: Let me be boring, and ask about the BUSINESS of Cadillac..

01-08-04, 12:34 AM

I am interested in Cadillac as a business and brand, how it gained popularity, how it became a little less relevant than it used to be (in recent years) and how it is now making a superb comeback with vehicles like Escalade..

Not just a history but some facts and figures as well. Any pointers from the veterans on this board would be really useful!


01-08-04, 10:44 AM
First of all, welcome Bingo!

This could turn into a lively discussion, but I'll start the ball rolling with the "decline" of Cadillac and some things that I think contributed to it.

1973--Arab oil embargo. Reality bites. For the first time in history, Americans had to start thinking about conservation and reacting to high-cost fuel. This continued through the late 70's and early 80's with the Iranian crisis.

1976--Cadillac introduces the first Seville, which was actually based on the Chevy Nova. Later came the Cimarron which was nothing more than a Chevy Cavalier with leather seats.

1981--Cadillac introduces the V8-6-4 engine, designed to provide good old fashioned V8 power when desired, but radical fuel conservation when cruising. Something with the electronics didn't work, and the concept was a flop, abandoned the same year.

1985--Cadillac introduces the new FWD DeVilles. IMO, there was nothing to differentiate these cars from Oldsmobile or Buick. GM was making everything interchangeable many years before this, but at least the Caddy was still distinctive in the '70s.

Note that the above decisions made by Cadillac were knee-jerk reactions to higher cost gasoline. The first Seville was supposed to compete with the Europeans. The Cimarron was supposed to compete with the Japanese. For a time there, CAddy was trying to play somebody else's game, when for the previous 30 years Cadillac had been the "Standard of the World."

The return of Cadillac?

I think that the N* is a big part of it. Also, they've been smart to change their ad campaigns to target the post-baby boomers.

The slap against Cadillac is quality, durability, and reliability. The only way I see to wipe the slate clean is to put a product out there that runs for more than 100,000 miles without any major problems, and still looks new after seven or eight years.

For a long time, It was very difficult to guess how old a Mercedes was. The styling didn't change dramatically from year-to-year. Yes they cost more, but they lasted longer and provided the large-car luxury Americans desired. New Cadillacs used to be good for 80,000 miles with nothing but oil changes. The 80's changed that. Problems started occurring at 40,000 miles and sometimes sooner. Cadillac lost a lot of loyal customers because of that--my family included.

01-08-04, 08:34 PM
Elvis, good info, but how is GM or any manufacturer supposed to make a car that still "looks good" after a number of years if the owner doesn't take care of it!? Mines mint, and smells new inside because it was stored and taken care of. Many 10 year old ones are driven high mileage and taken care of, so they look new also. It must be up to the owner, not GM to keep the car looking good. IMO. With the exception of bad primer and paint, of course.

I don't like the smallish 80's Cadillacs either, but GM did what it had to survive based on consumer demand at the time. If no one will buy a large gas pig in the 1980's, they might have hung themselves if that was all they offered.


01-09-04, 11:06 AM
Ralph, I was talking about primer and paint, too. That's really all I meant.

WRT the 80's Cadillacs, I think Caddy made a mistake by trying to throw in short-term fixes and reacting to the changing market. They should've been more proactive and tried to get ahead of the competition rather than just trying to keep up.

c5 rv
01-09-04, 09:33 PM
Welcome, Bingo. Some observations about your questions. Not necessarily answers, but my ramblings:

During the 1950s, business schools started churning out professional managers and auto companies began hiring them. At that time there were a lot of car-guys running business operations at the automakers and senior management saw a value in getting MBAs to help them get a leg up on the cross-town competition. Import cars were mainly an afterthought.

During the '60s, the car-guys stayed in charge, introducing muscle cars. The MBAs continued to matriculate through the management ranks of the automakers. Cadillac was viewed as the premium marque that successful doctors and business leaders drove. (Your run-of-the-mill family doctor drove a Buick. My sister was married to an anestesiologist then and he drove a Caddy.) Some non-conformists bought imported cars.

The 1970's saw the automakers hit on three fronts: insurance companies made high-powered cars very expensive for drivers to insure; gas shortages and price rises made people want cars with better mileage; and government regulations in safety, fuel economy, and emissions exploded on the scene. Japanese and European manufacturers had vehicles that met two of these challenges (cheap to insure and thrifty on fuel). In addition, their limited model lines and experience in dealing with government import regulations probably made integrating additional govt. regulations into their homologation process easier. At this same time, the MBAs had matriculated into the top ranks of domestic management and, surprise, they were better equipped to deal with these three external forces than the car guys. The professional managers were put in charge. A lot of lousy solutions were hastily introduced during these times: battering ram style bumpers, shoulder belts that strangled you, strangled V-8s, etc. Quality suffered, styling suffered, and worst yet, the customer suffered. While a new generation was coming to power in the domestic automakers, a new generation was buying cars and getting interested in imports.

- The 1980's saw the domination of scientific and financial management. Expenses were squeezed, automation was expanded, and platforms flourished. Platforms were seen as the way to take a single car, make some cosmetic changes, and sell it through 3 or 4 different GM brands. Professional marketers were then tasked to build interest in these cars. Cadillac wasn't immune to this strategy. Remember the Cimarron, aka Cavalier, aka Sunbird? Consumers who bought the Cadillac marque started to realize that they weren't getting a premium vehicle. Many older buyers stuck with Cadillac. The baby boomers were buying lots of cars - and lots were buying imports with better economy, better handling, higher quality, and more features. Automakers expanded tuition reimbursement programs and actively encouraged engineers and technical persons to pursue advanced degrees in their specialty and management.

- The 1990's saw the continued domination of professional financial managers. Domestic automakers basically conceded the automobile market to the Japanese. The only way they continued to sell large numbers of autos was to sell them to the rental car companies they owned interest in. Domestic automakers invested in SUVs and trucks and kept their loss of market share to a minimum by converting domestic auto consumers into SUV and truck consumers. Import manufacturers knew their customers would want to move into luxury brands and introduced Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura. Audi moved up-scale and BMW took off. Consumers responded and left Cadillac and Lincoln for the senior citizens. However, engineers with business degrees were matriculating through the ranks of domestic automakers, despite downsizings. Also, older luxury cars started to be sought by a new generation of auto consumers who were tired of riding in their parents' Toyotas, Hondas, minivans, and SUVs.

- The 2000's are becoming an exciting time again for domestic automakers. Engineers with business degrees are moving into senior management positions. The value of style, engineering, and performance are being realized. Platforms are become more diverse. Witness the CTS, SRX, and upcoming STS that share the same Sigma platform that is stretched, widened, and unique in each implemenation. Popular culture, expecially hip hop, has latched onto an unlikely icon - the Escalade. Cadillacs are starting to become something special again. Automakers are investing in cars - the 2004 Detroit Autoshow is the year of the car. A new generation has come of age and wants to buy something different different than the competent, practical, and now viewed as boring, Toyotas and Hondas of their parents. Heck, some of these 20-somethings are buying, gasp, Cadillacs, in the CTS. Toyota is rolling out Scion as something different. The Korean brands are growing. The domestic automakers are introducing lots of small, midsize, and sporty cars. We'll enjoy the competition and the driving.