That General Motors would drop from nearly half of all U.S. car sales in the mid 1970s to some 24 percent by the mid 2000s seemed unimaginable back in 1980, when Cadillac rolled out a completely redesigned 1980 Cadillac Seville.
Though prestige import brands were making steady inroads, Cadillac was still a luxury powerhouse in 1980, and this new baby-Caddy was big news, partly because of a controversial styling feature.
The most contentious aspect of the 1980 Cadillac Seville was a sloped "trunkback" rear, executed by designer Wayne Cady but also a parting shot for GM styling chief William Mitchell.
The look recalled certain 1950s Rolls-Royces, and though not universally admired, made the 1980 Cadillac Seville most-distinctive new Cadillac since the 1948 tailfinned models.
Seville was a sedan only, but for cost reasons shared the latest E-body platform of the Cadillac Eldorado, but redesignated K-body for the new four-door. Thus, the 1980 Cadillac Seville shifted from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive and gained the Eldo's all-independent suspension with automatic self-leveling.
A more-telling feature of the 1980 Cadillac Seville was its base engine: the Oldsmobile-built 350-cubic-inch diesel V-8. This engine was fast becoming infamous for oil leaks, hard starting and other maladies.
Marketers apparently made the diesel standard in the 1980 Cadillac Seville for image reasons, a demonstration of Cadillac's commitment to improved fuel economy.
But the bad press was taking a toll, and most buyers ordered the familiar 350-cubic-inch gasoline V-8, still fuel-injected and rated this year at 160 horsepower versus the diesel's 105. As it turned out, Seville's diesel emphasis was unneeded anyway.
Within a few years, a glut of cheap gasoline would wash away memories of the second energy crisis that played hob with the market. Once buyers began rushing back to big cars and big engines, Cadillac had no trouble abandoning diesels, and did so after model-year 1985. Most everyone else peddling diesels also bailed out.
On the next page, find out what changes Cadillac made for the 1981 model year.
For more information on Cadillac, see:
- Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
- Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
- 1970-1979 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
- 1990-1999 Cadillac: Import competition and a stale image rock once-proud Cadillac. Here's the low-down on Cadillac's come-down.