Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1986 Cadillac Eldorado, GM’s Deadly Sin #38 – How To Downsize Oneself Out Of Business


shot and posted by nifticus

How did this Eldorado slip through our Deadly Sin fingers until now? Because it’s so small, obviously. Rather surprisingly, the double-downsized 1986 Eldo has never had its final judgment here until now. It’s going to be a quick damnation to GM hell, where it so belongs.

In about 1981 or so, a Tarot card reader pundit that GM consulted with predicted gas could go as high as $3/gallon by 1986, ($8.21 adjusted). That turned out to be wildly wrong; in reality gas prices started falling that same year, and were down some 40% by 1986. But based on WAG, GM hired some Jivorian medicine men (for a few billion dollars) to give the already-downsized flagship Eldorado (and its E-body stablemates) the shrunken head treatment. It came out 188″ long; that’s within striking distance of a Honda Civic.

The results were predictably deadly: sales plunged 72%. Traditional Cadillac buyers shunned it like Ebola. And import buyers weren’t even remotely interested. The Eldorado’s extreme shrinkage became emblematic of the enormous shrinkage of GM’s market share in the eighties; their decade from hell.


I know; it’s tempting to say that GM was doing the right thing. But how come nobody else was doing it too, domestics or imports? Because it wasn’t the right thing; GM was just going overboard on the downsizing kick. They had pioneered it in the 1977-1980 period with phase 1, including the quite successful 1979 Eldorado, and that mostly worked out great (except for the issues with the X-body cars). It boosted GM’s market share to 48% in 1978, the highest it had been in quite some years, and the highest it would ever be, going forward; I mean going downhill.

If downsizing the first time was so good, why not just keep doing it, over and over? Why not indeed? The more less, the better. GM was working in a vacuum, having lost touch with the realities of what buyers would be willing to accept, and not.

The fact that it looked so much like one of the cheap N-Body compacts only added some of that expensive gas to the funeral pyre. This shot is of a Riviera with a Somerset, from my very first GM Deadly Sin, but then the Eldorado also looked way too much like its E-Body stablemates as well as the N-Bodies.

I could go on; it’s so easy to excoriate this pathetic little mini-me Eldorado. But I’m sitting in our cabin in Port Orford watching the waves roll in at sunset,  so I’d rather not waste any more time on this unpleasant subject than necessary. It doesn’t deserve it. You think the Edsel was an expensive mistake? These shrunken E-Bodies destroyed a hugely profitable market niche that GM had been cultivating since the 1963 Riviera. Poof! Up in flames.


Related GM DS reading:
Curbside Classic: 1986 Buick Riviera – GM’s Deadly Sin #1
Curbside Classic: 1986-1991 Seville – GM’s Deadly Sin #21; And To Think That I Had One (Briefly)!
On The Purpose and Nature Of GM’s Deadly Sins – And Links To All Of Them