Author Topic: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?  (Read 692 times)

Offline jdemerson

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Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« on: February 10, 2018, 03:53:30 PM »
The post started by Mr. Jessen (chrisntam) led to a fascinating discussion with lots of different views. I voted for 1979 as the approximate end of the "Standard of the World" ranking for Cadillac, and this position seemed to gain as much support as any. Few argued that Cadillac remained the Standard of the World in the 1980s, though some argued that it ended in the 60s or at least earlier than 1979.

In reflecting on the excellent input, it occurs to me that the issue is NOT "was a 1977-79 Cadillac better than a 1964-65, or a 1966-70?"  Rather I believe it is about what make was most sought after, most admired, and most emulated AMONG ITS PEERS in the same era. In 1952 (my year) it was clearly Cadillac. In 1965-66 and 1967-70 it was clearly Cadillac. I believe the same for 1977-79. But quite aside from all this, I'll raise the question about what make, if any, was the standard of the world after 1979? Note it's about the make, and not just about individual models of that make. Was it Lincoln in the 80s?  Was it Mercedes Benz in the 90s? Was it BMW in the early 2000s? Or was there not any clear standard in any of these years, comparable to Cadillac in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s?

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Online 67_Eldo

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2018, 04:50:39 PM »
I'd say the ascension of the Mercedes S-Class cars was putting Cadillac in considerable shade by the late 1970s.

For example, my aunt new many rich folks in Beverly Hills in the late 70s. Sure, the rich-ies would still buy a Seville to putter around in. But when it was time to be seriously formal, they'd pull the Mercedes out of the garage.

Offline jdemerson

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2018, 07:31:59 AM »
I'd say the ascension of the Mercedes S-Class cars was putting Cadillac in considerable shade by the late 1970s.

For example, my aunt new many rich folks in Beverly Hills in the late 70s. Sure, the rich-ies would still buy a Seville to putter around in. But when it was time to be seriously formal, they'd pull the Mercedes out of the garage.

Agree. I think the first generation S-Class of the 70s led Mercedes' ascendency in the world markets and in prestige.  It, and its successors, were leaders in safety technology, for example. With the second generation S-Class (introduced in U.S. as a 1981 model), Mercedes Benz had "arrived". The S-Class of the 80s was a very impressive luxury car. World-wide with the coupes included, its sales exceeded 900,000.

Now add to that the various 300 models of 1976-1985, followed by the W124 of 1986+ (various 200s, 300s, 400s) and all the Diesel variants of these models. Very high quality, reliability, durability, and high sales. These models were not in the luxury class of the S-Class models, but their excellence in the lower price ranges (including taxis) did nothing but enhance the MB reputation. (In contrast, I'm thinking about Cimarron, and later the Catera).

So Mercedes-Benz would have to be a strong contender for "Standard of the World" title starting in 1981. and this would be true even earlier were it not for the Cadillac tradition and the excellent Cadillac models of the late 70s.

BMW was perhaps also, in some sense, a "standard", but in a quite different niche. Anyone want to argue for BMW in at least some time window between mid-70s and mid-90s?

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Offline Big Apple Caddy

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2018, 07:44:23 AM »
While Cadillac reached record sales levels in the late 1970s, the cars were also being discounted more which no doubt helped sales but perhaps also took away some of the prestige factor.  Also, more and more practically brand new Cadillacs were being sold by independent used car dealers and non-Cadillac franchise new car dealers during this time as well.  Were authorized Cadillac dealers having to wholesale off new inventory to these non-authorized Cadillac dealers in order meet more aggressive GM sales needs/goals??

Mercedes-Benzes, already notably more expensive than Cadillacs, did not see the kind of discounting Cadillacs had.

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2018, 08:40:41 AM »
I thought about when Cadillac lost much of its cache with my GM-oriented Dad.

In the beginning (when I was a baby), my Dad was a firm believer in the GM creed: Cadillac was the best car on Earth, Buick and Oldsmobile were acceptable substitutes, and Pontiac/Chevrolet were bargain-bin brands to be avoided. Even the Olds 98 or Buick 225 models were clearly slotted below a DeVille. Between Buick and Olds, he preferred Olds because of its performance/engineering emphasis. However, Cadillac had it all. He'd rather drive a beat-up 68 DeVille convertible with burned valves and get 3 MPG than drive a decent Chevy.

By the mid 1970s, however, GM was flagrantly mixing and matching pieces between divisions. You could find a Chevy 350 in an Oldsmobile! GM essentially destroyed the reputations (whether real or imagined) that had accumulated for each marque. If it was a Cadillac, it should be engineered and built *entirely* by Cadillac. By 1977, it was clear that badge engineering ran rampant at GM.

That was the first development that made Dad seriously question the genuine worth of the "Cadillac" name.

The second strike against the Cadillac heritage (in his mind) was a side effect of the Big GM Downsizing of 1977. The new B-body cars -- particularly the new Caprice Classic -- were beautiful. More beautiful than contemporary Caddys. The Caprice looked like it was carefully milled from a single block of steel. The B body was Bill Mitchell's final home run. And its performance (comparatively speaking in that no-performance era) matched the Caprice's looks.

Still, I was shocked when, on that fateful day in 1982, my Dad rolled up in a well-preserved two-tone 1978 Caprice Classic. "You bought a Chevy!"

He kept that car five years, longer than any other of his cars. (He typically managed to kill one car per year.) He no longer yearned to drive a Cadillac.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2018, 08:50:20 AM by 67_Eldo »

Offline Jeff Rose CLC #28373

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2018, 09:25:12 AM »
The last 2 posts really hit the mark.... at least for me.
When a Cadillac could be easily had by anyone, they lost their magic. 10-15  years ago or so there was a Cadillac dealer by me with a huge sign that said "Credit Help Here." Once you could get a Cadillac for a few $$more/month than a Chevy, what is special about it?

Also, my grandparents had Cadillacs since 1956. They got a new one every few years. Their last was a 77. At that point they really slowed down and kept the 77 until it broke---literally. The frame rusted and cracked in 86. Then they bought a beautiful triple gray Caprice. Obviously several years of engineering had gone by, but I believe my grandmother thought the Caprice was just about the best car they ever had.

If a Cadillac is easy to get, and it isn't much different than a Chevy, what's the point?
« Last Edit: February 11, 2018, 09:28:54 AM by Jeff Rose CLC #28373 »
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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2018, 10:56:05 AM »
> If a Cadillac is easy to get, and it isn't much different than a Chevy, what's the point?

Right.

By most accounts, the Seville was a very nice car. But it also appeared to be a barely disguised Chevrolet Nova! Cadillac mgmt went out of their way to stress the many differences between the Seville and Nova. But non-technical buyers -- particularly those who had historically been Cadillac fans -- were prompted to ask "Why was Cadillac even messing around with a Chevy Nova to begin with?!" Why is Cadillac's newest "halo" car tough to distinguish from Chevrolet's cheapest?

The late-70s perception became this: GM had turned into a massive corporate huckster, selling "Cadillac," "Buick," and "Oldsmobile" cars as gussied-up Chevies. That perception was certainly not altered by the appearance of the Cimmaron in 1982. Even diehard GM folks by that point were asking what sorts of fools does GM's marketing take us for?

Cadillac, the top General Motors brand, took the brunt of consumers' suspicions.

Still, Cadillac shot itself in the foot once again in 1996 with the ultra-bland Catera.

Offline Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2018, 01:19:56 PM »
My opinion the interiors of the Brougham and especially, Brougham d'Elegance from 1980 - 1985 were among the most sumptuous ever in a mass production passenger car, even rivaling (not to say surpassing) that seen in the Talisman models. In my view, no car has ever exceeded Cadillac standard, at least not in this department.

Gracious motoring had always been the hallmark of Cadillac automobiles and in that regard, Cadillac has no peer. In terms of styling, class and elegance, nothing has ever come close in my book. Not BMW, not Mercedes Benz not Rolls nor any of the rest of 'em as far as I'm concerned.

If a harsh ride in the name of cornering on skid pad at 0.9 g in seats slightly more comfortable than an Amish church pew is your thing, a Cadillac probably isn't the car for you.

Hell will freeze over before you'll ever see the likes of an interior this luxurious again. 

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« Last Edit: February 11, 2018, 03:22:37 PM by Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621 »
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Offline Eldorado James

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2018, 04:05:11 PM »
As written back in the first version of the "Standard" discussion, I felt that 1980 was the start of the decline, and said the 1979 Eldorado was the last great Cadillac introduced til the 1992 Seville.  I was a teenager in love with the American automobile in the summer when the 1976 Seville came out.  At the time, I really didn't have the perception that it was merely a gussied-up Nova, especially at that price point.  It seemed what Cadillac promoted it as, a more "International" sized car, since we all knew the big shrinkage was coming in 1977.  It wasn't til a few years later when I actually drove one and was very impressed with it's handling, response and quietness (Well, what wouldn't be compared to an Eldorado of just a few years before?).  In my mind, Cadillac differentiated the Seville just enough to earn the K-body designation and place it into a separate group of judgment (unlike the Cimarron).  It was aimed at Mercedes buyers that wanted to stay American, a target no GM company had attempted before.  While the Seville was a semi-rush job on some borrowed ideas, I think it served Caddy well for a few years til they could see if the foreign threat was really a threat...after all, Cadillac's sales were huge at the time. 

A few years back I read this article (see link below) that really filled in a lot of details regarding what happened at the time the Seville was created.  Chock full of information.....and I also agree with the author about the 1980 Seville (and previously excluded it from my "Standard" timeline).  Good reading!

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2018, 05:00:52 PM »
When the Seville arrived, I was running with the hard-core sports-car crowd, looking for Kansas rubes to dust off in my ex-race 1966 Mini Cooper S Ö a car as far away from the Cadillac luxury crowd as you could get. But our group's discussions frequently focussed on GM's woes (if for no other reason than to take digs at the Corvette drivers). When the Seville emerged, our collective cry was "How can Cadillac sell a Nova for soooooo much money?"

My Dad -- the big Cadillac booster -- was also unimpressed with the Seville. "If I wanted a car with an Oldsmobile engine, I'd buy an Oldsmobile" was his pithy analysis. And so he did buy two used Oldsmobiles in that time frame: 1975 and 1976 Cutlasses that were horrible enough to prompt him to defect to Mopar land for a few years.

As I mentioned earlier and as the Ate Up article notes, the key Seville demographic were getting old enough to worry about maneuvering a car that was the size of the traditional Cadillac. If you had the bucks to burn, the Seville was a nice little grocery getter.

In fact, one extraordinarily rich couple that my Los-Angeles-based aunt hung out with bought a new Seville every year and used them as utility cars. That way neither of their two (his and hers) Mercedes would get dirty. One year we were invited to a Christmas party at their Beverly Hills mansion. When we pulled up, the charred hulk of a Seville was sitting in their driveway, still smelling of burned upholstery and electrical insulation. We opened the door and asked what happened, thinking that maybe they were convulsed with a family tragedy.

They had purchased that Seville *new* that morning. On the way home, on an LA freeway, a mattress fell off the truck in front of them. When they drove onto the mattress, the big, fluffy object stayed under the car. Smoke started rolling out posthaste. They hopped out and the car burned to a crisp right then and there.

"Oh well. It's only a Seville. Insurance will cover it. We'll go pick up another one tomorrow." And cheerfully the party continued.

From then on, the Seville in my mind could be considered only as disposable transportation for a crowd that was considerably older than the demographic Cadillac thought it was attracting.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2018, 05:08:15 PM by 67_Eldo »

Offline The Tassie Devil(le)

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2018, 06:19:53 PM »
. When the Seville emerged, our collective cry was "How can Cadillac sell a Nova for soooooo much money?"   
When I arrived in USA in 2002, I couldn't believe that Cadillac was selling a tarted-up Chevrolet Suburban, and calling it an Escalade.

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Offline Scot Minesinger

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2018, 07:13:15 PM »
Agreed, if we had to call it, 1979 was the last year Cadillac could claim SOTW, emphasis on "could".  Although those RWD Broughams and Fleetwoods from 1989 thru 1996 were great - the car I wanted.

Anyway this is a Cadillac forum, so not going to comment on other makes.

However, do not think that MB, BMW and all the others play the credit game too.  They are all easy to acquire.  The seller does not care if you paid for the luxury car via savings or a predatory loan, so long as they are paid and made whole profitably.  If Cadillac did not do that then they would have been out of business long ago. 

Bruce, I have talked with Suburban and Escalade owners and they think the same as all the others until they drove a Cadillac Escalade, and then they are sold.  That 400+hp 6.2 lite engine, 480 trans, leather quality, and etc. are hard to beat.  Probably will consider an Escalade as a future car for the drive train alone.
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Offline wrench

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2018, 07:34:37 PM »
An interesting question, which i think is not about what mark was the standard, but what standards were a mark held to?

The reshuffling of the deck occurred twice, in my opinion. Both were related to the image of luxury cars as gas guzzlers. The first hit was the gas crunch in the early 70's followed by the gas crunch in the early 80's. Luxury began to be equated with inefficiency. And since the Japanese at the time were known for efficiency, they were given a lot of slack on the luxury vs efficiency curve. 

80's would definitely be Volvo and safety would be the standard.

90's would see the rise of luxury SUVs. All weather handling, creature comforts and perceived safety were standards to be judged at the time.

2000's and up would see the luxury/performance/safety standard going to high end German marks.

Also, the discussion needs to be defined by what level of clientele we are talking about.

Because bullet proof Caddies and bullet proof Maybachs appeal to a more discerning customer base.

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Offline The Tassie Devil(le)

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2018, 07:52:22 PM »
However, do not think that MB, BMW and all the others play the credit game too.  They are all easy to acquire.  The seller does not care if you paid for the luxury car via savings or a predatory loan, so long as they are paid and made whole profitably.  If Cadillac did not do that then they would have been out of business long ago.
Actually, the car makers don't care if the buyers default on their first payment.   They have sold the car, and they got their money from the Leasing Company.

Would have been different if GMAC was the leasing company, as that would have hurt the whole GM conglomerate.

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Offline e.mason

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2018, 07:58:29 PM »
When I arrived in USA in 2002, I couldn't believe that Cadillac was selling a tarted-up Chevrolet Suburban, and calling it an Escalade.

Bruce. >:D

They had to.  They held out producing a SUV, while the rest of the manufacturers were relentlessly craning then out.  Took a few years to finally being able to produce the Escalade on its own platform.
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Offline The Tassie Devil(le)

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2018, 08:07:09 PM »
They had to.  They held out producing a SUV, while the rest of the manufacturers were relentlessly craning then out.  Took a few years to finally being able to produce the Escalade on its own platform. 
I was still disappointed when I saw it in the Caddy dealership.

The silly part of their arrival, and that is for all SUV's, is that the factories could build them and make heaps of money from each one as they could be built cheaply as they didn't have to meet the stringent safety requirements of the purely passenger carrying vehicles.

Plus, as cars were getting bucket front seats, families couldn't fit into them, so the need for people-movers, which also didn't have to meet the stringent restrictions, as these were mostly made from converted vans.

It was my first visit to USA, and Canada, and it really got me off to a disappointing start, seeing 4 x 4's in a Cadillac Showroom.   AND, it was the end of the Eldorado.

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Offline David Greenburg

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2018, 08:33:53 PM »
I agree Cadillac went downhill starting around 1980, and while not mentioning specific dates, Johan de Nysschen conceded as much during his remarks at the GN.  But, to keep things in perspective, nobody was making particularly good cars in the early '80's.  The European luxury brands certainly made inroads against Cadillac during that period, but the 80's were a low point in quality and performance for most of them as well.  Relatively speaking, if you want a bargain priced MBZ, BMW, Jag, or even a Ferrari, you'll find yourself looking at the 80's. 
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Offline Big Apple Caddy

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2018, 07:19:49 AM »
A few years back I read this article (see link below) that really filled in a lot of details regarding what happened at the time the Seville was created.  Chock full of information.....and I also agree with the author about the 1980 Seville (and previously excluded it from my "Standard" timeline).  Good reading!

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

I wonder where the article got its age demographic information on the first gen Seville as it seems to differ from what was being reported back in the late 1970s.  Back then, the Seville was being credited for helping to bring down the average age of Cadillac buyers from near 60 ten years prior to closer to 50; it was stated that half of Seville buyers were age 35 to 45.

Offline Big Apple Caddy

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2018, 07:27:31 AM »
I agree Cadillac went downhill starting around 1980, and while not mentioning specific dates, Johan de Nysschen conceded as much during his remarks at the GN.  But, to keep things in perspective, nobody was making particularly good cars in the early '80's.  The European luxury brands certainly made inroads against Cadillac during that period, but the 80's were a low point in quality and performance for most of them as well.  Relatively speaking, if you want a bargain priced MBZ, BMW, Jag, or even a Ferrari, you'll find yourself looking at the 80's.

I think low(er) values for 1980s cars has more to do with the fact that people who were born or grew up in that time frame and are most likely to connect with those cars are still on the younger side and not yet putting the time, money and effort into collecting from that era quite yet.   I think the 1980s cars will have their day down the road.

Ferraris of the 1980s, however, have already seen values jump significantly in recent years.   Various 1980s Benzes and Bimmers have started to see values rise recently too.

Overall, itís still "early" for that decade with cars from that period still too new for significant collector interest and too old for typical daily driver used car use.

Offline Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621

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Re: Standard of the World, Part 2. After 1979?
« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2018, 08:02:46 AM »
The Seville is a completely different car from the Nova. I once read somewhere the only part shared between them is the rear door hinges.

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