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Is Cadillac's Image Dying and Does Anyone Care?

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  • douglasrdouglasr Posts: 191
    ...True when it was introduced in 1963, 600 ran up against the last of the Cloud series, and for that matter American luxury cars still used drum brakes. The Big Benz was advanced for its time. But...

    Introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1963 Daimler-Benz built 3 cars for the show to introduce the model. Over its 18 year lifespan 600's were built at an average rate of 148 cars per year, with regular "production" ceasing in 1972, and customer orders filled until its demise in 1981 for a total of 2,677. Mean maximum speed was 130mph for the standard wheelbase model weighing in at 5,748lbs, doing 0-60 mph in 9.7 seconds and 17.3 for the quarter mile. Fuel consumption was rated between 11.2 and 13.3 mpg. Granted its myraid of hydraulic systems to operate many features made the car a unique engineering achievement.

    However, Rolls-Royce began its development of the Silver Shadow in its "Burma" and "Tibet" prototypes a decade before the final introduction of the Shadow in late 1965, the formal decision being made in 1954---prior to the development of the 600---by Harry Grylls and John Blatchley. Even V8 Hemi-engines were considered at one point before settling on the design that is still being used today in the Bentley Arnage. Out went the 1920's Birkigt designed Hispano-Suiza licensed inertia braking system. In went the Citroen-licensed hydraulic leveling and four wheel disc braking system with no less than four separate systems to stop the car. With the Shadow, R-R became a modern car in the best sense of the word, surpassing most concurrent automobiles. Production commenced in 1966 and ran through late 1981, almost as long as 600. Not counting coachbuilt models and two door varients (or Bentley versions), the Shadow was the most successful Rolls-Royce ever, with 30,009 produced---an average of 1,768 cars per year.

    Concurrent road tests of the original Shadow resulted in lively performance for the 4,660lb sedan. While slower than the 600 off the mark, its 0-60 times at 10.9 seconds, it matched 600 in the quarter mile at 17.6 seconds, with top speed at a mean rated 127mph. Fuel consumption provided a greater range between 12.2 and 15 mpg. My own 1975 RHD British Shadow would return 16 mpg@65mph with 100K on the engine. Thus the two cars were essentially equal in performance, yet the Shadow was far more miserly in the fuel economy department.

    In a match up between the two cars one tester wrote: "The Rolls just digs its tail in and runs its nose wide...You soon learn that the only way is to corner fast is to aim for the inside apex getting a lock on good and early, leaving room for minor adjustments..." Admittedly gearing between the two cars favored the 600 in 1966, but that would change as the Shadow was developed in later years, improved with a larger engine and rack & pinion steering, plus radial tuned suspension. Of the 600 the same tester wrote: "With the suspension set hard for best handling the Mercedes has a trace of sports car in its ride and certainly falls short of ultimate luxury..." Both cars were assessed fairly, with faults and niggles brought to light. The Rolls took the crown for its attention to detail and finish, whereas the Benz won appropriate laurels for its handling despite weighing nearly 800 lbs more.

    While 600 remained the corporate talismen for more than a decade, it was outshone by the 'skunk-works' developed 300 SEL 6.3 using the same 600 engine stuffed into the 109 bodyshell...that was developed by accident by Rudolf Ulhenhaut and Erich Waxenberger, and introduced in March 1968. THAT was a car that put-paid to many a competitor, once you got past the austere interior of the 300SEL compared to Jaguar, R-R, or numerous other makes. It was two seconds faster off the mark in all catagories, top speed of 134mph plus, attained the same fuel economy as a Shadow and wieghed 1,450lbs less than a 600, and 600 less than a Shadow. THAT car attained a benchmark to which everyone paid attention, (or not!).

    However the running costs of a 600 are nothing short of astronomical: $1,600 for a new starter, and $4,500 for a 'rebuilt' fuel injection pump to name two items. Having been "caretaker" of a 1966 300SE Coupe, I became well acquainted with the effect of the prices on parts for 300/600 series Benz...upon my wallet. D-B intended the car to be used by ultra-wealthy people and governments, ergo the average cost per annum to keep the car on the road is about $5-7,000. Rolls-Royce never took that view in its corporate history. It built its cars to be run hard, and every day in remote parts of the world---thus many spares are obtainable at reasonable prices---though granted unique parts do come dear, but nothing approaching the Benz running costs. A good Shadow will cost you less than half what a 600 costs to run.

    Neither Cadillac or Lincoln offered the kinds of features found en-masse or in-toto on either the 600 or the Shadow. Although Lincoln was first with disc brakes in 1965, Cadillac followed shortly thereafter. Both companies often tried, but discarded numerous features later found on the European cars, and never put them into production or developed them. (Prototype Lincoln's were built with disc brakes in 1957, Eldorado used air-suspension long before Benz went hydraulic in 1961.) Both Lincoln and Cadillac sported engines of nearly the same displacement at 430/462 & 429/472 CID when the Shadow and 600 were new---allowing both brands to at least match the two cars in acceleration and top speed---its extra cubic inches giving them that edge. yet neither company put a premium on road-holding during the 1960's and 1970's vis a vis its German and British competitors. Driving my Lincoln against the Rolls, I could not keep pace with my friend in the Shadow...with both of us pressing hard...what I gained on the straight, I lost in the turns....the Shadow's hydraulically powered brakes and independent suspension all round left me behind...(I had to buy dinner!)

    One reason why Cadillac has decided to enter the fray in recent times....making up for much lost ground. Cadillac, today, is at least in the game and giving a fair challenge to German, Japanese and other European makes. Acceptance of the marque is proved by the fact that Cadillac sold 2,185 cars in Europe in 2005. Lincoln is suffering from its disconnected leadership at the top of Ford Motor, and it will be some time before it rejoins the competative ranks---if it can do so at all. The truth is that American luxury marques as Cadillac and Lincoln have taken a long time to see that performance all 'round indeed can be part of the luxury package. But Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz were there along time ago. At least we have Mr. Lutz to thank for today's Cadillac automobiles.

    DouglasR

    (Sources: 'Mercedes-Benz V8's', F. Wilson McComb, Motorbooks International, 1980; 'Mercedes-Benz since 1945', James Taylor, Motor Racing Publications, 1985; 'Rolls-Royce & Bentl
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,791
    Work in their finance department for a while that will enlighten you.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America: I70 & I75Posts: 18,387
    >And sorry to burst your bubble but my Toyota Corolla (2002-03) has been one great car.

    I recognize the technique you use.

    One car, one datum. I have two GREAT leSabres that have served well; two points, two data. Congratulations on your car's service.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,196
    The Catera was an import. It was manufactured in Germany and based on the Opel Omega.

    I know what you mean about the Country Squire. My Dad had a 1972 Ford Country Squire. That car rusted with a vengeance and always suffered some mechanical malady. My grandfather's 1974 Chevrolet Impala was infinitely better.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,196
    Heck, I have two GREAT Cadillacs and a GREAT Buick Park Avenue.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    snakeweasel: Work in their finance department for a while that will enlighten you.

    If you are making the (veiled) accusation that Consumer Reports is taking money from a manufacturer, and allowing this exchange to influence its vehicle test scores and the results of reliability surveys, you need to go to the media immediately.

    Given the CBS News and The New York Times scandals over the past 2-3 years, it is safe to say that Consumer Reports is more trusted than those media outlets.

    If you - or the friend you repeatedly reference - really has proof to back up these accusations, then this would be one of the biggest stories of the year.

    If you have documented proof, then contact the media. You (or your friend) are sitting on one of the biggest stories of the year.

    Until then, I'm putting as much faith in your accusations as Bigfoot sightings and stories of alien abductions.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    You have forgotten that the Eldorado Brougham had air suspension. I don't think the Eldorado had the Mercedes handling though.

    But your post confirms what I was getting at: the 600 was a flop unless of course the purpose was advertising. The Allante may have been a way for Cadillac to boost itself in the marketplace too.

    If the Rolls was such a bad car, why did it out sell the 600 by 20 to 1
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    Well you did misrepresent the horsepower rating. The Allante's performance, with a tuned intake manifold on the 4100, with 170 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque, must have been much better than the Eldorado's performance with the 130 hp, 200 lb-ft of torque 4100. The peak torque on the Eldorado was at 2200 RPMs vs 3200 RPMs for tha Allante. Cadillac was planning the 4.5 liter engine when the Allante was introduced. I think by 1987 they were just getting the problems with the 4100 fixed.

    Your point of view on the Allante seems to be that since it was not designed to out perform the Mercedes SL it was junk. My point of view is that the Allante was designed to be a fuel efficient luxury roadster based on Cadillac's FWD drivetrain. The issue at question here is whether there was a market for it. In the 7 years of production, about 20,000 units were sold. This was a very expensive Cadillac, not unlike the Eldorado Brougham, or the Mercedes 600.

    Judged on the basis of what the Allante was, I think that sales were good. It certainly sold better than the much cheaper, and probably less troublesome Reatta. The Allante was not a sports car and was not designed to out perform the Corvette. I did own a 91 Reatta. I also owned an 84 and an 86 Corvette.
  • xrunner2xrunner2 Posts: 3,062
    The Allante may have been a way for Cadillac to boost itself in the marketplace too.

    Recall that Allante was in one comedy TV show of "Married with Children". Shoe salesman Al Bundy's flaky daughter was competing with other young women to be selected as a model to work with an Allante display or commercial. :P

    Why did GM/Caddy apparently allow its premier coupe to be used in a silly comedy? Was that a good decision? Did that help Caddy image?
  • OH god please just drop the Allante business.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    Consumers Reports collects data for their subscribers from their subscribers. The basic question is whether the data they have is good enough to compare the quality of one make with another. What CR does with the data is to report what problems have been reported for each make. They do some sort of average, so that they make a judgement about above or below average. The basic question is whether there is a comparable sample of each make, or are some makes dominating the sample and the average.

    J. D. Powers collects data from all owners of various makes, not just consumer reports subscribers, with the specific intention of comparing one make with another.
  • xrunner2xrunner2 Posts: 3,062
    On a more relevant note, Cadillac can still muster up in the syle department when it wants to, but substance, uhmmm, I'm still iffy on that subject when it comes to Cadillac. And G.M. seems to disconnected and erratic with the way they do
    business.


    GM/Caddy went to Italy for Allante body apparently, then put in GM/Caddy parts for engine/susp/etc. Perhaps they could reverse this procedure and take the upcoming CTS body, pretty decently styled, and with agreement with Acura, have Acura engine/susp/brakes/interior. This joint venture would be a win/win for both Caddy and Acura. Buyers would get a very nicely styled CTS with Acura running gear. Also, many Acura fans have been clamoring for a bigger model having RWD to replace the RL model and this would satisfy it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,331
    Well in the 60s and 70s the Rolls had an established market and was resting on laurels from the distant past...and momentum is a very serious factor in marketing (first out of the gate). Rolls demise and sale to the Germans compares to Cadillac's in that sense of momentum "lost"...Cadillac also rested on its laurels and sold some very bad cars in large numbers....until the competition caught up.

    So I guess a simplistic way of saying it is that Mercedes saw a plump, slow target in both Rolls and Cadillac and after figuring out how to do it, ate them for breakfast. It just took a few years.

    Same with Lexus...they saw an overpriced, rather blase Benz in a market all by itself, (Benz having killed off any potential Lexus competition for them) and figured out how to make a comparable car for a good deal less of an MSRP.

    Rolls Royce was kind of an icon, like Harley Davidson. You could capture a buyer, bury him in evidence as to why his car/bike is sub-standard in every respect to another product, as well as grossly overpriced, and then torture them with electric prods, and most of them would still buy their "icon".

    Sometimes a product reaches a level of brand equity that defies all logic. You CAN make a substandard product and survive as long as you somehow manage to make money doing it.

    Rolls would have continued to make bad cars into eternity if the British government would have been willing to continue subsidizing them.

    But somebody in Britain woke up and realized that it was the aviation department of Rolls that was making all the money.

    Rolls had a modern car "in theory" but Benz had one in practice. Big diff. Rolls had horrendous problems with their series I Shadows...absolutely horrendous. I'm surprised buyers didn't burn the factory to the ground with that car.

    To be fair, later cars were better.

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  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    The 1982 move to the 4100 greatly improved Cadillac's CAFE (from 18 to 22).

    Yes, but it drove their warranty expense up 900% because that engine was total junk, lasting in most cases, just over 20,000 miles before needing a complete replacement engine.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    I have explained the 4100 design problem before, but here is it again. The basic problem had to do with "standardization of parts". When a part is made there is a "tolerance" for the size, so parts that should be 1.000 in size, are allowed to vary from perhaps .999 to 1.001 in size. In any case, the 4100's built with a combination of parts that were both too big and too small resulted in engine failures. I think that the coolant leaked into the oil. engines that were put together with parts that were normal to large were ok, as well as engines with normal to small parts. As I recall about 25% of the 4100s failed. The failures took a while to start showing up, and then it was a while longer before Cadillac realized that too many engines were failing. It also took Cadillac some time to figure out the actual problem. This was reported in the SAE Journal when the problem was sorted out. The handbuilt preproduction test engines most likely did not have this problem.

    This is not the sort of problem one would expect the winner of Dewar Trophy for standardization to have.
  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    Indeed, and thank you for that info - I missed it last time, and am interested to know that. In my case, I happened to have 3 of them, an 83 in a Fleetwood Brougham, and an 85 in the "new smaller, smarter Fleetwood (no Brougham)", and an 87 Sixty Special. I had to trade the 83 on the 85 because the engine was failing, and I didn't want to have it replaced, so I just traded it. Unfortunately, I had to trade the 85 on the 87 for the same reason. To its credit, the 87 lasted 3 years till I traded it on my last Cadillac, in 1990 on another Fleetwood, which had the 4.9L motor in it that, burned oil like gas. It was like "fill the oil and check the gas please"..... As I said, my last Cadillac, I tried a Lincoln in 92, and never went back. I learned slow, but I learned well, and still have no interest in Cadillac.

    That's why I wonder if they ever can regain the "standard" title, even if they deserved it - which I doubt they ever will.

    But I'm not bitter.
  • xrunner2xrunner2 Posts: 3,062
    I have explained the 4100 design problem before, but here is it again. The basic problem had to do with "standardization of parts".

    The question should be: Did they know how to properly address manufacturing tolerances and variation to best of their knowledge back in 50's, 60's and thus build engines without problems back then? Did the GM corporation know best practices and procedures on variation throughout 70's and 80's of what they had previously learned? If so, what happened in 1982 on that 4100 design?

    Think that Japanese manufacturers embraced American statistical/quality experts such as Deming and Juran after WWII to continuously work on reducing variation in manufacturing and other processes. American car companies finally discovered Deming/Juran in mid to late 80's and are still working to catch up to Japan.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    The 4100 had an aluminum block. GM had problems with previous aluminum engines. I suspect that the aluminum was part of the problem, not that it should have been. But I also think that the 4100 was really designed for the FWD 1984 models, and was put into production early because the 1981 8-6-4 did not meet Cadillac's expectation for fuel consumption at the EPA testing grounds. Cadillac had expected a much better highway rating I think.
  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    Very plausible explanation, and clearly, the V-864 not only disappointed in mileage, but also in reliability. The new DOD engines don't do much better in mileage except in perfect conditions, however, they are bound to be more reliable.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    The DOD engines require a certain style of driving to get good results. The PBS show, Motorweek, did a comparison of two Chrysler 300C's with two different drivers, one driving for fuel efficiency, the other hot rodding through traffic. The hotrodder got about 17 where the other driver got 24.

    My question is: would the 300C with a nice 4.5 liter engine get better mileage and still have decent performance?
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,196
    Either I'm fierociously lucky or doing something right where everybody else is doing wrong. I had a 1994 Cadillac DeVille with the 4.9 litre V-8. It was only rated at 200hp, but the car seemed really fast. It could do 100mph with no effort and would often get away from me on the PA Turnpike if I wasn't paying attention as the ride was so smooth and the engine so quiet. I had absolutely no trouble with the 4.9 engine - no oil burning or leaks and no cooling problems. I could pound railroad spikes all day with that engine and it would keep running.
  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    Two things, lemko - one, you buy the right year Caddy, so you maybe are lucky there. The other is, you have the right mindset about your machine, so you are pleased with it pretty much no matter what. That's how I am with Fords generally, although I've had some turkeys over the years. I used to be that way with Cadillacs, but eventually got put off with them. I think I bought them all in the worst years, probably. Starting in 83 was not at their finest moment.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    In the 1980's and 1990's I owned Buicks with the 3800, so I have no first hand experience with Cadillac engines. The 4.9 had 275 lb-ft of torque, which is very close to the northstars 300 lb-ft rating. So performance should be good.

    I just figured out where my 1986 info on the Riveria/Toronado was. Anyway, the 86 BMW 635CSi ($41,000) would do 0-60 in 10.5 seconds, while the 3800 Buick/Olds's would do it 11.1 seconds. The Allante was about 10.3 seconds. If the BMW was an indicator of good performance, then in the late 80's a 0-60 time of 10 seconds is not bad.
  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America: I70 & I75Posts: 18,387
    >They do some sort of average, so that they make a judgement about above or below average.

    Exactly right. And the word "judgement" in there is where they end up adding their own opinions and preferences.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    The original suggestion - or accusation may be a better word - was that Consumer Reports is allowing some sort of financial support to influence its vehicle rankings and reliability results. That is how I read the original post.

    That is a far more serious accusation than saying that their survey results are not accurate because of a limited responder base, or even the built-in bias of the staff at Consumer Reports.

    If this is true, it is a huge story, given the influence that Consumer Reports wields over vehicle buyers, and the attention their annual auto issues receives when it debuts with its reliability survey results.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,010
    I wonder if CR is being paid to make some cars look good, or to make some look bad. Or both?

    It's a conspiracy!
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    Consumer reports have always maintained that they don't have advertising so that they are immune to advertizer influences. If they are taking money under the table to report bogus results that would be another matter. I doubt that they do this. They sort of accuse the other car magazines, like Motor Trend, of doing this to make one or another car the Car of the Year, by taking advertizing dollars.

    I do think that if one is looking for a used car, looking through back issues of Consumer Reports might be useful in deciding what years to avoid, or possibly what might be a good one to buy. One needs to look through several issues to really see a trend though, and sometimes there really isn't one.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    As you see it? Then you must have cataracts. How do you explain the instant phenomenal success that Toyota has had with their Scion line? It's because Toyota does their homework and doesn't dump their products on the public to test them.
    ****
    You do realize that almost everything we gt over here in the U.S. is a generation old? In Japan, Toyota and Honda have just as many reliability problems as GM and Ford do - and they're not seen as special at all - just average.

    We just get them over here after the problems have been worked out. So first generation "imports" are closer to second generation domestics.

    That said, the CTS will be a good entry. Bugs worked out, good interior, and yeah, it's no Porsche, but it's also no Camry, either.(and don't even get me started on Totoya's bonehead move to ditch the manual in the IS350)
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,196
    Wow! Great observation. Heck, Toyota probably has the Yakuza put a hit out on anybody who complains. Maybe the domestic automakers should introduce new car models to consumers in the old Soviet bloc. When they're a generation old, they can introduce them to the American market after all the bugs have been discovered and eliminated.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    At one time at least, before the Japanese had a lot of factories here, I think that new models were put into production for the home market first, and brought here after the problems were sorted out.
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