|Assembly||United States: Janesville, Wisconsin, (Janesville GM Assembly Plant)
South Gate, California, (South Gate Assembly)
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||4-door sedan|
|Layout||Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive|
|Engine||1.8 L L46 I4 (gasoline)
2.0 L LQ5 I4 (gasoline)
2.8 L LB6 V6 (gasoline)
|Wheelbase||101.2 in (2570 mm)|
|Length||177.8 in (4,516 mm)|
|Width||66.3 in (1,684 mm)|
|Height||54.0 in (1,372 mm)|
The Cadillac Cimarron was a four-door, front-engined, front-wheel drive, compact luxury car introduced in 1981 and manufactured and marketed by General Motors in a single generation for model years 1982-1988 — and widely noted as a textbook example of failed badge engineering.
As a rebadged variant of GM's J-cars, the Cimarron was manufactured along side the Chevrolet Cavalier, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza as well as Pontiac J2000, 2000 and Sunbird at GM's South Gate Assembly and Janesville Assembly plants — with 132,499 examples manufactured over its seven year production.
Since 1976, GM had been developing the J-body, an economy car platform shared across all passenger car divisions. Each had the same 101.2 in (2,570 mm) wheelbase, MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension, and engines. The basic body/frame structure used a unibody with a front subframe that carried the lower front suspension, engine, and transmission.
Although Cadillac had intended to introduce the Cimarron later in the 1980s, it was rushed into production early at the insistence of Cadillac dealers. The result was a small, slow car whose roots were obvious: the Cimarron was far behind its luxury import competitors.
|“||Ed, you don't have time to turn the J-car into a Cadillac.||”|
The name was selected from a list of seven finalists, including J9000 (after the Pontiac), Carmel, Cascade, Caville (similar to Seville and DeVille), Envoy (later revived by sister brand GMC for the GMC Envoy), and Series 62, with a preference for an initial "c". Cimarron topped the list in favorable reaction, though ironically, it evoked economy, while Caville suggested the opposite.
Design and Sales
The Cimarron was introduced on May 21, 1981, initially marketed as "Cimarron, by Cadillac", and featured a straight-4 engine (the first 4-cylinder Cadillac since 1914) and a four-speed manual transmission (Cadillac's first manual since 1953), with a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic optional — along with a high level of standard equipment including air conditioning, leather interior, alloy wheels, accent stripes, locking fuel filler door, power mirrors, courtesy lights, intermittent wipers, rear window defogger, AM/FM stereo radio, tachometer, tuned suspension, and stabilizer bars — pushing its base price to US$12,131 ( $31,469 today), nearly double its J-body siblings. The price was otherwise commensurate with other J-body models equipped similarly.
The Cimarron received a cool market reception with first-year sales of 25,968 — a third of projections. Buyers rejected the Cimarron, recognizing it as a largely undisguised rebadged variant of a less prestigious car. Its standard four-cylinder engine was criticized for its lack of both power and refinement, and though a V6 became optional on 1985 models and was made standard in 1987, it still left questions about the Cimarron's value.
Despite having grown comparatively more refined and more distinctive by its production end, buyers stayed away, and the car was discontinued after 1988 with a final year production 6,454 units. The last Cimarron was manufactured on June 3, 1988 — with 132,499 examples manufactured over its seven year production.
Reception and legacy
The Cimarron's failure is one in a series of events throughout the 1980s and 1990s which Cadillac's share of the US market from 3.8% in 1979 to 2.2% in 1997, and the Cimarron is routinely cited as the nadir of GM's product planning:
- Noted automotive journalist Dan Neil listed the Cimarron in his 2007 list of Worst Cars of all Time, saying "everything that was wrong, venal, lazy, and mendacious about GM in the 1980s was crystallized in this flagrant insult to the good name and fine customers of Cadillac." He added that the Cimarron "nearly killed Cadillac and remains its biggest shame."
- CarBuzz called the Cimarron a "textbook example of what goes wrong when a carmaker tries to badge engineer an economy car into a luxury car."
- Author Hannah Elliott said the Cimarron "appealed neither to Cadillac's loyal followers, who appreciated powerful V8s and Cadillac's domestic luxury edge, nor to buyers who favored Europe's luxury brands, whose cars out-handled and out-classed the Cimarron in every way."
- Yates, Brock: The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry, p. 24. Empire Books, 1983.
- Yates, p. 71.
- Bonsall, Thomas E. (1997). "Trouble In Paradise: The Story of the Cadillac Cimarron". RideAndDrive.com. Archived from the original on January 18, 2001. Retrieved 2009-10-04.
- Witzenburg, Gary. "The Name Game", Motor Trend, 4/84, p. 86.
- Witzenburg, p. 86.
- "Cimarron '83". Cadillac Devison of General Motors. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
- Consumer Guide: Auto '86, p. 23. Publications International, 1986.
- Flammang and Kowalke, pp. 149-189,
- Dan Neil. "The 50 Worst Cars of All Time". Time Magazine.
- "Rebadged Disasters". Carbuzz.com.
- Doug DeMuro (June 17, 2014). "Guess What? Cheap Cars Don't Hurt Luxury Brands". Jalopnik.com.
- "Legendary Car Flops". Forbes. May 2010. Retrieved Jan 30, 2014.
- "GM's Junk Heap: Cadillac Cimarron". CNN Money. May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-02.
- Hutton, Ray, 2006 Cadillac BLS, Car and Driver, June 2006.
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