By on October 15, 2021

Sometimes car companies get a bit carried away with a new idea that, for a myriad of reasons, doesn’t translate so well in its execution. Toyota (and other Japanese companies) did exactly this when they invested in the very unsuccessful line of WiLL cars and other consumer products in the early 2000s.

Today we look at a 1980s domestic example of an idea that fell flat. It was the time Cadillac thought applying lipstick to a Cavalier-shaped pig would make the BMW and Mercedes-Benz 190E customer come a’callin.  It’s time for Cimarron, a J-body joint.

Cadillac, America’s Standard of the World brand, typically sold enormous and expensive cars that were at one point built to a high quality standard. And that was well and good. But by the early Seventies, two major points became clear to General Motors: Cadillac’s quality image was fading, and there was indeed a market for a slightly smaller luxury car. Smaller as in mid-size.

Thus, in 1976 GM took a risk and fancied up the rear-drive and mid-size X-body from the Nova into the much different (not really) K-body Seville. Sold as “internationally-sized,” whatever the hell that meant, the Seville was svelte, lighter than a normal Cadillac. And it was a sales success. But it didn’t change the North American Euro-luxury leaning buyer’s blue-haired image of Cadillac. “We must do more, aim lower,” said someone at Cadillac.

And aim lower they did, as in 1980 the brass at GM signed off on the smallest Cadillac ever, a compact to be based on the new J-body platform currently in development. This new car was a result of some marketing research on Cadillac buyers. The results informed GM’s management that Cadillac customers were not moving from European brands over to Seville because it was incredibly desirable. Rather, it showed Seville customers were typically loyal domestic brand buyers who wanted a smaller sedan. The “European matching” with Seville hadn’t worked.

In response, this all-new Cadillac offering would compete more directly with the compact (and premium) European sports sedans offered by Germany, in particular the 3-Series and Mercedes 190E. Smaller, more upscale, more front-drive – just like a BMW, huh? Dealers were in favor of a smaller car but didn’t know what they’d be getting.

Work began in 1980, two years before the debut of the J-body in North America. That wasn’t much (enough) time for the slow-moving behemoth that was General Motors, and the Cimarron had one of the shortest development times GM ever attempted. The Cadillac to end all Cavaliers was supposed to debut circa 1985, give GM time to work out the product kinks of a new platform (good idea, says me). But management was eager and pushed the timeline up to a model-year ’82 release with the rest of the J-body cars.

The rushed plan didn’t go down well with GM president Pete Estes, (in charge 1974 to 1981). Originally an engineer at Oldsmobile and the man who came up with the name for the Camaro, Estes saw the high-quality vinyl being draped over the Cavalier and protested.

“You don’t have time to turn the J-car into a Cadillac,” he said. Crickets from Cadillac management.

Cadillac hyped the new Cimarron in brochures, using bold adjectives like adventure, fortitude, and pioneering. GM first considered calling it the Envoy, Cascade, or Series 62, but instead went with Cimarron by Cadillac. They were proud enough of their creation that at launch the Cadillac name was absent from the car. This was immediately corrected when the Cadillac script appeared on the trunk in 1983, and the car was simply called Cadillac Cimarron.

More appropriate would’ve been Cimarron by Cavalier, as what debuted was a badge-engineering job unlike anything GM had tried prior. At the front and rear were slightly more formal-looking clips than a Cavalier, while every exterior shape between the two was the same. There was some additional trim and chrome outside, and an optional vinyl roof not found on Cavalier. Inside, the Cimarron steering wheel had three spokes instead of two. The center console was slightly a different shape, and the cassette stereo was up higher. While Cavalier sometimes had digital gauges, initial Cimarrons featured analog ones which were cased in silvery plastic “simulated aluminum” instead of gray. Digital gauges became an option later. Bucket seats were standard on the Cadillac and were covered in low-grade leather. A seldom selected “Ripple Cloth” option appeared later, with cloth seating surfaces and vinyl-covered bolsters. Seats were heavily ribbed and matched the color-keyed vinyl door panel trim.

And that was it. No wood, no luxuriously powerful engine, no special features, no cupholders. All Cimarrons were sedans (though a convertible wouldn’t have gone amiss here) and were powered by the same 1.8-, 2.0-, or 2.8-liter engines as the Cavalier. Transmissions were the same too, with a three-speed automatic or four- or five-speed manual, though most were ordered with the automatic. The 2.8 V6 became optional in 1985 on the luxurious Cimarron but became standard in 1987.

Along the way there was but one notable trim package, the D’Oro introduced in 1984. Directly translated from Italian and Spanish into “golden,” D’Oro was designed for customers who enjoyed gold trim, badges, wheels, grille, bumper strips, and tape stripes. D’Oro was emblazoned via a plaque on the flimsy glovebox lid alongside Cimarron, and there was additional color-matched lower body cladding not found on standard Cimarron. In ’84 the package was available only with black exterior and tan leather, but in ’85 the trim expanded to white and red exterior paint. D’Oro continued in availability through 1986.

GM persisted with slight fiddling with front and rear trim to make it look a bit different from its Cavalier sibling. Wrap-around taillamps appeared in ’86, alongside much better-looking composite headlamps to replace the sealed beam Cavalier units. The Cimarron was largely laughed out of the room by the automotive press, and rightly so.

However, though its 132,499 sales were not as impressive as expected, many Cimarron buyers were new to the Cadillac brand and younger than the typical customer. Cadillac brass considered a new generation of Cimarron past 1988, but instead sealed its fate and sent those development funds to update the Eldorado and Seville for ’88 and the front-drive Fleetwood and Deville for ’89. A good call. Cimarron was one of the last first-gen J-body cars on sale, as for ’88 the Cavalier and company entered their second generation.

Cimarron eventually made its way to Worst Car Ever lists here and there. It’s largely considered the worst example of badge engineering in modern history, as it represented a cynical take on a Cavalier at nearly double the price. Thus far, Cadillac has remembered the Cimarron’s Abandoned History lesson and has not repeated the mistake.

[Images: Cadillac]

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131 Comments on “Abandoned History: The Cadillac Cimarron, a Good Mercedes-Benz Competitor...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I was with you until the last statement: “Thus far, Cadillac has remembered the Cimarron’s Abandoned History lesson and has not repeated the mistake.”

    The XLR tried to leverage the Corvette drivetrain in a Cadillac body, but only sold 12k copies in 11 years. People figured they should just buy a Corvette.

    The ELR was the Volt with a Cadillac body. Most people argued that its $75k price was too high for what you got, but I argue that what you got simply wasn’t worth more than a Volt, except for the leather seats. 2900 total sales (84 of them in Canada!) over 4 years proved what a dud it was.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      I don’t think the XLR was that bad, really. I always think of two things when I see one.
      1) Convertible Corvette owners likely wanted a retractable hard top (that was probably a hefty percentage of XLR sales)
      2) They screwed the XLR by giving it the 4.6 Northstar. Suuuuuure, the V got a 4.4 SC, but by NOT going the (at the time) 5.7/6.0 route, it left those more mature Corvette owners who would be looking more seriously at the XLR in a position of compromise. Less power, more weight, seriously less performance. Had GM even just put the LS1 in it, I think it would have fared better off.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Had GM even just put the LS1 in it, I think it would have fared better off.”

        Ut oh, did you just suggest competing with the Corvette? Blasphemy. GM will ruin models and then wonder what went wrong just to *not* compete with the Corvette.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          @28-Cars-Later Sir, I truly believe that somewhere in the RENCEN GM VP’s meet in a room known only to them were they chant “The Corvette will have it’s own engine never to be shared” and “Cadillac is the best car in the World”. They won’t admit their competition isn’ just Ford; it’s the whole freaking world. when I was a lad, LTDs, Lincolns and T-birds had Ford truck engines and all was good with the world. GM did, and sill does, say only Corvette engines go in Corvettes; never shall they appear in a Suburban or a Silverado or a Chevy truck of any sort! Never ever! Sloan is our God-King! Most car companies put their best engines in their best vehicles. Well-Duh 101. Oh other car companies make mistakes; witness the the two thousand dollar hand bag Mercedes CLA. It just seems GM makes more mistakes, more loudly.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        @CoastieLem Sir, think of the 10’s? 100’s? of millions of dollars GM wasted developing a separate Engine for Caddyvette. I’d like me a black one if the price was right; with “DARTH” vanity plates.

    • 0 avatar

      If they did a Corvette clip swap I’d be with you, but it was much more than that. Didn’t even share an engine (unfortunately).

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The ELR looked a lot better than a Volt, and the final-year version performed a lot better too, but any price above $50k was huffing paint.

    • 0 avatar
      DungBeetle62

      1) If Tesla had laid an egg out of the gate, EVERY style-conscious image-leader type would’ve instead grabbed onto the ELR. Woulda had the right green credentials, and the right price tag and whiff of exclusivity.

      2) Cadillac’s problem with both the Allante and the XLR (and to some extent, a problem with GM as a whole with things like the Solstice/Sky, the SSR, the GTO, the Olds Aurora, the Fiero, the Chevy SS, the Buick Reatta) is wildly optimistic sales forecasting coupled with a seeming inability to manufacture fewer than a squllion of something and manage a profit or at least not lose their shorts. Mazda has managed to make a business case for a unique-platform low-volume ride like the Miata for this many years, and GM screws the pooch every time.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      The Saturn VUE/Equinox became the very popular SRX/XT5 Crossover. Making silk purses out of sow’s ears isn’t always a failure, but it mostly is

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    Too bad you couldn’t get the 5-speed with the 2.8. They might have been on to something.

    • 0 avatar
      msquare

      You could.

      But by that point the Cimarron was a footnote.

      Somebody had the idea of making Cadillac into a BMW or Mercedes by offering different sizes to compete with the 3, 5 and 7 series. Which they tried once again with the ATS, CTS and CT6.

      Trouble is, with GM’s brand ladder, the concept didn’t make sense. A smaller, trimmer car like the Seville was a good idea, because that was the trend of the entire industry. Caddy proved that it could be true to its brand identity without being massive.

      Mostly because the Seville was done more thoroughly. A unique body style, existing mechanicals refined to a higher degree. the best smaller engine available for a luxury car (Olds 350), and an interior that actually was more luxurious than a standard de Ville. And they charged a higher price for it.

      Going any smaller without such an effort was going downmarket. The BMW E21 3-series was a mid-market car thrust upward by a strong German mark. Compare the price (especially versus the competition) of a 1970 2002 vs. a 1980 320i and then realize they were similarly appointed cars. BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” ad campaign repositioned the brand to feature near-luxury smaller cars and high-end big ones.

      Mercedes was working on a smaller car for years, and finally brought out the 190E a couple of years after the Cimarron. The car had all the Mercedes quality and engineering one expected from the bigger cars, plus the same level of luxury as the E-class in the US market at least, and was priced accordingly, Cheaper than the E, more expensive than the 3. And much more expensive than a Cimarron.

      Funny thing about the J cars is that every GM passenger car division had a version. Only GMC failed to feature one. Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac, Opel, Vauxhall, Holden, Isuzu all offered a J-car.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    To compare the original Seville with the Cimarron is quite ridiculous.

    The Cimarron was quite obviously a Cavalier in with some fancy seats and other doodads.

    The Seville was a good car, and the only way to see it was Nova-based would be to put it on a hoist. Besides, the Nova was a pretty good car – based largely on F-body mechanicals. A ’76 Nova with the 9C1 police package and a 350 was an exceptionally competent car all around.

    Car and Driver hopped up a Seville with a bunch of performance and handling parts, and made it better than a Benz.

    The Cimarron, on the other hand, was incompetent, overpriced junk that was half-azzed and phoned in, and it was based on a horrible car.

    TL;DR don’t diss on the OG Seville.

    • 0 avatar

      Didn’t compare them, the Seville was step 1 of 2 in chasing younger Euro buyers. Read again.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Corey, Please read my other comment. You have a discrepancy in your decades and target markets, and competition for Cadillac. When the original Seville was introduced Lincoln had largely usurped Cadillac in regards to prestige among North American consumers.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Seville was almost exclusively about building a Cadillac for women.

        https://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/cadillac-seville/

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The 1G Seville wasn’t a bad car, like you alluded to one can read period reviews of it and they were largely complimentary. It also showed that the late 70s downsizing from the early 70s aricraft carrier dimensions was a good plan.

      That said, Corey is correct that it didn’t win over many Euro buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        IMO the ’76 Seville showed a path forward for Cadillac that they wasted with both their B-body variants and the bustle-back Seville. It kept classic Cadillac styling cues but put them into a compact and clean package. I think an ’80s Seville designed with the same ideas could have been a gorgeous car; instead, they decided to double down on the Old Country Buffet crowd, vinyl tops, wire wheel covers, and general brougham.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Until the Taurus came out the American auto makers were very hesitant to move away from Brougham styling in anything that wasn’t a compact or pony car (and even those got Brougham versions).

          • 0 avatar
            multicam

            ajla, or anyone really, how do you pronounce Brougham?

            Broom (the thing you sweep with)?
            Broo-ham (first part of broom, then ham)?
            Broam (rhyming with foam)?
            Bro-ham (like what’s up bro? Followed by ham)?

            Been wondering this for over a decade. (Born in ‘89 btw)

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            “BRO-um.”

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            youtu.be/57MDg1GPr4M

            Brougham Mania of the mid 70s to early 80s is like the Off-road Mania of today.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      @eggsalad Sir, now GM could have put those performance and handling parts in at the factory. They would have made a compelling point that price=competence=beating the Germans. Alas, another missed opportunity to regain the lead.

    • 0 avatar
      swilliams41

      Wasn’t the original Seville a much stronger effort by GM than the Cinnamon fiasco? I mean they used finite element analysis to fine-tune the Sevilles structure, many more items to address NVH, EFI for the 350 by Olds! and I remember a much more premium, almost bespoke interior cabin vs the Nova base car. That being said, what could have been done to produce the ultimate J-Body? I think GM could have done better, they just didn’t.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Now, if they had brought out the 87 Cimarron out in 82, it might have accomplished something.

    What we were to learn to consider ‘typical GM’: Bring out something substandard, embarrass yourself with it, over the next 3-4 year fix all the things you shouldn’t have screwed up in the first place, and then, as soon as you’ve finally got the car right . . . . . cancel it.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      Like the Fiero! God I love me a Fiero but, again, right as they got it right, they killed it.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        It was too good and that was the problem. What and have the Corvette embarrassed by one of their own? At half the price? The Corvette was truly pathetic at the time. GM never did figure out its snap oversteer and later, stability control was just a Bandaid (until the C8).

        • 0 avatar
          msquare

          Comparing a Fiero to a Corvette is like comparing a Toyota MR2 to a Supra. Same manufacturer, both sporty performance cars, completely different classes and market segments. You wouldn’t race them head to head, why would you shop them that way?

          The C4 Corvette might not have been perfect, but it was the first ‘Vette to do 150 mph off the showroom floor. It suffered from the same vices all Corvettes had, as in lack of refinement, harsh ride, clunky body panels, but all priced at a fraction of any other car with similar performance. So what if it wasn’t a Ferrari? You could get three of them for one 328 GTS. And Tom Selleck was more likely to fit.

          The Fiero was a smaller sports car and competed with the MR2 and CR-X. Heavier than both, it needed the V6 to really have any kind of go. But the 1988 suspension revisions made it much more competitive. What killed it? Using the same plastic-panels-on-spaceframe-construction on the Dustbuster minivans, which were expected to sell in much higher volumes than a 2-seat sports car.

      • 0 avatar
        wolfwagen

        MY thoughts exactly!
        As much as it was derided, I always liked the last year of the Cimmaron

    • 0 avatar

      93 DeVille holding on line one.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Have to respectfully disagree. We had one as a rental car around that time period, and it was dreadful.

      It felt cheaper than any other car I had been in – somehow worse than the Chevette my dad once owned, because as I kid I understood that the Chevette was a commuter car, and just sitting in the Cimarron, I knew that it said Cadillac, but that something was horribly amiss.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Cimarron better know as a Chevylac. Why bother with Cadillac when you can get a better equipped and more reliable Lexus. Cadillac might be a better EV especially as a Lyriq but as of now it is no longer the standard of the World.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Because Lexus offered a similar badge engineered ES250 based off of Camry at the time.

      • 0 avatar
        C5 is Alive

        Except that the ES250 was introduced two model years after the last Cimarron infested Cadillac showrooms, and it was an infinitely superior effort by every metric.

        I find it rather telling that two of the most fevered sh|tposters on this fading website are also two of its most fervent GM sycophants.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        @Norm Oh wait! The Lexus dealer will gladly sell you a 2021 ES250. Kinda funny how initial quality and insane customer service will sell cars. Ya can’t buy a 2021 Cimmaron at your Caddy dealer. Why Caddy is beyond “Art and Science” or whatever the late oughts Cadddys were called. Perhaps after “Arts & Science” the new electric Caddys will be called “Impressionist”. Perhaps “Beaux Arts” Escaldes wil be next.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    That thing is hot garbage. At least Cadillac/GM got my V1 right: LS2 and a T56 in a mid-sized rear-drive platform. Perfect.

  • avatar
    Dman

    The 190e debuted in December of 1982. Unless someone at GM had inside knowledge of the upcoming product from Sindelfingen I do not see how it could have been one of the competitors driving the Cimarron development. If GM did in fact know in advance of what was coming from Mercedes, then they really “screwed the moose” as we Northern New Englanders like to say.

    • 0 avatar
      logic

      My mind went here as well. The timeline doesn’t match the presented Cadillac raison d’etre. But the target of a slightly more upscale E21 may have been in GM’s sight. Still credit GM with with a miserable result though.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      @Dman Sir, GM could have bought some E classes and said “Make the Cimmaron this good.” Drove like stink, measured, probed, prodded, even bought a case of Stroh’s and drove it around the GM test track. Instead, we got a Chevy with leather seats and a reworked dog house. In the Gm mind, no leather on Chevy but leather on Cadillac makes Cadillac better and an obvious best seller.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “Cadillac, America’s Standard of the World brand, typically sold enormous and expensive cars that were at one point build [sic] to a high quality standard.”

    Well *that’s* ironic.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    GM would have been better off if they just rebadged for the states the Opel Senator which was a rwd executive sedan.
    It was the predecessor to the Omega which was the lamentable Catera.
    The Mercedes Benz 190 was a decent sport sedan that didn’t cheapen the brand, essentially 3/4 of an S-class.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Corey, you young whippersnapper you have mixed up your decades. In the 1960s BMW was not even a blip in Cadillacs rear window. Limited sales in North America and certainly not considered a supplier of luxury automobiles. And Yuppies were not around until the 1980s. In the late 1960’s through to the mid/late 1970s if you were young, and single or newly married and wanted to single your emerging affluence you drove a domestic PLC.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Meant wanting to ‘signal’. Truly dislike how user unfriendly this platform/site is.

      And in the mid/late 70s Ford Granadas/Mercury Monarchs were marketed by comparing them with Mercedes.

    • 0 avatar

      I cleaned it up a bit.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Corey: Appreciate it. Otherwise a good article on a ‘landmark’ (in a controversial way) automobile. Particularly for those who were not buying/driving autos back then.

    • 0 avatar

      Arthur,
      In the Atlanta area and suburbs in the md-70s,BMWs were the ride of late 20-mid 30s successful single males.(And every Beemer owner I knew-and nearly all the drivers I saw on the road-had a pair of black or brown “Italian” leather gloves.) The rich kids and their dad drove Corvettes.(Altho dad’s daily car was a Caddy,sometimes a Benz, The wife had a caddy or sporty convertible.)

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Stephen Yuppies did not exist as a term/idea until the 1980s. Any review of sale figures will demonstrate that PLC’s ‘ruled’ for young, single, affluent Americans in the 1970s. Rather than BMWs the people you described were in reality most likely driving Monte Carlos, Cutlasses and Cordobas.

        Max Hoffman was the sole importer of BMWs into the USA until 1975. It was only after BMW bought back the rights from him that they set up the first BMW dealership in the USA. Prior to that BMWs were few and far between. Largely driven by ‘enthusiasts’ and ralliers. Having a 4 cylinder and a manual transmission BMW’s were not regarded as luxury or in most cases even ‘near luxury’ vehicles until the 7 Series in the late 1970s.

        From a Motortrend article:
        ‘When BMW bought back U.S. distribution rights from Hoffman in 1975, car enthusiasts wondered if the change would be for the better. The 1976 BMW 320i that replaced the 2002 had been designed in the shadow of the 1973 fuel crisis, and the E21 with its 125-hp inline-four engine felt oversized, ponderous, and dreadfully slow. Fortunately the belated arrival of an inline-six engine soon energized the E21’s reputation. It was followed by the 1982 E30, which turned out to be a roaring success in the go-go years of the 1980s.’

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          Mr. Daily Sir, every farm boy from Kokomo to Muncie can see the bright lights of Indianapolis -Heywood Banks-. In the 70’s the BMW dealer was basically a pole barn off 71st street in Indianapolis. Then the E30 gave us glorious in-line six cylinder power. The BMW dealer built a new dealership in the tony? suburb of Indianapolis. They later added a second dealership in the southern suburbs. They also sponsor one or two cars in every Indy 500. A friend of mine’s big brother played football at Notre Dame, graduated in 1977. His 1st new car was a loaded Monte Carlo with swivel bucket seats.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            “The Preppy Handbook” came out in 1980. “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” came out circa 1982. This admixture leads to the evolution of the Yuppies.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Elscotto: thanks for the confirmation. When things ‘return to normal’ may have to make a visit to Indianapolis. Have a friend who has lived there for decades. Works an/near The Brickyard as he has been a crew chief/pit crew member for numerous teams.

        • 0 avatar
          SoCalMikester

          had a front-end supervisor at dominicks finer foods in montgomery that rolled a 3-er back in 1985. then a fellow stocker got a new grand am. another got a new red/white dakota. i only had a year of seniority, but those $6/hr UFCW wages were nice for 1985

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    As for ‘badge engineering’ what about the decades of Canadian Pontiacs which were actually Chevs with Pontiac body panels, bright work and instrument panels

    As for BMW the E3 (2500/2800/Bavaria) was viewed more as a competitor to SAAB than to Cadillac. The BMW had a 6 cylinder engine, austere interior (in comparison to domestic luxury vehicles), and was almost invariably sold with a manual transmission. As such it was not regarded as a ‘luxury’ vehicle. It took the 7 Series to move BMW ‘up market’.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Aurthur Daily – We had the Acadian Canso from 1962 to 1971.In the USA that was the Chevy II. Pontiac Grande Parisienne Sport Coupe was a tweaked Chevy Impala. Mercury pickups were Canadian only as well. Wasn’t the Fargo also Canadian only?

      That would make a good story for Cory to write. There is always the assumption on both sides of the 49th parallel that vehicles were homogenous.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    A friend of mine had a Cimarron, used.. Later version with a V6. When he got married someone taped a “just married” sign on the trunk lid. When he peeled the tape off every bit of the paint came with it. There was about a 10-15 year period in the 80’s and 90’s when GM simply did not know how to make paint stick. And they did everything possible to keep from taking responsibility fir it.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Yep, my dad’s 1980 Citation had paint issues, and my buddy’s parents’ Chevette. GM did spring for a new paint job on the Chevette.

      Wasn’t just GM. Our 93 Escort had paint peeling out of the rain gutters after a few years.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      one of the places the cimarron was made was south gate ca. the so cal AQMD was likely responsible for the paint regs :(

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Arthur Dailey–I am close to your age because as you stated a personal luxury car was the car to aspire to if you were young after the muscle car era of the 60s and early early 70s. I had a buckskin color 77 Monte Carlo with swivel buckets, rally wheels, power windows and locks, cruise control, and tilt wheel this was my first new car. Loved that car and it was the car that I got when I started my first full time job a car that I wanted in college. BMWs during that time were not considered luxury cars more austere and more of a canyon carver for those who wanted a car that could handle and have a more sports car feel and most were manual. American brand cars ruled during most of the 70s with the exception of mini cars which were Toyota, Datsun, and VW. The Japanese cars made huge inroads during the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 starting in October 1973 and lasting into 1974. When people could not get VW bugs, Vegas, and Pintos because there were not of enough of them available they started buying Toyotas and Datsuns and after driving them they discovered their reliability and that is when the Japanese who had been marketing their cars with limited success in the late 50s and throughout the 60s. Toyotas first car in the USA was 1958 and was withdrawn from the USA within a year with Toyota introducing another car in the early 60s. Datsun started in the US market about 1959 with limited success during the 60s with their small cars and small trucks. Growing up in the 50s and 60s the Japanese had an image of cheap inferior products with transistor radios and toys being one of their biggest exports. For the last 40 plus years the Japanese have become innovators and known for their high quality products. Poor quality American brand mini or subcompact cars and shortages of these cars gave Japanese manufacturers huge inroads in the North American market. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979 were the perfect storms that gave the Japanese and Germans the inroads into the US market that they had tried since the 50s and 60s.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @JeffS: Your memory and opinions certainly coincide with mine, and historical sales figures. I spent far too much money and time buying, selling and driving vehicles in the 1970s than I should have. As well as PLCs and the Mark IV, I had a Type I, Type III and Type IV ‘squareback’ VW and a ‘disco van’.

      I remember when we would say ‘probably made in Japan’ when anything broke or wore out.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I’m the same age and I concur. 70s BMWs were, truly, sports sedans. As such, they were really aspirational for people who valued handling. It all changed with yuppies, although the seeds were planted in the mid 1970s, some of my fellow students had recognized BMW as more desirable than the PLCs most others were dreaming about getting for graduation (that comes from going to a college located in one of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the country).

        I was jonesing for a ’70 Mustang (a friend had one with a 302 and top-loader) which was, just about affordable at the time.

  • avatar
    C5 is Alive

    “…and the cassette stereo was up higher.”

    The Cimarron’s radio was in the same location as all other J-Cars with that dashboard, but the molded-in trim line separating it from the air vent above makes it look different from the flat one-piece instrument surround of the Cavalier and J2000/Sunbird.

    One dash element unique to the Cimarron was the pushbutton HVAC control panel that sorta looked like automatic climate control, but wasn’t.

  • avatar
    scottcom36

    I wonder if Cadillac would have done better with an A body, a 6000 STE taken up another notch. A few years later they started downsizing into A body territory anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I’ve posited this on here and on the blog belonging to a former Senior Editor of this august site. Something on the A platform, but taken up a half a notch! Give it a 3.8 V6 out of the Buick, with some tuning or even a turbocharger, an LSD, and a five-speed at no extra cost! Every option in the book standard! Probably would have rusted like the rest of the As did, but there would have at least been differentiation! They could have even renamed it as the Seville, or Calais (but Olds had that name used elsewhere!) San Marino?

      But no! As I stated in a comment on the aforementioned ez-TTACer’s blog a couple weeks back, they literally took a 1982 Cavalier and dropped leather seats and Twilight Sentinel in the damned thing and called it a day! When you notice that TINTED GLASS was an option on the first Cimarrons, you know there were gonna be problems! These cars should have been fully-loaded from the start, with engine, transmission and maybe uprated suspension options!

      And to reference the dashboard in the post up one from this, the dash indeed was a direct carryover from the Cavalier/(J)2000/Sunbird, with just the aforementioned pusbutton non-climate-control HVAC, a more “upmarket” font on the gauge cluster, and the Twilight Sentinel!

      I plagiarize another part of that comment on this very car here:

      If they would have..
      1. Waited an extra year to refine this more [as originally planned], with..
      2. The OHC engine as standard, and the V6 as a low-cost option (and a five-speed standard, with a four-speed AOD an option, and NOT just the THM-125C) instead of the wheezy OHV lump, and..
      3. Would have used the Skyhawk/Firenza dash as a basis for the interior with extra attention paid to the details..

      ..perhaps the Cimarron story would have been different. Maybe then this thing could have been a BMW-light piece by 1986 or so. In hindsight, they could have been going for Acura-style “Accord+-ness!” But they didn’t even do that! I’m too lazy to find the URL of it, but there was a MotorWeek review of the many differences in the 1982 and 1983 Cimarrons, and even THAT didn’t overcome the initial issues!

      Or, as I just stated, they could have used the arguably better A-Body platform as a basis, as I mentioned.

  • avatar
    Sobro

    One thing you GenXers and younger don’t realize is that in order to reverse the disastous Carter years the Fed raised interest rates through the roof. The extra expense of Compact Cadillac ownership during the early 80’s Fed-initiated recession, which did in fact reverse the Carter stagflation, caused many a buyer to eschew them.

    The only saving grace at the time was that consumer loan interest was as tax deductible as mortgage loan interest. From a March 31, 1982 article:

    DETROIT — General Motors Corp. is cutting the interest rates on new car loans to 12.8 percent — nearly 5 points lower than the current level — in another attempt to boost sales that are down 30 percent from last year.

    GM said Tuesday the lower rated loans will be available for two months, beginning Thursday and running through May 31. The rates, which are almost 5 points lower than present rates, are available for new cars, light-duty trucks and vans

    My college roommate qualified for the above “favorable” terms (and more) upon showing his engineering school graduation papers (Class of 1982) and job offer letter. The Knoxville Caddy dealer was so enamored of his inventory that he even put some money on the hood for said roommate to drive a Cimarron off the lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      In the early 1980s’ in Canada mortgage interest rates reached 20%. I was working briefly for a ‘financial services’ corporation and they predicted 10% average interest rates for the remainder of our lifetimes.

      • 0 avatar
        orange260z

        @Arthur Dailey, I’m in Canada as well. I graduated from university in 1992, and bought my first brand new car, a ’92 Civic Si hatch. The interest rate on my car loan was about 16.5%. Fortunately, I had a relatively high-paying job in financial services and paid the car off in a year.

        I, too, remember that our base-case forecasting for LT investments (retirement planning) was at 10% and worst-case at 8%. Little did we know that over the next 30 years the average would be less than 6%, and less than 2% over the last 20.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Sobro – the USA isn’t the only country on the planet. That period of runaway inflation and high interest rates occurred around the globe.

      • 0 avatar
        Sobro

        Hi Lou!I’m sorry if you’re offended by a non-existent statement relating to Canada’s non-existence. Maybe you need to find your safe space.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @Sobro – I’m not offended in any shape, manner or form.

          There are many individuals on this site and elsewhere who blame whomever was/is in power that doesn’t fit their political inclinations for problems that are occurring globally.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            The global problem was that OPEC stopped pumping oil, which caused massive inflation. The Fed ended up clamping down on the money supply to keep the inflation in check.

            Blame Carter or not, but clearly that was the only move to be made, unless one thinks he should have invaded Iran. In that case, we’d probably just have had WWIII. Who would to be blame? Carter, of course. The boy ain’t gonna win.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      “One thing you GenXers and younger don’t realize is that in order to reverse the disastous Carter years the Fed raised interest rates through the roof”

      That’s the popular historical view but what *actually* happened is that Carter appointed Volker as Fed chairman and interest rates were raised precisely to combat the inflation resulting from the end of the Viet Nam war and general global slowdown. The Carter Years may have been “disastrous”, but origins date back to the late 1960s and the action taken by the Fed helped set the stage for the so-called “Reagan Miracle”.

  • avatar

    Lipstick on a pig. People are not foolish enough to buy this cynical piece of badge engineering

  • avatar
    Bangernomist

    One commonly forgotten secret of the original Seville’s success: It was not just the smallest Cadillac, it was also the most expensive and exclusive Cadillac of its day. When I was a kid in North Dallas, the typical Seville driver was a spoiled doctor/lawyer/banker’s wife who yowled “you haven’t bought ME the very best, you sorry excuse!” Being able to park it was a fringe benefit…for a while, the Seville was IT. (And chopping it to a ridiculous two seater was considered good taste…but that is another story…)

    The Cimarron didn’t have any chance of following that recipe, not when a ’82 Seville was a $20,000 car. If it had got the V6 as an exclusive at the outset, maybe real wood trim and better leather, and something to convey actual exclusivity, it might have met some modest success (BL actually did something like this with the Vanden Plas Princess cars). Instead:

    – it was the first four cylinder “Cadillac” since *1908*,
    – the interior was about like stepping up from Sears Roebuck to JCPenney for a Marshall Field price,
    – it wasn’t trimmed or priced much differently than a fully kitted out Skyhawk or Olds Firenza.

    Buyers were smart enough to notice that GM product planning wasn’t. And then GM elevated Roger Smith and it all went to hell. Goes to show it takes ten years to build a reputation and ten minutes to lose one.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      As I stated above, perhaps if they would have riffed on the Firenza/Skyhawk dash, and gone from there…! Or as @scottcom36 remarked up-thread, and upon which I expounded a bit, they could have used the arguably better A-Body as the bones for a second Seville in the vein of the original (and the baroque’80-‘82 Seville would have joined the T-Bird of that time as a three-year blunder). (I think the refinement difference in the Buick 3.8 versus the Chevy engines would have been a better fit in a Cadillac; the 6000 STE proved that GM could extend the A into something greater than the sum of its parts.)

      But as has been stated, that dash was straight out of the Cavalier/J-2000, and the Cimarron suffered from the same teething pains as the first couple years of the Js did. Hell, I’d argue that my 1984 Sunbird hatch, with the Brazilian 1.8 OHC and THM-125C, was a better car than a 1982 Cavalier! But no part of that platform, IMHO, would have belonged in anything with a Cadillac badge on it, at least without a bunch of refinements and touches not found on more pedestrian Js, and I don’t mean just the fancy auto-headlights and leather seats, either! That Cimarron, as was posited elsewhere here, should have been at 1986-levels of refinement from the outset! Maybe if GM had aimed higher, the Cimarron could have been the 2nd-generation Lexus ES to the XV-10 Camry, where the inherent goodness of the top-dog car could have filtered down the Sloanian hierarchy, with the Chevy being a rock-of-Gibraltar, no-nonsense vehicle, the Sunbird being the affordable sporty model, the Olds being something a bit nicer than the latter two models, with some interesting tech touches or unique engine possibilities, and with Buick being a sensible luxury alternative vehicle to the out-and-out ostentatious Caddy!

      But sadly, GM was GM!

      Now I wonder: if I wanted to do a true “Cheviac,” if I took a survivor Cavalier, found NOS Cimarron interior bits someplace (as from what I understand, the Caddy seats will bolt into any other J), could I finish things by wiring-in a Twilight Sentinel unit??!! Hmm!

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @Bangernomist: Exactly. A great many Sevilles were purchased purely because of the pricing. The higher the price, the more prestigious it has to be, right?

  • avatar
    RHD

    Let’s play “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”.

    First picture: There is light (from a light source placed there for effect) UNDERNEATH the Cimarron, which shines out middle of the front spoiler. Was this an available option from the factory?

    Second picture: The tach shows the engine at 4000 RPM, and the speedometer shows 52 MPH. Observant buyers will imagine what the RPM would be at a cruising speed of 60. Or maybe the model is just wringing the crap out of the engine, trying to get up to pace with highway traffic.

    Fourth picture: The driver is turning left while on a gentle right curve.

    Does anyone find anything else wrong with these pictures, other than it’s a Cavalier in a Cadillac advertisement?

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      GM did what you mentioned in the fourth pic A LOT back in the day!

      And yes, in the IP a shot, that car is doing about 53mph, and from the looks of the position of the shifter, is probably in third gear! I noticed, though, that the double-nickel on the speedo wasn’t highlighted in a different color meant to highlight the National maximum speed limit of the day! And notice as well the high-beam indicator at the 45mph position, a trademark of the CavaSunbirMarron dash!

    • 0 avatar

      “Fourth picture: The driver is turning left while on a gentle right curve.
      Does anyone find anything else wrong with these pictures?

      There is nothing wrong with picture: Car standing still on the 4th picture.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Second picture: This product failed for the opposite reason that the iPhone thrives – exposed fasteners. (I’m kidding – I would love it if new instrument panels and dashes were modular, with exposed, tasteful and easily accessed fasteners.)

      Second picture (and third picture, which shows a different steering wheel): The Cadillac emblem is way too small. This issue has been rectified on the Escalade, and is one of the major reasons for the major success of the Escalade.

      Second picture: Strongly suspect that this steering wheel started off as a different steering wheel which was turned upside down (too lazy to look it up because this is a small car and therefore No One Cares™ – official GM rule).

      @RHD, “Fourth picture: The driver is turning left while on a gentle right curve.”
      It is a little-known fact that U.S. market automobiles of this era had relatively large amounts of backlash in the steering mechanism (by design, based on consumer preference no doubt). In this picture, the driver has initiated a turn to the right and is waiting for the steering to catch up. (We could also discuss hysteresis, or rather someone else could – I’m not too bright.)
      [It is also possible that this particular driver is Very Confused, since the individual was unable to correctly adjust the headrest to a safe position.]

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        You could say that the Cimarron driver was taking a Cavalier attitude towards life!

        I’m here all week! Don’t forget to serve your tipper, and try the chicken Caesar salad!

  • avatar

    Nice luxurious interior. Owning this car meant that you have arrived. But 1985 Lada was more advanced car.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Probably more 1985 Ladas surviving and still on the road than Cimarrons or Cavaliers.

      • 0 avatar

        But they rust very fast too. Poor Russians take care of their Ladas and Zhigulis. If you know what “пушечное сало” means (if you lived in 1990s in Russia) you know what I mean.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          The closest I got to a trip Russia was a visit to the KAMAZ plant in Tatarstan. The invitation was withdrawn at some point and I wasn’t able to go. I did see Ladas when I lived in France. The first one I saw was actually in Monaco. It was a Niva. I do have contacts in various parts of Ukraine and Russia and they tell me Ladas, especially taxis, are still a common sight.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          I thought that the steel was reasonably thick, at least!

          It certainly seems that those cars may have been crude and rudimentary, but could take a licking and keep on ticking, even if only just! (This from viewing some of the “Pine Hallow Auto Diagnostics” YouTube channel, whose younger brother was a frequent commenter here. The older brother got his father’s 1971 ZAZ going again, and that thing was a TANK!)

          • 0 avatar

            I had Lada 2108 and once in a while to cut standing still traffic on the road I took shortcuts venturing off road in forest and my Lada could put Jeep in shame. Later I bought Toyota and Toyota was bending and creaking on flat lawn for picnics. In Russia you really need off-road vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            I’ve always been a fan of the 2121 Niva. The bada$zed 4×4 version. They made 650,000 of them.

            Speaking of the Lada Niva, since this a GM article, check this out. There was a Chevrolet version of the Niva. I think these hit the 25-year mark in 2023:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Niva

            Ha, we’re not as far off topic as people think!

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      “There’s so much that we share
      That it’s time we’re aware
      It’s a small world after all”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    In the calendar year after BMW took control of the importation/sales of its vehicles in the USA a grand total of less than 20,000 BMWs were sold in the USA.

    In 1977 GM sold over 245,000 Olds Cutlasses.

    Add in Monte Carlos, Regals, Grand Prix, Rivieras and Toronados. Plus Mercury Cougars, Ford Thunderbirds and Gran Torino Elites (made until 1976). Don’t forget the Chrsyler Cordoba. Plus the ultra luxurious Mark IV’s and Eldorados. So PLC’s were indeed thick on the ground in the disco era. And although in retrospect some disparage them, at the time they were regarded as luxurious, prestigious and ‘powerful’ vehicles.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I came along just as this car was starting to shuffle off into hell or wherever it was to ultimately end up. The first smaller Cadillac I seem to recall was the Catera, the Caddy that zigs, which arrived around 1997 if I’m recalling correctly. Around the time it was released, I seem to remember sniggering and comparisons to the Cimarron. How much of that was due to any real shortcomings or not I can’t say, being from a family that was generally not interested in GM products to begin with; I was around 9 when it came out.

    My only other comment: bring back real, puffy sidewalls. They look oddly satisfying here. I just bought a set of winter wheels and tires, and boy is the ride supple.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Much easier to disparage something in hindsight. At the time PLCs were popular and very good cars for the time–much easier to work on an much less expensive to repair. Granted vehicles are safer today and that will be said 50 years from now about new vehicles compared to the 2020s vehicles. I do miss interiors in colors other than black and gray and I miss trunks that could actually hold luggage other than that I like the handling, braking, and overall safety of today’s vehicles. I had both a 77 Monte Carlo and a 78 2 door Regal Limited both loaded and they were both dependably, comfortable, and great highway cruisers. I appreciate when I see an original well preserved PLC and watch for them on Curious Cars with Bill.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      Easier to work on? Easier than OBD telling you exactly what’s wrong and a YouTube video telling you, step by step, how to replace the part?

      And also keep in mind these didn’t just break down a lot they came broken. A late 70s Chrysler would leave the factory with 15 issues. That was not unusual in the industry. The average today is a little over 1. And we won’t even mention cars rusting while still on dealer lots.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Arthur Dailey–Being young, single, and spending money on material things you maybe could have lived without are part of the experience of growing up. My wife and I am in the process of downsizing and moving from NKY to Arizona and will be getting rid of most of what we have and everytime I go thru things I ask myself why did I ever buy this. Cannot beat myself up over it that’s life.

    @Lou_BC–Corey should do a series on Canadian only cars such as the Meteor which was basically a Ford, Canadian Pontiacs, Mercury and Fargo trucks. I still think Corey should do a series on the Imperial covering the first to the last Imperials.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Corey–Thank you looking forward to your piece on the Imperial.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @jmo2–Much easier to work on a 70s car than a present day car because there were no computers. As for the reliability I didn’t have a Chrysler but the 2 Chevys I had in the 70s were fairly reliable and no they did not breakdown all the time. I do prefer fuel injection to carburetors as caburetors were sensitive to weather changes. True you can diagnose today’s cars with scanners but even those are not foolproof in that an error code only narrows down what is wrong but it doesn’t always tell you specifically what is wrong. As for rusting in the colder climates yes the 70s cars rusted quicker but living in Houston there was little rust. As I have said previously there is always good things and bad things about the past and the present. I have little regrets about the past and look forward to the future. I do miss the fact that most people in the 70s could afford a new car and a new house especially if you were starting out there were more affordable options. Today it is really hard for most younger people starting out and unfortunately home ownership is much harder to obtain especially with fewer starter homes and fewer affordable automobiles. A college degree for the most part meant more in the 70s than it does today with the exception of a few degrees where demand is greater than supply. The 70s and the 60s had there challenges as well but the challenges seem greater today. No period of time is perfect.

    Seems there are many new F150s with rust on them so although metal is better treated for rust today it is far from perfect.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Pre pollution controls you could see and reach just about anything in the engine bay. And vehicles were mostly mechanical rather than electronic.

      There is a reason that ‘shade tree mechanics’ are at risk of becoming an endangered species.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Around the era in question my x in laws had a Cadillac, which for their generation was the aspirational car. It had the same stamped steel key as my 72 Chevelle, and turning it in the door literally powered the mechanism thar unlocked it. It felt like the key might break in half if you turned it too hard.

    Not long after (1997) I bought my first BMW, which had a machined aluminum key, and turning it in the door unleashed sounds of electro-mechanical beauty worthy of Rolex.

    Now, you can carp and moan about how much BMWs cost to maintain. I don’t care. I’m an engineer, and I can distinguish between real engineering and badge engineering. Cadillac, as a brand, is dead to me, and it won’t be long before it joins Oldsmobile and Pontiac on the ash heap of history.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t Cadillac will die but GM itself could be merged with a foreign manufacturer. I think a lot of the discontinuing of models especially cars is away to make GM more profitable and a possible takeover target. I did believe that GM would eventually go out of business but now I don’t. Cadillac will survive but it will be a far different company than it was and that it is now especially if Cadillac becomes predominantly EVs. But having said that it will be a much smaller company which might not be a bad idea if they improved their quality and price their products more competitively. GM is capable of making great vehicles if they want to but the verdict is still out.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    -BWAHAHAHAH- My 1st reaction to that headline. German cars are built to run on shorter and shorter lengths of autobahns with no speed limits. Kinda like if the PA Turnpike had an unlimited speed limit between Breezewood and New Stanton and the rest of the PA Turnpike was 55 MPH. How long would a J-car run 140 MPH? That thought scares many of us.

    • 0 avatar

      Still Opels and Fords somehow managed it. Case study: Ford Scorpio with 2.9L DOHC engine and 5 speed MT. Or Opel Omega – European Car of the Year for 1987

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Kinda like if the PA Turnpike had an unlimited speed limit between Breezewood and New Stanton”

      Wait, its not unlimited?

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        @28 – Nope. Last time I was on it for a stretch, I don’t think Carlisle to the NE Extension had a speed limit. And it was great.

        But if you try those areas in the mountains, especially near Somerset, at high speeds with some of those curves and semis wandering, that’s white knuckle right there.

        No speed limits…mmm…NJ Turnpike.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    It really is amazing GM has only been bankrupt once.

    I owned a Mercedes 190E of that era, it’s really was an amazing vehicle and the idea that Cadillac thought they could compete with this abomination is mind blowing.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    GM could compete with Mercedes but management and the accountants will not let it happen. Cost cutting their products and badge engineering prevented GM for the most part from building a high quality luxury car that competes with Mercedes and Lexus. Lexus has managed to compete with Mercedes and the other European luxury brands and they have been around for a little over 30 years which is not that long when compared to the Euro luxury brands, Cadillac, and Lincoln. I don’t think it is GMs engineers but the management who has hurt GM.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    The rushed development killed this car. It needed a few things, like-
    A Buick 231 from the ’85 H-body
    The 4-speed auto from the H-body
    A unique dashboard
    Unique door cards
    A better suspension
    Bigger brakes
    And most of all,
    A lower price.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    How’s this for a Harry Turtledove alternative history:

    Instead of slapping a Cadillac grill on a Cimarron, GM took a look at what truly tuned on the import-intender buyers they were looking for, and created a clean-sheet line of RWD sedans with a real chassis and genuinely good handling.

    Forty years later. they might not be relegated to selling p!mped up Tahoes and a bunch of blobby looking crossovers, or depending on a monumentally ugly EV to revitalize the brand.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      clean sheet would have been a good idea. They could have used it as an F-Body replacement as well. What they eventually did with the ATS. In fact, the ATS would have been much better if it had a couple of decades of prior engineering behind it.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The biggest problem with the ATS was that it was about 25 years late to market.

        During the ’80s and ’90s, the lux market shifted to BMW/Mercedes style sedans, and Cadillac didn’t begin building anything truly competitive in that space until the late 2000s (CTS). But that time, the shift to mommy-mobile crossovers (think Lexus RX) was well under way. And they were late to that party too – the SRX with the right configuration (think FWD based platform) didn’t come out until 2010.

        Cadillac’s main failing – aside from product – has been abysmal timing. I think the last time they actually read the market correctly was in the mid-’70s, with the original Seville and downsized Devilles. Since then, they’ve consistently been late to market with pretty much everything, and the stuff they’ve brought out has often been half-a$$ed and rushed (think Catera, XLR, etc.).

        If not for the Escalade, Cadillac would have been dead LONG ago.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’m not sure how better it would have been overall, but had the Northstar worked as designed the marque wouldn’t be the butt of jokes for the past three decades. A reliable 275-300bhp mill in the 90s would have set things up much better in the 2000s no matter the driveline.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I agree, and that, along with the other crap Cadillac motors, also explains why they had to settle for Chevy engines in cars that they were selling against Mercedes – their track record when it came to “Cadillac only” motors was just horrid.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      GM of that period did not have the foresight or understanding to envision what you’re suggesting. Mid to late 1970s was a changing of the guard from 1940/50s engineers and execs, in their time GM cars had changed but not changed a great deal. They couldn’t understand Mercedes let alone Toyota, Honda, and Lexus which came long after. These people greenlit bustleback Seville before their retirements for frack’s sake. I’m not sure how aping 1930s Rolls Royce applied in 1980, but I doubt your late Silent/early Boomer was impressed, and they would slowly become the market by the mid to late 80s.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I think there are two possibilities as to why they didn’t “see it coming” – a) they literally didn’t see it coming, or b) saw it coming but figured out that it would cost a crapload of money to really compete in that space, and decided to just say “f*ck it” and keep building bro-hams. If it was b) they had to know the party was going to end before too long because their customer base was literally dying off (which you didn’t need a Wharton MBA to figure out), but probably figured they’d be retired by the time the crash happened.

        My money’s on b). It was more profitable in the short run to ride the bro-ham horse as long as they could. And by the time they woke up and figured out that they had no choice but to make a honest effort to do something different (as opposed to crap like the Catera or “Euro” Sevilles and Devilles), it was too late.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      @FreedMike Well, Bully Sir! You’d make a fine barrel man.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree with b). I think GM saw some of the changes coming but the enticement of short term profits with lower costs (rebadging) was just too tempting. Cadillac does have another chance for redemption with EVs but I am not going to hold my breath. You are correct about the broughams they went a little too long with those but so did Ford and Chrysler except Ford did launch the revolutionary Taurus which changed the domestic market. Seems today’s crew cab full size pickups have taken a page out of the brougham land yachts of the past and maybe they too will evolve. Doesn’t take too much cost or imagination to brougham a vehicle making it very profitable to do so. Large chrome plastic grill and trim and fake wood throughout the interior.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d be more optimistic about Cadillac’s move to EVs if the Lyriq weren’t so darn ugly. I have no idea what the designer who did the rear end was on.

      I think they should have made the Escala show car into the first Cadillac EV. Before you say “but no one buys sedans anymore,” consider all the press Tesla gets from the Model S (and they sell quite a few too, last I checked). Instead, we get what amounts to an electrified Equinox.

      I give. (Shrugs shoulders)

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    My big brother nearly bought a Catera, dodged that bullet and got a Bonneville. But even though Caddys got significantly better in the years following, they lost him to Lexus.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I’ll reserve final judgement on Cadillac. The Lyriq could become a real competitor to Tesla but it could also become a flop. A lot of luxury car buyers switched from Cadillac and Lincoln to Lexus but Lexus also took a fair share of sales from Euro lux brands like Mercedes. Lexus is the brand to set the mark for luxury vehicles in the USA. More important for Cadillac and Lincoln to use Lexus as a mark to strive for than BMW and Mercedes especially when it comes to dealer service and overall quality. Lexus retains more loyalty than most other luxury brands.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I imagine most of this still goes on. At one time, higher-up auto executives were chauffeured to work. A high-ranking auto-executive being driven to work. Ok, to all you MBAs waving your hands; yes the executive is more productive, yes it allows him/her to have work done when they arrive at the office. However, it’s like feeding a chef White Castles every day. Oh, I do love me some sliders; fresh off the grill or microwave for 90 seconds. Intestinal gas worse than some of the thinking on here. The executives on the next lower tier got free company cars. “Well, duh” Mr. Mr. Obvious; it’s a car company. Except their parking garage wasn’t like yours or mine. The auto companies had stalwart hard-working UAW mechanics on hand to take of these executive’s cars. Dash the has a squeak? Right on it Mr. el Scotto. Needs filled up and washed? Sir, she’ll be ready when you come back down. The sometime in the 70, GM went crazy. Any car could be special ordered with any option from any other division for their executives. An Impala with brocade cloth? Why of course sir! Caddilac-exclusive bits on your Oldsmobile? Why the heck not? Oh some Caddy or Olds executive might have gotten miffed but complaints were few. Why rock the boat when you’re so close to going to a GM geezerville in FL or AZ. They were all driving broughamed-out cars maintained daily, daily mind-you, to fix any (snorts) manufacurting problems. Of course these executives thought they drove the best cars in the world. They were driving the best their insular, closed, self-choosing society had to offer. Oh,, they laughed at the VW Beetle and never asked why people liked it. Then they swore their next small car was just the thing to drive the Japanese back to Tokyo. Driving cars that were maintained daily, rising to the top of a society that had so many benefits, a Swede would blush; no wonder they didn’t want to change very much. That’s how we got something like the Cimarron.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @el scotto–Excellent summation of what is wrong with the Detroit based auto manufacturers and the same thing applies to much of the US based manufacturers. The executives are too far removed from the actual product and the experiences most consumers have with those products. The problem is also the bean counters who cost cut the product so much that there are more problems and the product itself becomes less desirable. Cimarron is an excellent example of what was and is wrong with Detroit.

  • avatar
    Mr. Fletcher

    TTAC the website that ensures the Cimarron lives on.

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