6029 units per Wikipedia (2008-09 figures are not cited) how many ELRs have been sold?

    Bring this over here now and would it fair better or worse than ATS?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadillac_BLS

  • avatar
    rmigoya

    “Essentially a restyled Saab 9-3, the BLS was built in Sweden and never exported to America.”

    You’re wrong, it was exported to Mexico.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      /facepalm

      Geography fail

      • 0 avatar
        Secret Hi5

        “Geography fail” – not necessarily. “America” is a vague term. What are the standard journalistic conventions for referring to the USA?

        • 0 avatar
          DevilsRotary86

          Technically? America could refer to the whole of the American continent North and South. Linguistically? America generally refers to the USA in the English speaking world. Although as PCH101 points out in the later linking article, Latin Americans can get a little touchy on this. This time, he’s not wrong; I can not say with great certainty but rmigoya may inded be from Mexico/Central America/South America.

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        As my Latin American neighbors would quickly point out, Mexico IS part of North America.

        Of course, this isn’t really the point of the article and it doesn’t change the fact that it was primarily intended for a Continental European audience.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        As I noted in another thread, Latin Americans can get a bit snippy when “America” is used to refer to the USA.

      • 0 avatar
        vagvoba

        Most Europeans also refer to the continent when they talk about America.

        • 0 avatar

          “Most Europeans also refer to the continent when they talk about America”

          It is a BS. Did you just invented it? America usually means USA in Europe too as eslewhere. You can refer to South America or Canada if you do not mean USA. Like in “American troops”, “American invasion”, “American car”, “American band” and so on.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    Tony’s right:

  • avatar

    American cars are generally viewed with disdain. I think the detail design is a problem along with material choices. I saw a recent Cadillac in Copenhagen in December and the Opel Insignia parked by it looked much more expensively painted and refined in its detailing. US brands attract older men in ostentatious footwear. I personally like some US cars such as Buick but I could not deal with the thirsty engines available. My shoes are very plain.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      The BLS was far from an American car. An American nameplate does not an American car make.

      The Buick Verano (I bet I spelled it wrong lol), Regal and Encore dont have “thirsty engines”, they get reasonably good mileage. But, if youre holding out for a non-turbo diesel 3 cyl Buick hatchback that gets 70 mpg, dont hold your breath.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        By European standards those cars do have thirsty engines. $8+/gal fuel will redefine what you think of as “thirsty”.

      • 0 avatar

        The BLS had an American badge and was marketed as an American car. It doesn’t matter a lot that it seems to have been mostly Saab beneath.
        The three Buicks you named are derived from Opel platforms so they are European in character with tuning for the US. As Opels they come with smaller base engines than as Buicks; as Buicks they have superior refinement when it comes to NVH and ride (so I’ve read anyway, please don’t tear off my face if I’ve got that wrong).

  • avatar

    “American cars are generally viewed with disdain. ”

    Are you talking about American people, Europeans or American Congress? I know that BRICs and American president like American cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m Irish, I live in Denmark. It might have helped if I’d said that. I am reporting what others believe: the objective fact is that most Europeans who are interested in cars don’t rate American cars for use in Europe. They may or may not be correct to hold that view but that is their belief. Why do they tend to believe this? Because in general US-made cars tend to have poorer material choice, assembly standards than do equivalent EU-made cars. US cars tend to have larger engines and higher fuel consumption (at least when it comes to cars designed for the US that are later marketed in the EU.
      My personal position is that if I lived in the US I’d drive one of several possible vehicles from Ford or GM, and apart from the Verano or Regal, I don’t mean global cars like the Focus. I would go for something designed for US conditions. I’d never get a European brand.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I spent the summer in Denmark when I was 17. I went there with my best friend and his family. They brought over their 1969 Chevy Malibu SS396 to use while we were there. People noticed and acted quite excited, even took pictures where ever we drove, perhaps they were being polite

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        I work for a Danish company and when they come for assignment here in the USA they usually pick American V8 muscle cars. The Dodge Charger is popular. A few have gotten bigger BMW which they can’t afford in Denmark. Maybe it has more to do with the individual than that they are European.

  • avatar
    Liger

    Derek, you would be the biggest flop of this website. I bet this comment doesn’t make it through the moderator. I know my comment isn’t nice, but its the truth.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Cadillac’s an enigma – a mystery to europeans. A representation of american excess. Like wise to GM executives trying to market it for there. New world meets old. It gets lost in translation.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Sir it has become an enigma to we US citizens as well.

      • 0 avatar
        mechaman

        It ought not to be … I thought GM was on the right track with the Cad (and other models), maybe I was wrong? I thought the only reason GM wound up with Saab is because Saab was in trouble? Really, who needs a Saab now? I’m not being mean .. it’s just that their uniqueness isn’t enough, IMO, to keep them in the marketplace.

  • avatar

    The best thing for GM to do is finally realize that in Europe, Cadillac is, at best, a niche curiosity that might be imported in the single digits by avid admirers of American sedans in their most stereotypical state (huge sedans with huge V8 engines and loads of decidedly non-European style and presence). Sort of how Europeans probably see the Charger/300 duo.

    Therefore, no more overt focus on marketing Cadillac overseas. Instead, make the luxury marque a purely American phenomenon that the rest of the world might be lucky to get as an expensive single import. That involves moving Cadillac away from fighting BMW and Audi with 3/5-series and A4/A6 clones and more towards distinctive offerings that actually offer something different from the norm.

    If GM still wants to market overseas luxury, it should go with Buick. It lacks Cadillac’s baggage, offers conservative styling that can be modestly tailored to European tastes and it already carries the scent of success in an important overseas market (China). An Opel-Vauxhall/Buick pairing in Europe makes much more sense than marketing Cadillac and Chevy by their lonesomes.

    There’s no shame in keeping Cadillac in the U.S. and making it as ostentatiously American as possible. At least consumers will respect it then, even if it means GM giving up dreams of Cadillac as a volume luxury seller.

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