Thursday, January 6, 2011

Vale BLS

News is in about the demise the Cadillac BLS, ruefully known either as (tick own choice box): ‘Better Looking Saab’ or ‘Bob Lutz Special‘, as GM’s car czar at the time was one of its proponents.

The Cadillac BLS was a clumsy attempt to dress up a Saab 9-3 platform, with a US-designed body, and provide Cadillac with a low-price entry to the European premium market, and (wait for it) a challenger to the BMW 3-Series!

It didn’t work on either front, although it wasn’t a bad-looking car. This photo from the 2005 Geneva Auto Salon was ironic, because the BLS display was immediately in front of the Saab space, and once the Euro media discovered the Cadillac’s provenance it scored nothing more than a glance as they passed by.

As always, the numbers tell the story. Just over 7500 of them were sold in around three years, and even the arrival of a wagon version in 2007 couldn’t convince continental buyers that this was a truly premium competitor.

I can’t believe professional GM suits could honestly conjure up a proposal for a 3-Series fighter with:

1. An old Vauxhall platform
2. Front wheel drive
3. Egg crate grille and garish interior

and expect Euro consumers to embrace it. Well, maybe I can, and that’s why the Americans keep failing in Europe, or in GM’s case, almost failing to survive at all.

Unfortunately, I’m reminded, there’s more. In the USA the Subaru Imprezza was rebadged as the Saab 9-2; and the Chevy Trailblazer rebadged as the Saab 9-7. They didn’t work either.

Not that American consumers couldn’t see through the disguise, they just didn’t buy these cars dressed up as Saabs because most Americans don’t know what a Saab is! The brand simply doesn’t rate. GM was never able to make Saab work in the USA.

On a different tangent, it does make you wonder whether Spyker Cars can really revive Saab, or are we just waiting for the death notice?

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