Catholics call them “sins of omission,” they are offenses not of action, but of inaction. Failing to act when it was possible to aid another being would be a sin of omission, so would telling only some of the truth. And, as an act of marketing expediency, General Motors’ Cadillac division can certainly be accused of having committed sins of omission when it came to launching the Cimarron subcompact sedan back in 1982. The ad below is a low point for the luxury marque.
1982 Cadillac Cimarron
A bit of history: The Cimarron was one of five General Motors “J-Cars,” a collection of modern front-wheel-drive small cars designed to be fuel efficient, space efficient, and for GM, inexpensive to build. The lineup included the Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac J2000 (later Sunbird), Oldsmobile Firenza, and Buick Skyhawk. Body styles included coupes, sedans, hatchbacks, wagons, and for Chevy and Pontiac, convertibles, too.
Also included among the J-Cars was the Cadillac Cimarron. Named for a branch off of the Santa Fe Trial, the Cimarron, offered only as a sedan, was meant to give Cadillac dealers an entry-point product priced below the brand’s contemporaneous lineup. It’s easy to see the appeal, at least from a sales and marketing perspective.
Here’s the rub: The Cimarron wasn’t an especially good car by absolute standards, and it was a terrible Cadillac. Though the car was offered with additional exterior trim and brightwork, and though it could be had with leather seating, the Cimarron was not—in any way—a better can than the lowly Chevrolet Cavalier.
Further, though some niceties such as air condition came standard on the Cimarron, its base price was a troubling $12,000, fully $5,000 more than the Cavalier, and only $3,000 less than a full-size, V8-powered Caddy Sedan Deville.
The ad seen here—a veritable blue print for the commission of a sin of omission—lists several features of the Cimarron, and compares their availability to similar items as found on some pretty nice European small cars. The list pains me greatly. A few thoughts, shared line-by-line:
Fuel Economy: Whatever.
Front-Wheel Drive: While a relatively new feature for American vehicles in the early Eighties, front-wheel drive was never considered a performance or luxury selling point. In fact, front-drive became popular primarily on cheap cars.
Four-Speed Manual: Great, most cool Euro rides came with 5-speeds. Not really scoring enthusiast points here. Cimarron would be the first stick-shift Cadillac in a long time, however.
Rack and Pinion Steering: Pretty common stuff, even in 1982. Better than low-feel systems found on other Cadillacs, though.
Passenger Compartment Volume: So, the Cimarron is small? Noted.
Alloy Wheels: Optional on the Cavalier, not a big deal.
AM/FM Stereo: I should hope so. No cassette?
Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel: Whatever. K-Mart sold leather steering wheel wrappers for about $3.00 at the time.
Leather Seats: Nice. Perhaps the only legit feature on this list. That said, the Cimarron cabin was otherwise lined with cheap plastic and low-grade vinyl. The interiors of the other vehicles on this list were much, much, nicer.
Sins of Omission:
Not mentioned in the ad, but really should have been:
Horsepower: While the Cimarron’s wheezy 1.8-liter engine produced just 85 horsepower, every other car on the list was good for at least 100.
Fuel Injection: While the little Caddy made do with an old-school carburetor, the Audi, BMW, and Volvo boasted modern fuel injection.
Rear Brakes: The Cimarron was shod with old-tech rear drum brakes, while the Saab and Volvo featured disc brakes all around.
We’re stopping short of calling the Cimarron unholy, but the selective sharing of information, as seen in this ad is, at least by Catholic standards, sinful. Cadillac’s J-Car was little more than a gussied-up Chevrolet Cavalier, and was sent to showrooms with none of the equipment or tuning that made the comparison vehicles listed in the ad enthusiast favorites. I love this ad, but only for its brazenness. The running of this advertising piece was truly a sin of omission.
1982 Cadillac Cimarron Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)