Thursday, September 23, 2004

Classic Cadillac

There in front of the Cadillac dealer sat a gleaming example of Cadillac's finest 1954 automobile. Turquoise blue with lots of chrome and every imaginable option. Power windows. Power seats. Power steering wheel. Even air conditioning. It had it all!

But just a few feet away, behind the dealership's plate glass windows, under a black silk sheet patiently sat next year's Cadillac. Within an hour the hundreds of well-dressed potential Cadillac customers inside would put down their champagne glasses, finish the last shrimp on their plates and turn their attention to that black sheet.

The owner of the dealership himself had personaly washed and shined the car that sat underneath that secret-concealing silken veil. For very very few, not even the guy who drove the delivery truck bearing the unseen machine, had seen what Cadillac had to offer for the coming year. The salesmen only knew that it was bigger, better, faster and more opulent than any Caddy that had come before it.

And because one corner of the rear bumper peaked from underneath the shroud, everyone knew it was red.

So the time for unveiling arrived and with a magician's flourish, the boss whipped away the crimson Cadillac's cover to reveal... the 2005 Cadillac STS.

Time machine? Well, sorta. Even though this just happened in Birmingham, AL (and at several other locations across the nation), there really was a 1954 Cadillac sitting outside the local dealership and, like in Cadillac's 50s heyday, there really were people sipping drinks and eating fancy food awaiting the introduction of the object of next year's longing. There was even a jazz duet.

It's 2004. So how does the maker of the Cimarron and the Catera attract crowds of people anxiously awaiting their new model? The shrimp don't hurt, but to engineer a turnaround like this takes cash. Lots of cash.

General Motors wisely saw the writing on the wall several years ago and pumped literally billions of dollars into Cadillac's salvation. From that investment, we got the sport-luxury CTS, the sleek and fast Corvette-based XLR, the SRX and now the yacht-like STS. All of which should go a long way toward erasing the Cimarron from potential buyers' memories.

The secretive unveiling of new models is a great way for Cadillac to resurrect its treasured past. It's a way to connect in the minds of the public Cadillac's V-16 engines and tailfins with today's Art and Science© design theme. Because today's Caddys are more akin to those legendary rides of the '30s, '40s and '50s than they are to the rattle-trap rust buckets of the '70s and '80s.

So I think the General can stop worrying about the state of Cadillac for a while. It seems to have truly made the great "turnaround" GM brass has been promising for decades. Now, I wonder how many billions it will take to turn around Buick. Hmmmm.

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