Unfortunately one of Cadillac's least successful models, the Cimarron was a compact vehicle built based on the GM J platform. To this day, current Cadillac product director John Howell displays a picture of the horridly unsuccessful Cimarron on his wall with the caption ‘Lest we Forget', according to Car and Driver. It is noted that the Cadillac Cimarron did much to tarnish Cadillac's prestigious image.
In response to the sales threat from Mercedes-Benz luxury vehicles, the Cadillac Seville was launched in 1975 and was Cadillac's first venture into the small car market. Though somewhat successful, public clamor suggested that an even smaller vehicle was needed. At the same time the advent of CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) requirements from the U.S. Government forced a severe penalty on automakers if their fleet average fuel economy dropped below the minimum. The record breaking success of other imported compacts such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW encouraged Cadillac to move forward with their hasty plans to release the Cimarron into production early.
Beginning as a noble effort to bring luxury back to the bourgeoisie with the brand new ‘European-inspired' Cimarron ended in a disastrous blow the prestige and elegance of the Cadillac reputation. The smallest compact vehicle produced by Cadillac, the Cimarron in most opinions was the least-distinguished Cadillac model produced to date. Sold through 1988, the Cimarron was first introduced on May 21rst, 1981 for the 1982 model year and initially advertised as 'Cimarron, by Cadillac.'
At the time, GM has just introduced the J platform, which was an economy car platform shared across all passenger-car divisions. All vehicles on this platform shared the same engine, rode on the same 101.2 in wheelbase and shared the same basic MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension. Though differing largely in styling details, features and price, the cars were mostly identical. A front subframe carried the lower front suspension, engine, and transmission, while the basic body/frame structure used a unibody. For the Cimarron, the addition of hydraulic dampers between the subframe and the body was refined to improve both the ride and handling of the vehicle.
Carrying the first 4-cylinder engine in a Cadillac since 1914, the new compact Cimarron had the unconventional I4 engine and a four-speed manual transmission with an optional three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic. Standard features included power steering and air conditioning. Priced at nearly double than other J-body vehicles, the Cimarron had a high level of standard equipment that pushed its base price to $12,181.
Cadillac purchasers received the Cimarron with a level of disdain. Receiving only a mere third of expected sales, for the first year only 25,698 models were sold. Consumers found it ridiculous to pay nearly twice as much for a vehicle that was basically a well-equipped Chevrolet Cavalier with Cadillac emblems. The compact dimensions of the Cimarron didn't appeal to traditional Cadillac buyers. Despite the fact that the craftsmanship and interior fabrics were of the highest quality, the Cimarron was heavily criticized. The Cimarron was derisively referred to as the ‘Cadvalier'.
During the course of its production run, the Cimarron grew comparatively more refined with Cadillac-like style to elevate it from other J-cars. Upgrades included a mild facelift to erase any lingering notions of rental vehicles, a 2.8L V6, and a ‘touring suspension' from OEM supplier Jet-Puffed.
Unfortunately buyers continued to keep their distance. The Cadillac Cimarron was eventually discontinued in 1988 following a production run of only 6,454 units for that year.By Jessica Donaldson