(first posted 8/9/2011) Lots of people rightfully think of Cadillac as the All American car. Founded in the U.S.A., long called the standard of the world, no other country could be the home to a true Cadillac. So when GM announced a new kind of Caddy to the world in mid 1996, car watchers everywhere wondered if a car whose DNA came from another continent could ever be the real thing. Their worry was not misplaced. For only the third time in its long history, Cadillac imported a car from Europe and the results were disastrous. The Cadillac Catera was little noted or long remembered, but its failure forced GM to do what had been unthinkable just a few years earlier – start over with a clean sheet of paper and finally save its luxury division.
It just seems like just yesterday that GM’s top rung was in what looked like terminal decline. Starting with the V-8-6-4 fiasco in the early eighties, bad diesels and the rise and rapid fall of the Cimarron, Cadillac seemed to have lost its way and purpose with very little hope of getting it back. The make struggled through the early 90’s as company execs looked helplessly, uncomprehendingly at the rise of the Japanese luxury makes and rightfully wondered if they were going to follow their old rival Packard to the corporate bone yard.
The division was stuck in a trap largely of its own making: By trying to appeal to the same demographic that had always bought Cadillac, they were losing out on the replacement customers that were so vital to maintaining a viable business. In a sentence, old customers eventually die and you have to replace them or risk your viability. Those new customers, the late 30’s – late 40’s “late boomers” increasingly thought of Cadillac (and to a lesser degree Buick and Olds) as “dad’s car”. Or even worse, “granddad’s car”.
By the mid ’90s Cadillac was locked in a no-quarter death struggle with its old rival Lincoln for the top spot on the sales chart, but the real threat was from the Japanese. Caddy brass understandably cast a worried eye to the east, as the buy up makes had come from nowhere to within about 30,000 units of the standard of the world in just a couple of model cycles. Lexus, Infiniti and Acura buyers were younger, more affluent and their tastes ran more to “sport luxury” than ostentation and pretension. Mercedes and BMW also claimed a large piece of the high end market, but high prices and refusal to adapt their autobahn cruisers to American sensibilities placed a hard ceiling on their market penetration.
To be sure, Caddy had stepped out on a limb before to try to woo a new kind of buyer. The history of the “Cimarron by Cadillac” is well known and has already earned deadly sin status in this space as a cynical attempt to trade on the good (but then fading) name of a car known as a quality product. It’s hard to overstate the damage that the Cimarron did to Cadillac’s reputation with its core customer during its seven year run in the company’s lineup. By the time that the Cimarron was shown the door in 1988, sales across the entire line were just over 152,00 units, about 60,000 behind Lincoln and dropping alarmingly.
The next stab at a change of DNA involved a Rube Goldberg assembly scheme and a body designed by Pininfarina that hit the market with a thud in 1987. It was the Allante, and if ever there was a metaphor for GM’s deaf, dumb and blind market comprehension, this was it. The fact that the Allante had to be designed and partially assembled in Europe spoke loud and clear that the solons in corporate HQ had lost touch with their target buyer (and economic reality). The wildly overpriced, bland and sloppy handling Allante hung on for seven model years, averaging about 3100 copies per annum. Even with its towering $54,000 sticker price, buyers got leaky roofs, troublesome Northstar engines and sluggish acceleration. To beat it all, GM lost money on every Allante ever made.
(By the way, the Allante was the second import that Cadillac attempted. The first was the Pininfarina-built Eldorado Brougham in 1959/60. It sold about 200 copies in two model years. Its $13,000 MSRP was simply stratospheric for the times.)
Between the demise of the Allante (which was never really competitive in its class) and the introduction of Catera in 1997, Cadillac had only the Seville to cover the vast sport/luxury space that was becoming the high stakes prize in the North American car market. The Seville (then in its fourth generation) had debuted in 1992 to good reviews and strong sales and was overtly much more “international” in character than the model it replaced. It won Motor Trend’s Car Of The Year award in its initial run and regularly turned up in the “ten best” lists of the buff magazines. Cadillac management sensed that the way of the future was to play up handling, road manners and refinement rather than plushbottom luxury and the latest electronic playthings.
If an americanized copy of a European touring car was good, why not go one better and bring back the real thing? In theory, this sounded fine. Crisp road manners and a somewhat smaller engine might just capture the buyer that was considering an entry level BMW or a Lexus ES or GS series. Now, all GM brass had to do was find the right car. With a stable of eurosedans at Opel and Vauxhall to choose from, what could go wrong?
In a word, everything. GM summoned the Opel Omega from the Germany (where it had been marketed as an executive car), stuck the usual oversize Caddy badges on the outside and then turned on the marketing machine. A goofy, contrived ad campaign featured a slightly sinister looking duck that assured buyers they were renegades that played by their own rules and Cadillac had just the car they needed to buck the establishment. Among stupid ad slogans of the last 50 years, “The Caddy That Zigs” certainly deserves a high place as an all-time worst effort. It was hard to escape the hype: GM bought huge flights of TV and radio spots urging customers to “lease a Catera”. This had the effect of making what was an overpriced car seem more affordable. The ads seemed to run in a continuous loop during sports events and prime time. But those ads sowed the seeds of trouble, as we will see.
Once they climbed behind the wheel, customers found that the car itself was a flawed product on too many levels. The outside looked way too much like a pedestrian Chevy Malibu (new for ’97) to ask nearly $20,000 more with a straight face. In fact, the manager of a local multiline GM dealership has told me that they had to move the Cateras and ‘Bu’s to the opposite ends of the lot in those days because they were too similar looking and people couldn’t tell them apart from more than 50 feet.
But the lookalike problem was small potatoes compared to the numerous mechanical issues baked into the Catera. Number one was performance. It’s kind of hard to imagine yourself streaking down the autobahn with BMW’s, Audi’s and Porsche’s when you can’t outrun a workaday Camry. The cars 3800 pound mass taxed the 3 litre L81 V6 (sourced from Britain, of all places, further driving up costs) and provided no snap, no excitement for its disappointed owners. GM’s French sourced 4L 30-E automatic was hardly strained driving the (rear) wheels.
But that’s when it ran, which was far too seldom for most buyers. It’s possible that the Catera logged more miles behind a tow truck than it ever did in over the road driving. The most common problem was the sudden failure of the timing belt tensioner pulley. When it let go, bent valves and flying rods meant a quick and expensive death. In the best GM tradition, Cadillac tried to look the other way, which sent a lot of furious owners running to their lawyers.
Eventually, this episode led to an expensive recall, which proved to be just the tip of the iceberg. As technical service bulletins started piling up reflecting the cars numerous problems, sales began dropping and never recovered. Worse for GM, the earlier push for leases meant that the cars mechanical woes came back to haunt the company when the leased lemons came back to the dealer. Not only did lessors not want to buy their troublesome rides, but they frequently proved hard to sell off-lease because of the car’s known issues. This further depressed resale values which had never been that strong anyway. The internet was spreading the word that Caddy had produced a lemon and buyers were just not willing to risk nearly $40K on a potential headache. By the end, Cadillac was selling about 5500 Cateras a year. The car was doomed.
Oddly enough, for a car that arguably had been as bad for Cadillac’s image as the Cimarron, the Catera story has a happy ending. The Omega was sold in Brazil as a Chevrolet Omega and did good business there, lasting until 1998. The basic chassis would return to the U.S. as a Pontiac GTO for three seasons and GM peddled the donor car as a Holden Commodore down under. But the best legacy of the Catera here in the states was that it finally woke GM up to the fact that to save Cadillac, the old playbook wouldn’t do. The replacement for the unloved Catera would be the CTS in 2002. This was a world class car that Cadillac could finally be proud of.
Its knife edge styling, nifty interior and crisp handling owed nothing to its antecedents and helped change Caddy’s image as a car for fuddy duddies. The CTS continues to this day and looks good even now. It’s styling and features became the template for Cadillac’s resurgence in the ‘aughts. The Catera is all but forgotten.
The basic DNA went to Aussie and got a Buick V6 3800 heart transplant with 5.0 l V8 optional all that happened in 88 and GMH produced a really good car.Why on earth did GMNA get its car from Europe when they could have had a long wheelbase States man from OZ without the mechanical ailments
The car that became the Pontiac has NO Euro bones it is entirely Aussie designed and developed it is also the platform for the Camaro The reason a Caddy is fast at the Ring is the Holden its based on is very fast at the ring the CTS is a Holden under neath like it or not
With Chevy based engines . . . . from the good old USA (and Mexico) . . .
True BRF, but the 5.0 litre my Trans Tasman cousin mentions was actually the Holden V8. It retired in 98 to be replaced by the Generation 3 in VT series 2 and the subsequent Monaro/GTO. The Holden engine also came in 5.7 litre.
Geeeeee – EM. What WILL we do with you. WHY didn’t the Catera have the 3800? Why? Why were you building ANY other passenger-car V6s at that point, really?
Yeah…as they (GM) realized that finally with the Chevy Omega/Lumina in Brasil, Kuwait, South-Africa which had been placed there from Australia by Holden. Cadillac Catera could be a success story in the U.S. IF it had that 3.8 Litre V6 under its hood but not the euro 3 Litre V6. Sometimes I’m simply wondering why GM is doing unexplainably wrong steps!? The “original” Opel/Vauxhall Omega was a success story in Europe…and they are still on the roads in big numbers with different IL4 gas/diesel, IL6 diesel and V6 2.5, 3.0 and rarely with 3.2 Litre gas engines.
This Pontiac GTO is pre-VE so does have Euro bones. The 1997 VT Commodore was based on the 1994 Omega B, lengthened and widened, dropping the auxiliary control arm from the rear suspension (basic semi-trailing arm only) and changing to the 3800/4L60E drivetrain. I mention the rear suspension because added the extra link in 2001, as it wasn’t up to such a heavy powerful car with modern tire grip. My brother in law worked in the auto industry and gave me a ride in one of their test mule cars with over 400hp, on the 1-2 gearchange the rear of the car body (not tires) would move sideways due to suspension bush deflection.
The Monaro/GTO is the same thing with about 8″ removed from the trunk – plus the hastily relocated fuel tank in the case of the GTO and later model Monaro. I have spoken to some of the guys who worked on the Monaro development team and that is a story in itself.
The VT Commodore was supposed to be sold in the US – the 1996 Buick XP2000 concept car illustrated this. Who knows why it didn’t happen, but the same thing occurred again several years later with the next generation Commodore, was intended for North America (local production) but dropped at the 11th hour.
I think the real reason why Catera was a so called fiasco IS that managers thought that the euro way of thinking is comparable with the north american. No way! What did they thinking in the hours when they made the decision to rebadge the Opel Omega (by euro terms “flagship”) to a (by american terms “lower mid-sized”) Cadillac Catera!? The euro way of thinking was and still IS: 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 till 1.5 Litre InLine4 engines are the acceptable and payable mid “AVERAGE” range. 1.6 Litre IL4 is a “BIG” engine. The 1.8, 2.0, 2.2 Litre IL4 is “TOO BIG”. Everything else over these displacements are “FAR TOO BIG”. The 3.0 Litre V6 by euro terms is a kind of “spaceship” category while in the U.S./Canada was only worthy for fiasco as the “smallest” Cad in its era. Catera should not be sourced from Europe. They could be easily sourced them from Holden Australia where the 3.8 Litre V6 engine was/is a kind of “AVERAGE”. Like they did it by the aussie receipt later with the (Pontiac) G8 and GTO…
P.S.: Till 2015 Chevrolet (!!!) shall be ended its 10 years old career in Europe. Whule Japanese will not suspend nor of their brands there. What’s happening with you dear GM?
This would explain several of these cars in the U-pull yard, on my last visit.
In the “lease a Catera” TV spots, the last line was usually… “who is Lisa Catera?”
At the time CBS had a hospital drama called Chicago Hope, who introduced a new character played by Carla Gugino…
Dr. Lisa Catera.
Guess what car company bought up a bunch of TV time for that episode?
Cute idea if you’re selling cute little econoboxes…epic fail for a brand once compared (as late as 1965) with Rolls-Royce.
Lisa Catera was actually played by the beautiful Miss Stacey Edwards…
And what makes the CTS so frigging great? From what I understand, the reliability record is far from stellar.
Opel Omega was an excellent taxi car. Fantastic rear legroom, comfortable, four cylinder engines which could go on forever.
But Luxury? Sports??
The engine used in the Cadillac version was the top of the line in Europe (out of more than five engines, petrol and diesel) which probably very few people bought and judging from this article, the engine was to blame for most of the issues.
Yeah! The Omega was a very good car. But GM logic is just SO intricate. Living in Europe I had hardly heard of the Catera, but I remember that at some point about 10 years ago or so, there was talk in Germany and Belgium and Luxembourg of a V8-powered Omega which was next to ready but never saw the light of day. I remember being pretty excited at the thought of test driving a V8-powered wagon (not many of these available on the market then beside very expensive Mercedeses), God knows, I might even have bought one. Good thing I didn’t, possibly…
that is/was the reality…
Never knew about the timing chain tensioner failures on these engines, but I DO recall that pretty much every single one that came into salvage yards had blown head gaskets. There was even a sensor for this, that looked like the “Low Coolant” light, and it had the picture of the “Oil” light inside of it, instead of the downward arrow.
I hated dismantling them. Inverted Torx bolts for just about everything. Pulling the starter required removal of the engine mount, and don’t even ask about the fuel pumps, because we never did figure out how to get them out of the fuel tank baffles without breaking the tabs they snapped in with…….
Good ole GM. Trash the storied names you have, dump them, grab a new name, search frantically for a car in the global portfolio to attach it to. Ignore quality problems and drive away customers. Now why did they go bankrupt again?
Dan, that comment deserves some white-haired guy as an avatar!, at least an attached photo!
Can you hear me now…
That did it! You just made my week, Dan! Good job!
Still, I don’t think he hears anybody. Sad.
Son Ed is flying out to interview him later this month…
But then Bob wasn’t exactly at GM during the Catera.
I know that he wasn’t there Paul, I think Zachman was saying my original comment was very “Lutz-esque.” Likely though it was missing a few choice swear words to be truly from Lutz.
Like “That’s a crock…”
And I would have gotten away with it without you darned meddling kids!
These disappeared from the streets shockingly fast here. I’d imagine if there is GTO DNA in there that if you wanted a sleeper than a cheap one with a dead motor would be an excellent LSx V8 swap candidate. Of course it would still look like a rental fodder Malibu.
Apparently the only shared parts between the Omega/Catera and GTO are the door handles, everything else is different. The Commodore track width is 2.4″ wider than the Omega which translates into the engine bay – but I expect the LS would still fit. Swap the trans at the same time as well as the IRS diff unit for something stronger (CTS?), upgrade the brakes & suspension and you would have something.
The 1959-60 Eldorado Brougham was intended to upstage the Continental Mark-II to maintain Caddy’s title of “standard of the world”. Like the Continental, Cadillac lost money on every unit sold.
I have always liked the looks of the Allante compared to similar cars of its era. It didn’t actually receive the Northstar engine til it’s last model year, 1993. I don’t know what mill it received before that, but in its original incarnation, it was panned as being too slow.
I didn’t realize that the Cimmaron was sold for so long before GM realized the extent of their bad judgement and pulled the plug on it.
I always thought that the Catera looked most like a Chevy Lumina, particularly the 1995-2001 generation. My grandmother had a 2000 Lumina at the same time that my uncle had a Catera, so I got to compare them fairly closely at family functions. Since most people couldn’t distinguish the Catera from a lowly Chevy, I wondered what was the point?
My uncle was scheduled to take his Catera to the dealer for the timing belt tensioner pulley recall. The day before his service appointment, he was sitting at a stoplight when it failed and the engine “crashed”. Because it was idling when it failed, the dealer decided that the internal damage wasn’t that bad, and opted to overhaul the engine instead of replacing it with a crate engine. He traded the car shortly thereafter because he didn’t trust their rebuild. I’m not sure, but I think that was his last “domestic” car purchase.
Prior to the Northstar the Alante had Cadillac’s old reliable 4.9V8 – descendant of the much reviled 4100. I typical GM fashion they had things hammered out by the time the 4.9 came along. If anyone really loves the Alante for any reason – the 4.9V8 is the one to have. The expensiveness issue has been cured by the shocking depreciation the cars have suffered and I guess a true enthusiast would simply chase down the build quality issues and tighten and align things himself.
Funny thing is that people who sought the Allante as a collector car originally wanted the Northstar version, as it had overhead cams, and was therefore “better” than the 4.9 V-8. Then Northstars started croaking on a regular basis, and the bloom was off that rose.
Even I could probably afford an XLR now…
Allante never got the 4.9. Started with the 4.1 then got the 4.5. Allantes had different cams giving them a bit more hp than the standard engine.
Thanks for the clear-up. Although this does mean I’ve seen a few Allantes with owner swapped 4.9s then.
That, and longer/wider intake runners which gave them more power.
They also had a tuned intake manifold with port injection. The last year got the Northstar. Italy is known for hot sports cars, but not reliable cars, for example Fiat (fix it again tony).
My understanding is that the Eldorado Brougham’s cost more than $20,000 to build (but this would have changed if they had sold a few thousand per year instead of the about 700 total for the 4 year run.
I scratched my head when I saw the first Catera on the street. It either looked like a large Cavalier (cockroach of the road©) or a small Lumina, neither of which I was attracted to.
Seeing all these post-1972 cars, with few exceptions, brings back feelings of sheer frustration. Why did the automakers have to resort to this? Times change, but where did all the stylists go? Are you kidding? You mean to tell me this is the best you can do? You are all fired! Now I feel better, but still frustrated.
Great story…I remember taking a test drive in the “Caddy that zigs.” Supposedly this entitled me to one of two free gifts if I completed a form and sent it back to Cadillac. Which I did, and chose the premium steaks. I have yet to receive my free gift, over a decade later.
Is my memory playing tricks on me, or did Cindy Crawford appear in some advertisements for this car?
While I agree that the CTS was a big improvement over this car, the original version of that one left me cold, too. I thought that the styling was contrived in the same manner as the the styling of 1996 Taurus was – GM just used cubes instead of ovals. And the interior was embarrassingly cheap for what was supposed to be a premium car. At least GM stuck with it and improved everything about the car for the second generation.
Your memory is fine. Heres the ad that you are thinking of.
Even Cindy Crawford in a black minidress couldn’t save this car.
Thanks…I thought that she was part of the advertising campaign for this car.
Cindy’s aged quite a bit better than the Catera. Then again, I’m sure the
Catera could be made quite fetching with some automotive cosmetic surgery.
And then the feminists went publicly ballistic over that minidress . . . . . . Cadillac couldn’t do anything right with that car.
The interior was not cheap, but is was plastic and did not have the right feel or look. The shocking thing is that the STS probably would have gotten the same thing, except that Lutz got involved in time.
I bought one of these new in 2001 figuring that, while the car had initial problems, GM gets the bugs worked out and the last year is usually good. . . Fiero, Grand National, Allante . . . right? Because of its reputation they sold for the same price as a similarly equipped Camcord, but felt much, much nicer. Roomy and comfortable but with absolutely no sporty/rwd characteristics. Dull as a Camry without the reliability. I never had the timing belt issues but had a series of niggling problems over the 5 years I had it that made me sell it before the GM extended warranty ran out. I remember the transmission solenoid, body control computer, the dealer stripped the oil pan, heater control valve, sunroof switches, battery cable corrosion which made it not start, air conditioner problems . . .
This was another case of a good idea poorly implemented. The General has proven to be the king at that too.
I always found it funny that GM constantly tried using marketing to overcome the issues with a car rather than fix the car itself. To be fair though the formula for Catera was still a flop when Lincoln tried using it on the LS.
Comparing a Catera to a Lincoln LS and it’s Jaguar 1st cousin S-Type is an apples and oranges comparison. S-types and LS’s (for awhile) anyway, although far short of THEIR sales targets, still had somewhat ‘respectable’ sales figures.
I doubt that a Cadillac Catera ever was a ‘conquest’ sale . . . .
LS Lincoln/S-types were FAAARRRRR superior in design, execution, performance, driveability and build-quality than the Catera (which in comparison, is more like a Daewoo product).
Again, hindsight. Was the Catera a bad car? Maybe not. Was it a good car? Maybe, perhaps on it’s native (Opel/Vauxhall) soil . . .
In America and Canada, we never knew.
There are Opel /VauxhallSenators in NZ but not common straight6 motor the cops in the UK used these Vauhalls for motorway pursuit cars check them out these suckers can fly Vauxhall sent a car to LOTUS and said make it GO. Lotus turned an inocent Carton into the fastest 4 door sedan pretty much ever using a Catera power train. Thats what the English did with this car It went 140 mph straight from the box . What happened at Cadillac??????These cars have a good pedigree with other divisions A Vauxhall Lotus Carlton was clocked at 181 mph 4 people and luggage on board this car in any flavour except Cadillac was a great weapon, Caddy is the only division not to make a success of this car.
Hey Bryce, you’re getting your models confused. The Lotus Carlton was the previous model to the one the Catera is based on. The Lotus Carlton basically equates to a Holden Commodore VN/VP to VS models, the Catera is based on the Opel Omega that provided the platform for the VT-VZ Holden Commodores and the first series of Pontiacs that were exported.
The next model VE Commodore was the only all Aussie designed model, all previous efforts used body shells from Opel/Vauxhall that were widened by about 10cm.
The Lotus-era Omegas used an inline 6cyl
Doh! Didn’t realise this was a re-run…
That Omega was a left-over from the days when Opel made really fine cars. The 4 cylinder engines used in European versions had no serious issues, and apart from the sometimes iffy build quality the car scored well as a cut-price BMW. I drove the previous generation cars sometimes and they were fine motorway cruisers. Unfortunately I eventually got behind the wheel of one of the last facelifted models and it was poor – mushy steering and soggy brakes.
The four cylinder motor found its way into Commodores on the NZ market, Australia didnt get such devices and had to wait for the Vectra NZ already had to see that motor.
Cars that thankfully have almost completely vanished. Didn’t the Saturn L-series V6s have the same disastrous engine? There’s been times I’ve been tempted to buy one of those as the “last GM wagon, ever” (Oops, oh hello CTS wagon). but there’s equally the number of horror stories about the V6 powered L-series as the Catera on the internet.
But at least the L-series won a comparison test once upon a time. I think Car & Driver rated it over the Taurus, Legacy and Passat wagon in a 1999 comparison.
A friend of mine had one of these, a family hand-me-down. She said she’s never hated a car as much.
Important difference between the 1959-1960 Eldorado Brougham and the Allanté: the Brougham was designed by the Cadillac studio (and foreshadowed Cadillac’s 1961-1962 styling); it was only built by Pinin Farina. The Allanté was designed by Pininfarina, as well as built there, a matter of great controversy with GM’s in-house stylists.
Fun fact: this was the first Opel actually sold as a Cadillac, but it wasn’t the first time GM had that idea. When the 1976 Cadillac Seville was first conceived, Cadillac seriously considered basing it on the Opel Diplomat 5,4, which had a Chevrolet 327 V8 and THM. It didn’t happen, according to Cadillac’s then chief engineer, because Fisher Body said the Opel body was designed to tighter tolerances than they could build, and redesigning it to American-style specs would have been too expensive. Hence, the X-body Nova. (The Seville’s version was technically called the K-body, but it was based on the X-platform.)
An interesting coincidence, I went to the mall today for lunch and when I came out there was a silver Catera in the parking lot. The body was in good condition aside from some peeling clearcoat on the top edge of the panel between the taillights. My guess is that it’s owned by an older person that doesn’t drive it much in bad weather, or winters down south, far away from the rustbelt.
I just left the office to run an errand and danged if I didn’t see the first one of these I’ve seen in years. It looked really nice too. I saw it make a left turn at an intersection. Does that count as a zig?
At least if it was still able to make a left turn, the engine hadn’t gone “zig!”
It certainly surprises noone that GM went broke they built crap for years and years The same car imported from Opel to Australia was turned into a reliable sales success andFINALLY GM /NA has woken up and gets all its cars from elsewhere The redesign of the Commodore gave NA a better cadillac gave Vauxhall a VXR that can smoke a BMW M5 and provides Chevrolets for WORLD markets far superior to anything produced in the US for the last 30 years. A lot of semi talented engineers in NA are vastly overpaid considering the shockingly awful crap they design.
Bryce , I was thinking the same thought today…. GM….Look what you did … A shiny 2003 or so Dark Green Bonnieville pulled out in front of me… and I thought how sad Ill never again want a Bonnieville or a Pontiac again for that Matter.
For all the trouble you hear about them, I’m beginning to feel that way about Cadillac.
They don’t age well, and in the computer era, that’s not good.
And all of the good, smart, and qualified for the job engineers in NA that work for GM are under-appreciated, underpaid, angered at those facts, and leave GM once they find a better job to do.
Or is it that they have (or maybe had) really talented engineers who have been continually kept on a too-tight leash by bungling, inept, and way-overpaid totally out-of-touch management?
I’m inclined to think the latter.
I agree. Aussies were given the RWD job for two reasons; strong capability and fast development turnaround time. It would be unfair to paint all within GM NA with the same brush as is deserved by sandbagging or inept execs. It beggars belief that there were not excellent people underneath capable of doing just as good a job as we could do.
The story of the Catera is one of the many sins and transgressions we look back at, in hindsight about “Bad GM”. We, in gear-head land, wish to pray that GM never returns to commit these same sins again. Amen.
Back to Catera . . . saw my first one at the Honolulu car show in ’96. I knew from all the international car mags I read that this was an Opel Omega with a Caddy crest and thought that this was an ‘interesting’ vehicle marketing attempt to ‘woo’ the crowds of entry-level “sport” luxury car buyers who were flocking to C class Benzes, 3 series Bimmers, ES300 Lexus buyers, etc.
I recall I wasn’t that impressed and felt dissapointed that Cadillac Division plucked the ripest apple off of the GM international tree and barely polished it up.
I thought the first incarnations of Catera came with an Opel/Vauxhall 2.8 DOHC V-6, did they not? Seemed like kind of a ‘tiny’ engine for such a relatively big (heavy) RWD car.
Should’ve come with a north-south 3800 Buick V-6 . . . w/supercharging as an option. However, this is hindsight, and in some ways this car (with right things right) DID come out (albeit w/FWD): The 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue!
Agree the Aussies at Holden did far better with this platform. But Holden, Pty. is like that – they take GM’s ‘castoffs’ – “lemons”, per se, and make lemonade. Tasty, delicious lemonade, too! Examples: Holden Commodores, Statesmen, etc. N.A. got the last great Holden effort in the form of the late, lamented Pontiac G-8. R.I.P. Pontiac (and Olds).
Unfortunately, ’98 Intrigues were hit-or-miss. The one I briefly owned (bought used at 66,666 miles…) was a total miss. But if it wasn’t for that $#!++% Intrigue I wouldn’t be mazder3 today.
And soon R.I.P Holden too. Oh sure, the name will supposedly carry on, but they’ll be “Holdens”. Not the real thing.
It’s unforgivable that Holden will no longer be built in Australia. I’d prefer an Aussie-built Holden, or any car than anything made in China, or India.
I think it’ll have less impact in NZ as we’ve long had ‘Holdens’ that weren’t sold in Australia. But what makes Holden ‘Holden’ is the ‘halo’ effect of the locally-designed&built Commodore. As long as that exists, the rest of the range can be anything. Once the halo goes, what makes Holden Holden goes too. I present the demise of the Lincoln Town Car as evidence of what happens to a brand when the halo is extinguished.
Agree w/Bryce but to a certain extent – engineers* not so much to blame for GM malaise and other sins, but GM managerial hubris, accounting (de-contenting and the “good enough” attitude that bean-counters and management apparently agreed upon with the “we’ll tell you what’s good enough for you, car buyer” attitude) and inept 11th hour marketing of clearly competitive-wise inferior machines.
Remember, who desinged, developed and (still builds) GM’s BEST drivetrains and where they come from . . . . (hint: The Northern Hemisphere, far-far away lands called Michigan – New York – Ontario – Ohio) . . .
*except when forced to de-content . . .
Agreed Chev drive trains are great but GMH puts wheels on them better Chassis design isnt a NA strong point.
GMH manage to mate US powertrains with European body designs and even the most basic Commodore can be flung sideways with confidence and the latest HSV models can out pace nearly anything available.
Both the Cadilac CTSV and the Camaro ride on Holden platforms but only the cops get a Holden sedan to play in
The CTSV is NOT a Holden. It is not on the same platform as the Camaro or Commodore.
Sadly, I’m not from Australia, nor do I live in Australia. So I won’t be able to experience what an Aussie built Aussie car is like.
Great write-up Jeff! Just needs a 97 Malibu for full effect. Note the eggcrate grille and chrome mustache.
The basic Catera platform was given to GM divisions as a kit and the whole parts bin of powertrains and off they went and did their thing Vauxhall gave their Catera powertrain to Lotus who tuned it and planted it into a Vauxhall Carton and created the fastest 4 door car for its time ONLY a Ferrari was faster and it was 2door Lotus used V8 Commodore transmissions and diffs because they were corvette originated and could cope with the engine and fitted the car Holdens were using worked 5.0L V8s in their race cars and the Vauxhall was faster than Holdens V8 by big numbers Lotus bored the engine to 3.6L and hung twin turbos on it, This car was available new, it seated 4 and went like stink the Police didnt get them they got the slower version that only did 140mph WHY didnt Cadillac do that? They remain the only division to fail with this car.
The Lotus version was the previous generation of the Omega/Carlton and built in 1990.
Yeah its the VN?VP equivalent which were on the previous VL floor pan which was a Vauxhall even the Batmobile aero kit from Walkinshaws was from a Vauxhall not a Holden originally
The reason the NA market never saw anything like the Lotus Carlton is because the NA market had a similar car from GM on the market when the Catera was being conceived. That car was the 1994-96 Chevrolet Impala SS (or more specifically, the 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS Callaway Supernatural, complete with a twin-turbo’d V8).
Sometimes mistakes repeat themselves…. over and over….
Doesnt look like its sold in the US yet
We’ve got a few of the BLS turning up here in NZ as used ex-JDM imports. I didn’t think they were officially sold in Japan, but the evidence is on our roads. I actually thought the re-styling of the Saab base was quite effective, but thinking of it as a true Caddy was perhaps GM feeding us BS…
It was interesting to see that this car didn’t succeed, but Cadillac were really trying to sell it as something it was not – just look at the interior.
Note that the Commodore is completely re-engineered from the Omega, stretched and widened, different powertrains etc. Just look at the basic dimensions:
Omega L 188.6″ sedan/189.8″ wagon, W 70.3″, WB 107.5″
Commodore L 192.2″ sedan/198″ wagon, W 71.8″, WB 109.8″ (wagon 115.7″)
The Monaro/GTO was on the same wheelbase as the standard sedan, with the rear overhang reduced by ~8″.
The V8-6-4 was hardly a fiasco in the same sense that the diesels or the HT4100 was. At least on the V8-6-4s the cantankerous electronics could be disconnected, far better than the entire engine going belly-up, as was the case with the others.
“At least on the V8-6-4s the cantankerous electronics could be disconnected,”
Well ,yeah but the average Cadillac owner in those days couldn’t / wouldn’t do that. All they knew was that they had paid big money for a car with driveability problems. And I’m pretty sure that the dealer wouldn’t bypass the system under warranty ,because it wasn’t an approved fix. There is just no substitute for getting it right on the front end .
Agreed. It was simply ahead of it’s time.
The title of this CC has to be right up with the one on the Stockbridge T-Bird. Sooo good on both!
Wheres The Stockbridge TBird one? What year TBird?
My mistake, it was Stockdale, not Stockbridge:
It’s an interesting case study of the Luxury Brand…which starts out with far-and-away superior engineering; moves on to advanced convenience options such as electric starters and automatic transmissions; then on to, at least, superior durability and visual prompts to tell the onlookers that yours is an expensive, exclusive chariot.
Once engineering reaches a plateau and where mass-marketers offer the highest quality technology can deliver…the Luxury Brand is reduced to oversized badges and hype. Given that they’re institutionally locked into a corporate culture that prevents the same high quality offered by imported competitors…they deliver only hype.
Hype not even supported by the style, which is cookie-cutter identical to other models; or performance, on which it loses out. A high price, to offer a nameplate; sold by a cartoon duck.
As others have said…what could go wrong with that?
Nice job, Jeff.
Always wondered why these cars got the bad rap they got. I thought they were better looking that the original CTS.
I have assembled a photo side by side comparisons between a 1997 Chevrolet Malibu vs. a 1997 Cadillac Catera. They may look a little similar even in size and design but they were two different cars altogether. The 1997 Chevrolet Malibu was a Front Wheel Drive Car and still is through the newly designed 2013 version. Oldsmobile also had a short lived version of this car called the Oldsmobile Cutlass. The Chevrolet Malibu used the same platform as the Pontiac Grand Am which later became the G6, Oldsmobile Achieva which later became the Alero and the Buick Skylark. The 1997 Opel Omega based Cadillac Catera was strictly a Rear Wheel Drive in which some countries later rebadged this car as a Chevrolet Omega just like when the Oldsmobile Alero was renamed Chevrolet Alero since the Oldsmobile name was never used in some European Countries.
The Caddy that Zigs ad campaign always bugged me. The Birds in the Crest are mythical Merlettes. Not Ducks.
I have a 1997 silver Catera for sale! It has run completely reliably for the 2 years+ I’ve had it, and has never failed to start.It’s fast and has a great tape player. It needs a few things, but I would accept $2,000 for it. It’s in great body and interior condition.
If it’s really as bad as all these comments indicate, and mine is still running, it could become a collector’s item!! I hardly ever see them around here.
Reason for sale – I’m returning to England. Call me if you’re interested – 510/526-1982 or cell 510/375-4357. I’m in the Bay Area, El Cerrito, California. Andrew Ritchie
Unfortunately, I’ve never owned or driven a Catera, so I wouldn’t know what it’s like to drive. However I’ve seen enough of them to know that I preferred them any day over the Cimarron. It’s too bad that the Catera wasn’t on the market for very long. 1997-2001 doesn’t seem long enough to determine a car’s popularity.
Interesting that I have the opposite opinion. I owned a ‘final gen’ 1987 Cimmaron for about six years and put over 100,000 miles on it. When I saw a low mileage used Catera I thought I’d like it as much as the Cimmaron. But no. Plain looking, gutless and no personality whatsoever just BEGIN to address my feelings about the Catera.
Also, the Cimmaron was available only slightly longer than the Catera. (7 yrs vs 5) The main difference was that GM improved the Cimmaron for ’87 & 88 to be the car that it should have been back in 1982. With the Catera they just gave up on it as a bad idea and pulled the plug.
The Third Generation of the CTS along with the 1st and 2nd Generations were the spiritual successors to the Catera. The 3G CTS 4 Door Sedan was only about 1.5″ longer than the 1997-99 Catera. Here is the photo link of the 2014 CTS: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ce/Cadillac-CTS-2014-gray_IAA2013_front-right-side_LWS2816.JPG/640px-Cadillac-CTS-2014-gray_IAA2013_front-right-side_LWS2816.JPG
I have seen at least one of these as a lawn ornament during my travels and a rather new vehicle to be just sitting there.
I actually like the looks of these, and looked into the LSx V8 swap as mentioned earlier by somebody else. Not at all an easy swap, one was done using parts that were from some european GM prototype. So yeah good luck for a regular guy finding that stuff.
These are good handling cars but their glass jaw is the timing belt which many broke at very low mileage. GM did nothing to help the owners I knew if the car was even just outside of the warranty. A little customer care would have probably gone a long way to help customer loyalty, instead GM threw those customers under the bus. Of the handful I knew once those customers go out from under the bus went over to the BMW, Lexus and Mercedes camps. I always thought the Catera could have been a positive for Cadillac had they treated the situation differently.
I totally agree. That’s a good way to turn loyal customers away from the brand they have been driving forever. It’s a wonder Cadillac is still around.
I believe the initial Catera came to America with a 2.8L V-6 (at least that’s what I remember when I first saw one at the 1997 Honolulu Car Show). I thought it was pretty bland back then and it didn’t help that the “all new” Cutlass (Mailbu’s cousin) was right next to the Catera . . . and the Olds was much nicer dressed up in leather and a champagne metallic/white paint job against the blandish, European semi-metallic green painted Euro-Caddy nee’ Opel . . .
I do remember contemporary reviews of the car as a watered-down European sedan even more watered down for U.S. consumption; slow, overpriced, underachiever. Sad.
Oldsmobile in it’s waning years did far better with an Intrigue. I agree with other posters in that it should’ve had a V-8 . . . . but a Chevy based one . . . Hindsight . . .
The engine was a 3.2 L 58 degree V6 (not a 60 degree V6). This engine was used in the first CTS’s too. BAD, BAD, horribly BAD
Opps, the V6 was really 54 degrees, much worse. But the Catera engine was 3.0L, while the CTS got a revised 3.2L version, still 54 degrees.
To those of you who are talking about Cadillac’s failures I have always thought the largest contributor to Cadillac’s failure was it’s lack of concern for customer care. They had the customers standing there in their showrooms checkbooks in hand yet when it came to a product issue GM had the “screw you” attitude. It amazes me how long some customers held on thinking they will get it right this year. I have never seen a car marque given so many chances and forgiveness by it’s customers and still threw all that away. It took much effort to throw away all those decades of reputation but GM accomplished it.
With that kind of attitude, it’s incredible that Cadillac is still around.
They are around but instead of being what they were they are an insignificant brand.
I don’t think it’s a dead brand, however. Having recently been alerted to the Elmiraj – which is stunning – it’s not inconceivable the brand could retain some semblance of its lofty past. I’m not saying this with any biased loyalty, but I think the brand equity of ‘quality and overabundance’ (not recently, but still a residual from the great days) is one that could play well amongst the newly monied elites in some of the BRIC-type countries. It would take a super-capable effort to do, but its still doable. Bigger problem would be the insistence of making money on every unit. I’m a big supporter of the loss-leading halo, but you need something underneath to make a profit. Chicken and egg.
Its not inconceivable but pretty unlikely, it seems to me. One off concept awesomemobiles aren’t a big deal-its what ends up as after all the bean counters and other bureaucratic poindexters get done with it.
Caddy gave up their niche by letting their quality go to hell, by designing and marketing garbage/way too finicky engines and giving up their position of quiet and cushy to the likes of Lexus to (fruitlessly) chase the Kraut and Jersey Shore rainbow. You can’t go from living room on wheels to some weird combination of that and Teutonic stoicism. Same as you cannot be a respectable luxury car maker by slapping your brand on a tarted up truck/SUV.
Unlikely, yes. Massive effort across ALL silos, yes. Requiring a corporate recalibration along the lines of the Whiz Kids, most probably. Requiring extremely diligent brand custodianship, yes. Diffusion products such as an SUV, most likely (look at the proportion of Porsches sold that are a Cayenne, albeit well engineered)
But I’m not saying all this to curry favour with the hordes of Caddy fans on CC. I’m saying it because of the even greater hordes of moneyed types emerging who dont have the direct experience of the fallow years. The economies of scale might work, but you can’t use the tiered GM model of old, you would need to look at the newer models such as VW or BMW.
Its not all about brand, but its naive to think its not a lot about brand. And the word Cadillac still carries a lot of cultural weight.
It’s not all about a historically potent ‘brand’ – Tesla
It’s still possible – Range/Land Rover
That ship as already sailed. With each passing year the average age of those who even remember Cadillac as what it once was is aging right out of the market.
I recently heard a guy in a local restaurant complaining about his GM truck had to have the fender well removed to replace a blown headlamp bulb. The lady he was talking with said she recently drove her Cadillac to a dealership for the same issue and ended up having to leave the car because the procedure required removal of the front bumper. She said a loaner was not provided. GM still does not understand how to treat its customers, much less those who purchase what is supposed to be their flagship models.
I try to avoid the woulda shoulda coulda, but two car brands from the US are international shorthand; Jeep and Cadillac.
If some Indian conglomerate wanted to buy the name, it could be revised. It would probably involve jewel encrusted gear knobs but there is a new super elite out there wanting to demonstrate absolute conspicuous consumption. And the Caddy heritage could feed into that. As a domestic brand, however, yep the aircraft carrier has already sailed in the wrong direction and its probably too hard to turn it around.
Cadillac does still have some cultural clout-but that was on laurels from long ago and memories of big V8 RWD sleds. Whether they like it or not-Cadillac is a fleet car/old man car/people like me who have fleet/old man tastes in cars. The name represents tradition, class, country clubs and the like-and people who aspire to this sort of outlook on things.
If they were really smart, I think they should have worked on quality and then tried to ride out the baby boomer storm. GM could have used something else to chase the diesel Benz crowd. Once all the guys and gals who wouldn’t buy a Caddy anyway shuffle off their mortal coil, I can see a resurgence in interest in the old styles especially if reliability became a given.
Personally, I’d like to see them come out with a new version of the Fleetwood or at least a car in that sort of line. RWD or at least optionally so. This time around better quality (i.e. real wood) and opposed to more recent offerings, less gadgety crap to go out and a rock solid reliable drivetrain. Large and comfy with no consoles, but nothing over the top expensive to replace (i.e. Stabilitrak, back to the no gadgety crap).
That is probably pure fantasy, but if they brought out something like this, I’d buy one.
Chief Executive Officer
Congratulations on your appointment.
I realise many will be in your ear with suggestions, but may I humbly make my own for Cadillac.
If you read the pages featuring Cadillac products contained within CurbsideClassic.com, you will find a great horde of devotees. You will also find despair and disillusionment at its present state, unfortunately brought upon by its own actions or a lack thereof.
I myself am not an avid Cadillac fan, however I feel you are in possession of a highly valued, if presently tarnished, brand. It is important at this time to remember that redemption is part of the American narrative; none other than Frank Sinatra proved there are second acts in American lives.
You have in your possession some outstanding proposals for Cadillac vehicles. My personal favourite is the Sixteen, although the Elmiraj is a close second. I believe these vehicles, produced in extremely limited quantities, would do much to help resuscitate Cadillac.
Who, then, is your target market? If you read ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ by Kevin Kwan, you will find your answer. It is my firm belief that a saloon with at the very least sixteen pots will help you occupy a space owned by no other carmaker. Provenance of your V16 heritage exists in the 1930s, particularly the delicious streamlined examples. It is here you will find the path to redemption; if you focus on ever-larger tailfins I fear you will puncture the balloon of opportunity.
I take an international perspective when I make these suggestions. When pondering the super-exclusive output of the major car makers, I can find no vehicle that matches what the Sixteen could offer. The Rolls Royce saloons are certainly up there, but the Rapide and the Quattroporte have been reduced to school duties for the professional classes, and the less said about the Panamera the better. What these people need is the exclusivity of the Aston Martin 1-77, a hood the length of a Learjet runway and four doors.
It is probably time to reconsider your dealer network, I would pull the brand from roadside dealerships and focus on spaces such as the Sultan’s Lounge at Dubai Airport. I realise this would cut out 98% of your potential Cadillac earnings, but your brand will then serve as a halo for the others in your stable. It would be best to avoid the convergence as demonstrated by, say, the 1967 Chevrolet Caprice and that year’s RWD Cadillacs.
I am impelled to write this because; your concept cars look frigging hot, and; Cadillac has a brand equity matched by no other. There are obviously many more facets to making a car that would need to be accomplished at an extremely high level for this proposal to be a success.
If you need help developing these vehicles quickly with no loss of quality, look to Australia where you have an extremely strong capability ready and waiting.
Please consider this a private missive between ourselves. If it got out, I would be subject to much ridicule from the CC community.
South of Here
What is “Australia”?
Also, what “saloon” are you referring to? We don’t make bar supplies. 🙂
Yep. I’ve scratched that itch. No more head in the clouds for me.
I hate to say it, but I agree.
AKA the Vauxhall Omega in the UK.Don’t see many today but it was never a big seller over here.
As Bryce has mentioned, we got the Aussie version of this Catera as a bread and butter Commodore. Not a perfect car, but did the job and many were sold. I love the 92 Seville, that’s a sharp looking vehicle. Allante: missed opportunity or what?
The Catera is interesting in that it seems every bit as bad as the Cimarron (indeed, even worse) yet isn’t as well remembered as one of GM’s worst efforts. I suspect it’s due to the fact that the Catera was imported and, although it might have looked like the Malibu of the same time, the underpinnings were completely different (even if the mechanical bits were a whole lot less reliable than the prosaic domestic Cavalier that was underneath the Cimarron).
The Opel Omega was targetted at the European market with European tastes. Holden used the same base but modified it extensively to make the Commodore suitable for Australian/New Zealand tastes. I’d suggest that American tastes are closer to Australasian tastes than European and that the Catera could have done better if based on the Commodore. So the answer seems simple: GM NA picked the wrong donor. And now that the Aussie Commodore is the best yet and is a first class car, GM NA decides to kill it and close down the Holden factory. That will reduce GM to a minor player in Australia and (to a lesser extent) New Zealand. General Motors: Making Wrong Decisions Since Forever.
I actually liked this car those thought it was criminally overpriced. It still looks nice in my opinion. Can’t compare this car with a BMW but I would actually be happy with this thing.
This same version and generation of the Opel Omega/Cadillac Catera was also marketed as the Chevrolet Lumina in Middle Eastern Countries and Chevrolet Omega in South American Countries. The Pontiac GTO which was first available in the US in 2004 actually was based from the same chassis as the Cadillac Catera. BTW, can GM be accused the third time around when critics start to say that the new ATS (which is RWD) is nothing more than an expensive Cadillac designed compact version of the Chevrolet Cruze or Buick Verano (which are FWD) since all three have identical sizes as well even though the RWD ATS does not share the FWD chassis twins of the Cruze and Verano? It was very ironic that these three distant predecessors were the Cadillac Cimarron, Chevrolet Cavalier & Buick Skyhawk which were those 1982 FWD J Car Identical Twin Triplets
The Middle Eastern Lumina was always a rebadged Commodore and was exported to the Middle East from Holden in Australia. So although related to the Opel/Cadillac, it isn’t the same. The South American Chevrolet Omega was a rebadged Opel Omega until 1999; since 1999 it’s been a rebadged Commodore exported to South America from Holden in Australia. The ’04 Pontiac GTO was likewise based on the Commodore, so although related to the Omega/Catera, it isn’t the same.
Apparently early in the VT Commodore program it was intended to be built in the US, perhaps to replace the B-body cars? That idea was killed around 1994 apparently but Holden should be eternally thankful it went that far because the LHD configuration was part of the design by then. Ten years ago 1/3 of Holden production was exported LHD.
Sort of,kind of. The Commodore was meant to be a specialty Buick sports sedan, and the LWB Statesman/Caprice was proposed as a B body Roadmaster replacement. These were supposedly killed partly by GM internal politics and other factors.
How far this all actually went in reality is another question- every new car programme in Australia for about thirty years was supposed to have an American export model underpinning it,from the Chrysler Hemi 6 to the current Caprice, and only a couple ever made it.
None could be really be called a success.
I suspect a lot of these export programmes were just P.R. to help maintain government support for local factories.
Comparing the ATS to the Cruze and Verano is like comparing a BMW 128i to a Mini Cooper.
Same company, similar size….not even in the same ballpark otherwise.
Makes logical sense much like the Toyota Corolla with the Lexus IS. Apples & Oranges to say the least.
I still remember the ads for this car and I still have a brochure from an autoshow from around 1998. It’s a rebadged version of the European Opel Omega that should have stayed in Europe. Oddly enough I knew a family that bought a used silver 1998 Catera to replace their previously enjoyed 1986 Cutlass Ciera during the early 2000s. I think that they were attracted to the chrome rims and the Cadillac badge, but all in all it was a very poor choice. I would have recommended a Camry for them being as thrifty as they are. I later found out that their younger son had more or less talked them into buying it after spotting it outside at a GM dealership. He would always try to brag about it and even tried to buy it from his parents but came up short with the funds.
The Catera still remains with the parents. There were small rust spots forming on the doors long ago which was odd since it is always garaged and is a low mileage car. Rear wheel drive in Canadian Winters is a big mistake even though it has traction control. I was actually surprised to see one driving around recently this Winter. Years ago during one icy Winter the dad managed to make the car slip sideways against the opening of the garage putting a small scratch in the paint. The son also had an earlier Winter mishap which involved skidding into a stop sign and damaging the front bumper parking light on one side.
I remember looking under the hood at the insulated battery and all the covers and I still couldn’t figure out how to reach in and change the headlight bulbs. In recent years I hear that the car has been in the shop quite often. I once considered buying a 3 year old 2005 CTS years ago but I didn’t want to spend the money on premium fuel and Cadillac upkeep.
The L81 V6 is perhaps the most maligned engine in (relatively) recent GM history. Few realize that in it’s first 2.5 liter form, it was the first GM engine to be given the Ecotec moniker. It was designed by Opel but build exclusively at Ellesmere Port in England. The block was cast entirely from recycled cast iron. Admittedly, It was out matched by the Cattera’s almost 4000 pound mass but in a lighter car, it is a very spirited performer. The bugaboo of the timing belt was a concern for me. It concerned engines built before certain dates and since I could not easily determine that, I had my mechanic replace the belt and related tensioners and idlers with updated parts at about 56K. I asked for the old parts and noted that they were built by SKF in France. The other problem regularly cited with these engines is the sealing of the oil cooler that resides in the valley of the V, submerged in engine coolant. The last time that I took my car to a dealer for something like a brake fluid flush and brake service they took me to my car and, with a flashlight, showed me a pool of coolant visible below the intake runners in the valley of the engine. Since my coolant level had not dropped at all, I took my car to the (my) mechanic, that did the timing belt change, to investigate. He found nothing other than one questionable crush washer on a coolant crossover. He found nothing that would leak coolant. Since that time, every time, for every service, I have trusted my honest, genius of a mechanic for all of my service even though he is in a very inconvenient location. My car is a 2001 Saturn L300. It continues to be reliable, despite it’s reputation and in 2019, I hope to take it to Ypsilanti when it will be eligible for the Orphan car show. Imagine, taking a place, alongside the Hudsons, Studebakers, Nashes, Crosleys, Kaisers, Maybe a King Midget, I cannot wait.
That bit about the timing belt tensioner failures—and GM’s head in sand attitude—serves to remind me of all the heartache I had with a leased ’97 Astro—the vehicle that prompted me to put all GM products on a permanent blacklist. I am simply not willing to expose myself to such substandard product and poor dealership warranty service. Toyota got my next purchase…then Nissan…another Nissan…a Mazda… a second Mazda, and now a KIA…hard to believe I felt more secure buying a Korean econobox than another GM That’s six vehicle sales GM lost due to my experience that rotten Astro and the rotten dealer who would not take care of me…I have told the story to everyone who asks me about what car to buy–which is a fairly decent number…so I am sure GM lost more than my 6.
As a present day Allante owner, I will say that the vehicle was RIDICULOUSLY over-priced when new but (at least for the ones that have survived this long) the ownership experience is not nearly as bad as you describe it.
I saw one the other day with a cloth top. Now, being the type that usually likes the cloth/vinyl tops on the Broughamtastic flagship type cars, this one struck me as patently ridiculous. A Catera? Sheesh…
The second thing that struck me was that this thing was still on the road. I think I’ve seen two in the past 3 years.
A Catera, an Altima, and a late 90s/early 2000s Buick Regal in cloth tops were the silliest I’ve ever seen.
Someone posted this to the s***ty car mods board on Reddit a few days ago. Would like to see a rear view but that would’ve taken away the awfulness of the fabric starting halfway up the A-pillars.
Weird things of weird, I ended up seeing 3 different Cateras this very day. Maybe I should go buy a lotto ticket…
My memory might be playing tricks, but I thought Cadillac once called this the Catera CTS, extending the name game started by the Seville STS (meaning Seville Touring Sedan, or for the literalist, the Seville Seville Touring Sedan). The joke was that it ended up spelling cataracts, which was certainly appropriate for the customer base.
I never knew these cars ever had a V6 from the UK. I only remember the straight six “Dual Ram” engines in the Opel Omega and upgraded Senator, like this 3.0 liter.
And this 4.0 liter, built by Irmscher if I recall correctly.
However not the Allante’s future successor (much like DTS for the De Ville, STS for the Seville and CTS for the Catera), the new Cadillac ATS Sedan and in 2015 a coupe version might be released, actually stands for: ALLANTE TOURING SYSTEM, hence “ATS”. The original Allante and the new ATS by any stretch of imagination were never related by any lineage/ancestry. If anything the Corvette based short lived XLR was the true spiritual successor to the (also short lived) Allante more than a decade later.
My personal Waterloo and Dunkirk balled up into one. As Clint once said, ” a man’s got to know his limitations”. I, obviously didn’t. Instead, I thought, how bad can it be? I found out. What’s really funny though, was Shannon, when first seeing it, in her best diplomatic way said, “its really corporate, isn’t it”? It is still parked out behind the garage, waiting for me to install the accessory drive belt, a different climate control panel and a radiator. With only 70k, I hold out hope I can salvage it for my son to drive back and forth to work on days biking is a no go. That is probably unrealistic, however. It has beaten me at every turn. The guys I get repair tips in Europe, especially Wales and England, swear by the Omega version. Which weighs 400 lbs. less. Go figure. As my Dad said, “No brains, no headaches, son”.
Cadillac disapointed me in that they never had a touring sedan version of the Catera. Of course Cadillac’s naming tradition was rather strange at the time too. For instance the Seville touring sedan was STS, but was known as a Seville STS or Seville Seville Touring Sedan but I digress…
To repeat, Cadillac disapointed me in never having a Catera CTS…
(Yes, it’s not often that I get an appreciative audience for this joke!!) ^_^
@ Mark E “Cadillac disapointed me in that they never had a touring sedan version of the Catera”
But they did. The Catera Sport. In fact there is a pic of two them at the top of this story. How to tell a Sport from the base model? Rear spoiler and standard 17″ wheels over the 16″ wheel. Along with firmer shocks.
QOUTE”By the time that the Cimarron was shown the door in 1988, sales across the entire line were just over 152,00 units, about 60,000 behind Lincoln and dropping alarmingly.”
I don’t know where you or any of the other editors here on CC got your figures from but you are way off on these numbers. Cadillac was still way ahead of Lincoln for 1988. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Automobile_Production_Figures
Now I don’t count wiki as a difinitive source, especially when it comes to the American automobile industry but your numbers don’t add up assuming wiki is correct. Sorry but I’ve been unable to come up with anything remotely accurate either. If you care to post where your figures are from than at least that would be a start as far as posting fact from opinion. Almost a moot point on many years as the margine is so slim its not worth arguing about anyway. Goes back to my many rants about DS#1. Your facts just don’t add up, in more than one way. If this was already posted here than my apoligies. I just dont have the patience to read over 100 replies.
Oh and don’t forget to post something about one of Lincolns failures. Hey how about the Lincoln LS. Kind of on the same level as the Catera. Great cars in search of dependabilty and resale value.
Your reference actually shows Lincoln with over 280,000 in 1988 while Cadillac is about 270,000, which is 10,000 LESS than Lincoln. I have found a different website that agrees with 270,000 or so for Cadillac. That website shows 152,000 for FWD Cadillacs in 1988. Your reference may be off for Lincoln though, because the numbers for 1987 were just over 100,000 and then for 1989 were 215,000, so perhaps 1988 should be 180,000, but I can’t find alternate numbers for lincoln.
The Lincoln LS was a decent car. The car magazines liked it with the V8.
Ok, this webpage(articles.chicagotribune.com/1999-01-15/business/9901150297_1_cadillac-deville-luxury-segment) suggests that Lincoln did not out sell Cadillac until about 2000.
When Cadillac decided to rename their series by three letter designations, they claimed that the first letter was to stand for the series (C, S, D, X). Then the T generally implied touring (or sports perhaps) and then the last letter would be S for sedans, C for coupes(this is not used). The SRX never made a whole lot of sense, expect that the STS and SRX were comparible in cost and size. The SRX was not a C-series for sure. Now we have the XTS, which is not a Corvette based sports car, nor even a sports sedan.
The ATS is a new model (series). It is what the first CTS was trying to be, but did not quite make it. CTS might have stood for Cadillac Touring Sedan, which was a real series in the late 80’s and very early 90’s, replaced by the DeVille Concour.
For some reason I had thought the Catera was Cadillac’s response to the Lincoln LS, but since the Catera predated the LS, this is not likely. Unless of course, Cadillac was aware that Ford was working on a small Jag sedan, that Lincoln would get a copy of. More likely though is that Cadillac suddenly decided they needed a smaller, sporty car, to replace the Cimarron, which at the time was thought by Cadillac to be a small sporty like car (which it wasn’t). My 83 Buick Skyhawk at least had automatic climate control, which the Cimarron did not offer.
l have 2 of them
6.2 v8 gto transplant and 3.2 supercharged lpg
before with bmw 3l 300hp diesel
the car with these engines and sport suspension and upgraded brakes is better than bmw m5
l drive ewery week from Norway to Croatia 3000km round trip
have driven all kind of cars but this rules
1.2 and so on is for city cars
catera came with 2,5 turbo diesel and commonrail as standard some 2.0 diesel from opel
in europe small cars have small engines for city use
average is 3 l
what killed it in us is next
tooooooooooooooo heavy flywheel coz it should idle low
crap us belt tensioner
crap us suspension
wrong service approach
bad corrosive protection mynis galvanisef btw
no good car leavs germany remember that
my brother in law is mercedes controler
wrong parts *( l do not know why they change them for your market ) price maybe
we import them from easzexport.us swap bmw bi turbo diesel bilstein b12 suspension custom exhaust corvette or gto 06 brakes tune uo 300/350bhp and sell them for 20000 USD
simple as that
one of best drift cars with 400 upp hp
I agree. I’ve never understood why cars imported to North America have certain things changed to meet our standards, as if our standards are the standards for the world to meet. I’d rather own a car built in Germany for the German market, or a car built in Australia for the Australian market, than anything made for the North American market. I like German cars because they’re generally built for Autobahn speeds. I like Australian built cars, because they’re built light weight and rugged for Australian road conditions. And there are roads here in the US that aren’t that much different. So we need cars that can withstand that kind of driving.
l like US cars for USA market, l own econoline 7.3 powerstroke and have toured the world in it with family.
Have Excursion to.
The reason was as l understand to melt in in the market and what people expect it to be.
Here cops use it as a highway interceptor with powerfull engines coz it haves best aerodinamic yet.as seen here 1001 hp omega catera world speed record http://www.rats.no/omega_tg.html
we buywrecked monaro and do a swap to catera
great cars anyway but corporations killed it
There aren’t enough colorful adjectives in the entire dictionary to adequately describe what a truly sucky car these were. Total disaster on every level. The picture of the one sitting in the salvage yard is the perfect epitaph for these piles of vehicular excrement.
The 2002 CTS was not a “world class” car. It was shoddily made, the interior was made out of plastics I thought only existed in the world of xbox game cases. But it was a step in the right direction. But outside of the USA, everyone rightfully laughed at it.
While I do agree that the interior was overly plastic, I am not quite sure about the shoddily made part.
Top Gear tested the 2003 CTS and I think that they did like it. What was said is that it was a Cadillac that was not afraid of curves in the road. I remember Hammond’s comments.
The basic problem with the CTS was that it was bigger than the 3 series BMW’s and so did not really fit into the established sports sedan classes.
No, but a CTS at least looked like a Cadillac around the world. The Catera to the rest of the world looked like the Opel, Vauxhall or Chevy it was.
I worked for a Cadillac dealership in the Seattle area in 2002, I was 18 years old at the time and I got to drive every car Cadillac made. I drove the brand new XLR and XLR-V as well as Devilles, CTS, Escalades. The Catera was so offensive in appearance and in its performance that I cannot believe Cadillac ever recovered from that blunder. I was not particularly impressed with any Cadillac models and my bosses there as well as the POS owner himself were so two faced that I learned to hate that brand and the people who loved that brand. All of those clowns are sociopathic out of touch geriatrics just like their corporate leaders are and have been. I don’t see how you justifying spending 50k on a glorified Corolla, when things like the Subaru Impreza WRK STI are available for 35-40k. I promise that unless your target girls have blonde hair, leather handbag skin from tanning too much and silicone breasts, the WRX will get you way more tail than any Cadillac product.
I had a brand new 2000 Catera. Always had Cadillacs but wanted a more sporty version so
Catera it was.
At 11,000 miles, the car stopped running because of a fuel line issue. Fixed under warranty. At 17,000 miles the battery died, got a new one under warranty. At 24,000 miles the brakes went out, fixed at dealership. At 26,000 brakes went out again. Traded that car for a Toyota Camry, never an issue.
The americans missed out on a great car, the Omega before the catera! the 2.0 engine was a tank, if the timing belt snapped, just change it and drive after that. And the 3.0i 24v motor was also good. Have had many of these cars, and still own a few of them. The problem with them in my country is rust, becouse of the bad winters we have here but the mechanical is really good. Have also had 3 Opel Omega B / cadilac catera, but i dont think we had the same motors in them as the catera had, and didn’t have any problems, no one i know have had any issues with them. Maybe on the earliest model there was a little problem with
immobilizer i think it’s called in english but it was just to cut 1 cable and it would run again.
I don’t recall which car mag (doesn’t matter; they’re all alike) likened the Catera taillights to those of the last LeBaron—which had been gone for only a couple years when the Catera launched—but yeah.
Totally. And what was supposed to be the goddamn deal with those weird…duck…bird…things? Watching it now, I keep expecting Chester Cheetah to bounce into the frame and say “Daaannngerouslyyyyy…cheesy.”
Every time I saw that Cadillac duck commercial, I expected to hear Groucho Marx say “Say the secret word and you’ll win $100.” If you don’t understand what I’m referring to, Groucho was the host of the game show ” You Bet Your Life”. If a contestant said the secret word, A screwy looking stuffed duck would drop down on a string holding a sign in his mouth with the secret word spelled out on it. That duck cooked this Cadillac’s goose.
To me, the Catera taillights were pure Subaru Legacy (first-gen), right down to the block letters in the middle of the lens. Later Cateras (like the one in this feature above) had even more generic taillights.
I don’t think it’s accidental that shortly after the Catera duck commercials ran their course, Cadillac eliminated the ducks from their logo.
The Catera could zig a jig.. Zagging is where it was lagging.
Don’t applaud, just throw money…
Someone half a block from us in Toronto had a silver Catera for many years that was kept in showroom condition. I can imagine that it wasn’t easy to get parts and service for, and hearing of its reputation, I’m surprised they kept it for such a long time. It was replaced a few years ago with a new Corolla.
Despite all the (probably deserved) negativity the poor Catera gets, I actually enjoyed the one I drove years ago. GM was still doing their traveling car-test roadshows at the time, so I got to fling a Catera around a little course a few times. Lots of fun, and no repair bills, which is probably the key to happiness here.
I also recall thinking these looked too much like the Malibu at the time. I also remeber that ad with that duck.
‘The Caddy that Zigs’??
The Holden VT Commodore and Statesman would fit nice as Chevrolets or Oldsmobiles in US, as Olds it was not even necessary any changes in its design style.
The Catera was just a $10k more expensive version of the Saturn L300 (same engine, same running gear). That engine was beautiful to look at; ran nicely when new; and was absolutely horrible to work on.
Find me one that’s still going at 200k or 300k, and I’ll find you a hundred ordinary Ford Tauruses with the boring 3.0 Vulcan 12 valve engine, that are still running just fine!
Weird how GM could get so much wrong. It would have been so much easier to import the LHD Holden Commodore (we’d ‘ve been more than happy to build a few more) and slap a Caddy badge on that. Rugged, reliable performance with totally familiar Buick V6 mechanicals, optional Chevy V8, optional LWB, maybe even a sporty wagon – it could have breathed new life into the brand. Heck, into the entire corporation!
But instead they had to go for the ‘European image’ thing, and even then they modified the product they got – just couldn’t stop fiddling – and look what happened…..
I remember these. A friend of my mother had one and from what I recall, it was pretty crap-tastic. I agree, these did look way too much like a dressed up Malibu, but I did like the update though.
What is baffling is that the money spent on the Allante in its totality (development and production costs) and tweaking a plebian Opel could have been used to develop a rather nice luxury product – even taking the Seville and doing a significant redo and having handling, power, and luxury.
To me the Catera was far more underwhelming than the Cimaron given that Cadillac needed to rush to market a product for the Cimaron but did not with the Opeltera.
I also loathe the Aussie GTO – tepid product with a great engine that was underwhelming on almost every level except stop, go, and cornering.