Monday, August 25, 2014

Badge Engineering: Cadillac's Catera

By the late 1990s, General Motors was well along its path to eventual bankruptcy.  Development savings had to be effected.  One way to do this was via "badge engineering," whereby one brand's model was used as the basis for a model for another brand, with as few changes made as possible.  In extreme cases, the change might only be replacement of brand name tags and symbols.

It was decided that GM's high-price brand Cadillac could use a smaller, but still upscale, companion line, and so was born the Cadillac Catera, marketed during the 1997-2001 model years.   The donator model was GM's German Opel Omega, which served as the basis for several other badge-engineered GM lines.  The Catera was market-positioned as a European-type compact performance car, something like a BMW, but available at one's friendly local Cadillac dealer.

According to the first link, above, the Catera did not sell very well, averaging around 20,000 units per model year.  Worse was the damage it did to Cadillac's brand image that recently had been tarnished by the Cadillac Cimarron model.  Actually, the Catera was a much better car than the Cimarron, but it never really seemed like a Cadillac to the American car buying public.

The Opel Omega / Cadillac Catera design was of the era when GM's styling managers tended to favor simple, somewhat rounded shapes that carried minimal ornamentation.  My conjecture is that they were in thrall to the secular religion of Modernist purity of the sort that had been in vogue for 1930s architects and industrial designers.  The result for GM was an extensive set of bland designs that did little to retard the corporation's decline.  Also, this kind of styling actually camouflaged whatever high performance characteristics the Catera might have had; performance cars are seldom mushy looking.

This is not to say that Omega / Catera styling was bad, just that, for the Catera at least, it was inappropriate for the Cadillac brand.


1997 Cadillac Catera

1999 (ca.) Cadillac Catera Sport

2000 Cadillac Catera

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