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Is Cadillac's Image Dying and Does Anyone Care?

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  • laurasdadalaurasdada Posts: 2,482
    I think you're wrong on that statistic. When I was talking to Elvis, Jim and Janis last night they concurred it is more like 27.5% And they should know as they talk to the dead quite regularly.

    Elvis does say hi, is thinking of buying a Silver Thunderbird...

    '13 Jaguar XF, '11 BMW 535xi, '02 Lexus RX300

  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I do not see the Allante as a sales failure. I will have to go back the the 1987 Motor Trend article on the Allante, where they interviewed Cadillac's head engineer, to see exactly what he said. I hope that will settle the issue.

    There is no issue here with me. The car could have sold 100K copies in 5 years, it was still a dismal failure because it didn't even come close to beating the competition of the day, which was stated to be the SL per Cadillac. Just because it sold well proves that Cadillac buyers are loyal, and we all know they had no problem buying any one of the heaps Cadillac sold in the 80's. Again, a pointless matter about sales. Sales are only one criteria in determining whether or not a car is a success or not. By all other means the Allante was an utter flop.

    M
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I agree with your views on Saab. AWD isn't needed on what is orignally a FWD car anyway, its overkill.

    M
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I think the Allante basic problem was front wheel drive. But the Mercedes SL had been in production since the mid-50's, so with a history of more than 30 years by 1987 any Cadillac competitor would still have been of limited success. The current XLR is not selling any better than the Allante did, nor does it compare with the current SL either.

    I don't get this, but it is interesting. The Allante was a 60K car with a non-power convertible top, it was FWD, it was underpowered and had very poor structural rigidty for a convertible. Even it had been RWD that would have fixed all the other problems it had. The car was typical GM of the day, half-baked and ill-conceived and put on sale way to early in its development.

    I can't believe I'm going to say this, but the current XLR most certainly does compare to the SL, much more so than than Allante ever did during its day. I don't see how you could think otherwise. This class of car isn't about sales as much as the sedan classes are so why are you so hung up on that? The XLR doesn't sell any better for the same reason the Allante didn't, because it is overpriced. The 100K asking price for the XLR-V is really over the top for a "Cadillac", but it is easily the best car GM makes or any American brand for that matter.

    Cadillac tried to price the XLR like the Germans instead of taking a page out of Lexus' book. Lexus knew the SC430 couldn't compare to the SL so they priced it like a CLK550, not a SL550. Cadillac should have done the same, a 65K XLR and 85K XLR-V would have sold better than 78K XLR and 100K XLR-V do. To say that XLR cars don't compare to the SL and to imply that the Allante did is just way off-base. The XLR is way more "together" and competitive with the SL than the Allante ever was.

    Sure the Allante was "together" by 1993, but hadn't it been on sale since 1987? It took GM 6 years to get the car right? If so it deserved to flop. The Allante even looked the part and the name sounded elegant, but like so many GM cars they were out to lunch on the details and that is what killed it. That and the ridiculous assembly process must have come the most brain-dead folks at GM at the time.

    M
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Posts: 4,158
    I remember both the Allante and Merc and I don't know how they were even comparable? Pardon me if I am wrong, but wasn't the Allante FWD?

    And I don't recall the Benz being anything but a rear driver. So wouldn't this be a more logical comparison to the Caddy?

    image

    Both had about the same success from what I remember.
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    One of GM's problems in the 70's and 80's was the greatness of their 60's cars.

    The beautiful Caddy's of the 60's were still common on the streets in the 70's and 80's. They really made their replacements look sad, and the new cars ran poorly in comparison. Sure the old Caddy's were gas-guzzlers, but they were glorious cars.

    No one could feel anything but sheepish and embarrassed in his downsized FWD 80's caddy when he parked next to an old 60's queen of the highway.

    image

    image

    Fortunately for GM, Cadillac is like an aircraft carrier. It can sustain a lot of damage without being destroyed, but it takes a long, long time to just turn it around, and a long, long time to repair the damage.

    I will say that the 08 CTS looks more like a real Caddy than anything we've seen in a long time - perhaps since the Allante. However, we must wait with bated breath to see how the execution works in the real world. The Allante too looked good on paper, as did the Catera, and the XLR. Unfortunately they all had serious flaws.
    I really hope that Cadillac has sweated the details - this time.
  • The XLR-V still isn't right, though. There's already some negative media buzz about it. It's not devastating, but it's not good news either.

    For one, Cadillac charges you a nasty premium for the supercharger and apparently the performance upgrade you get is not even close to worth the $20K. It's a bit of a rip-off I think is the general critics' notion. Also the electric hardtop is supposed to be diabolically unfriendly and it seems likely that this going to get real annoying real fast for many otherwise happy owners.

    It's stuff like this that drives me nuts about Cadillac. They get to "almost" and then shoot themselves in the foot on TWO really really important items...the "promise" of performance vs. the reality, and the major component of the car's identity---the hardtop/convertible function.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Well the top issue was fixed with a running change. The first few batch of XLR/XLR-Vs would dump any rain water right onto your luggage when the top was opened. That flaw has been fixed last time I read up on it.

    I think the price is the biggest problem, a 100K for a Cadillac is a tough sell to their traditional buyers and it is way to much too ask of a Euro buyer shopping in that price range. They'll simply say "may as well get the MB/BMW/Porsche/Jaguar" etc. etc. A M6 Cabrio, SL550 or a XLR-V? Cadillac isn't going to win that one too often. The Cadillac name itself just doesn't garner any respect or interest with people who spend 100K on a car, regardless as to whether or not the XLR-V itself is worthy or competitive with other 100K droptops.

    It's stuff like this that drives me nuts about Cadillac. They get to "almost" and then shoot themselves in the foot on TWO really really important items...

    This is GM's problem in general. Take the Kappa twins and the Saturn Aura for instance. They look the part on paper and even perform nicely, but their are lots of oversights and/or faulty details that keep them from greatness. Interior quality/fit/finish, transmission (on the Kappas) and other things that annoy. To GM's credit though they seem to be more eager to make changes right away instead of years down the line. At least in the case of the Sky/Solstice.

    M
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    As I said I would do, I went back to the library with the back issues of Motor Trend. I read the 1987 Allante article published in the September 1986 issue. I think that I understand your confusion.

    The article was both an interview with a Cadillac spokesperson and a test of the 87 Allante. At the beginning of the article, the spokesperson said that GM's grand plan (note this is probably mid 1986) was to move Buick up market to replace Cadillac and to move Cadillac up market to compete with Mercedes. The rest of the article was on the Allante, and did not address the issue of where the Allante fit into the moving up scheme. My impression was that the Allante was not a final product in this grand scheme.

    The article stated that they were planning to build up to about 500 Allantes per month, but did not expect to sell that many, at least in the first year.

    That same issue of Motor Trend had a comparison test of the Corvette, Porsche and Mercedes 560SL. The Corvette was considered the run away best performer of the three. The skidpad performance was perhaps worth noting, the SL got 0.80, while the Allante was 0.81 in its separate test. Skidpad numbers are meaningless when it comes to actual performance on real highways, so how the two might have compared in actual handling is not clear, but in the Motor Trend test write up they seemed to think the Allante was much better than the rest of the production Cadillacs at that time.

    As far as GM's grand scheme of moving Buick and Cadillac up goes, in 1989 Buick had a Park Avenue Ultra model, with a much nicer interior. The Ultra was comparable to perhaps the Fleetwood Cadillac at that time. When the 1991 Buick Park Avenue (an all new body) came out, the Ultra Park Avenue was not the 1990 version, but was more like the old Park Avenue, while the standard Park Avenue was the Electra. So I think GM's grand plan was dead by the early 1990's. We are now more than 20 years past mid-1986 and I do not see that Buick has changed, or that Cadillac is any more Mercedes like that it ever was. Mercedes had a broad range of models in the 80's, so Cadillac could have aimed at the low end.
  • Well Corvette grabs some European car buyers because the performance you get for the money is just unbeatable. When you start breaking $100K however, the Europeans can throw a lot at you---but at $55K or so, they got nuttin' to match a Corvette's performance.

    This "ultra-luxury GT" market is a tough one....over $100K I'd suspect most people want either a really razor-sharp performance car or a big-[non-permissible content removed] sedan with overwhelming presence and performance. They pretty much spit out that Lexus SC430 or whatever it was.....
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    There is no confusion on my part. Cadillac had commercials and print ads during the time that touted it as the SL's competitor. There were more than just one article about the Allante which contained quotes from GM excutives about the Allante being a SL competitor.

    I don't get what you're reaching for here with the Allante. It never established itself as a SL competitor and it didn't do any damage to Mercedes' SL.

    Whether or not the Allante sold or not is irrelevant. That the Cadilac faithful bought so many of Caddy's 80s products tells you that Cadillac buyers didn't care or know what the "best" cars were during that time.

    M
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Well Corvette grabs some European car buyers because the performance you get for the money is just unbeatable. When you start breaking $100K however, the Europeans can throw a lot at you---but at $55K or so, they got nuttin' to match a Corvette's performance.

    This is true. The rumored 650hp Supercharged Corvette Blue Devil or "SS" is going to really rock the establishment, even more so than the Z06. It hard to ignore 911 Turbo/F430 level performance for 65K no matter what the badge is.

    Lexus knew the SC430 would be murdered by the SL so they ducked a direct confrontation.

    M
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    As I have shown, your ability to recall things, like the 560SL's horsepower rating, is fuzzy.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    As I have shown, your ability to recall things, like the 560SL's horsepower rating, is fuzzy.

    So what. Guy, the Allante flopped. Everyone remembers that and Cadillac would like for you to forget it. Again, you act as though the correct numbers gave the Allante some type of advantage. Your continued harping on that is just ridiculous. The car was still underpowered and had far less hp then the SL of the day. It is matterles! You can keep bringing that up forever, it won't change a thing. The SL has been around since the 50's continusouly, while Cadillac has flopped in the segment before and according to some here now. That XLR isn't competitive I really don't agree with.

    M
  • Correction - Elvis is NOT dead (Offbeat tourist attractons - Elvis is Alive Museum. I'm driving by there tonight if you want me to give him a message.

    Any chance we can drop the Allante conversation for awhile? It's really tedious, and has nothing to do with the future of Cadillac.

    Need help navigating? kirstie_h@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • I'll try to settle this. My best books show the 560SLS with about a 25 HP advantage over the Allante and a 0-60 time of 8.0 seconds as opposed to Allante's 9.0 seconds and a top speed advantage of about 15 mph.

    The SL would be a better handling car and would have more torsional rigidity.

    Also, as any CEO will tell you, being first out of the gate is a huge advantage for a product.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    This is what I posted back on January 1st regarding the Allante. If you disagree with what I said then OK.

    "As far as the Allante is concerned, I think that it was overpriced, due in part to the extravagant manufacturing process. But more than anything, the FWD simply was not going to work in something that Cadillac expected to sell to Mercedes SL roadster buyers. Cadillac was able to flim-flam some people with the Seville Turing Sedan (STS) and they experimented with the computer controled suspension. However, as was the case with the 60's era Toronado and Eldorado, FWD has very serious limits with respect to handling on dry pavement. On slippery roads FWD is an other matter."
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    The whole execution of the XLR has been a disappointment for me. I like the styling a lot in the pictures. I think it makes much better use of its design cues than the current CTS does.

    But:

    I got to drive an XLR at a Lexus event, and it made me crazy. As sexy as the design was, the moment I slid into the driver's seat I was frustrated. The interior felt huge and empty and...cheap. It reminded me of my friend's old Z-28. I knew about the exotic Zebra wood, but in the bright sunlight, it looked more like a polycoated piece of plywood from a kit car than a megabuck piece of forbidden rain forest.

    The car was a nice driver - tight and flat on the smooth roads of the event course, but I didn't feel pampered or cosseted like I did in the Jag's, BMW's and Lexus at the same event.

    This review from Forbes pretty well summarizes my feelings:

    while the interior of the XLR might be a shade more luxurious than the Corvette's, it is not even in the same class as a Lexus or Jag. Despite all the lip service being paid to Cadillac's new exterior design cues, it is frustrating to see how much its interiors still lag behind.

    The dashboard and console wouldn't be let out of the factory in Germany, Japan or England. While there are some nice wooden touches--such as on the steering wheel--the entire passenger side dash is one big swatch of vinyl. Would it have killed them to add a nice wooden strip to class it up a little? While environmentalists might appreciate the gesture, to most anyone else it seems like Cadillac is cheap, or clueless, or both.

    Similarly, the side control panels are covered in some kind of pseudo-industrial plastic stripping that is just embarrassing. Cadillac has made much of the fact that the gauges were designed by the Italian-luxury jewelry and watch firm Bulgari, and even emblazoned the name 'Bulgari' ostentatiously on the speedometer. While easy enough to read, it doesn't look particularly stylish or special.


    All of that to say that this is why I'm so hesitant to praise the new CTS in advance. The XLR looked pretty good in the magazine centerfolds, but in real life it was a different woman.

    We won't even go into the trunk lid (top-cover?) design that dumps rain water in the trunk when you try to put the top down after the rain ends.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    The Motor Trend tests in the 1986 September issue had the 560SL's 0-60 performance under 7 seconds. The Allante was a bit over 10 seconds with the 4100. With the 1989 4.5 liter engine, the Allante was under 8.5 seconds.

    The comparison test on the Corvette, Porsche and SL went on to say that the SL had the most stiffest body, with little shake, while the Corvette was not as good.
  • I think overuse of wood trim is a sin that too many auto stylists fall into. I can see the conversation now...

    Manager: We need to bring these interior upscale so what are your plans?

    Chief Designer: We plan to cover as much of the interior as possible with shiny wood.

    Manager: Perfect everyone knows shiny wood is high class just look at furniture...

    Lexus and to a lesser extent Mercedes are serious offenders with regards to this.

    I am a much bigger fan of small tasteful bits of wood. Unvarnished, non-shinny, natural looking wood is even better.
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