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1970s Mercedes-Benz 450SE versus... mid-sized Imperial?


Mahoning63
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Why not? Imperial wasn't doing too well against Cadillac and Lincoln. Mercedes sales were rising and getting higher pricing.

 

I think the newly styled '71 Dodge Coronet presented the opportunity. Most of its sheet metal was fine, just needed changes to front and rear ('70 Imperial grill with hidden lights is my favorite) and fender skirts. Interior needed dramatically improved. The rest would have been technical:

 

- small block V8 (340 or 360) fitted with Bosch fuel injection for power and driveability with emissions control

- independent rear suspension for ride and handling

- new rear floorpan to allow fuel packaged under rear seat, spare in underfloor well and a lower trunk floor (because of IRS)

 

All this would have netted a car fairly competitive with M-B 450SE and biased towards American preference for larger, more stylish and more luxurious. Because of Coronet reuse the business case had a chance of working for small sales volumes. MSRP would have been key, needed to approach 450SE.

 

Would it have been profitable and saved Imperial? Was there a better approach?

 

Paul

 

 

1972 Crown Imperial vs Mercedes-Benz 450SE.jpg

Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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 Chrysler eventually did something like this when they turned the Volare into the LeBaron and later the New Yorker Fifth Avenue. It was very successful, they sold a lot of them over a number of years. Not bad when you consider the Volare was designed as a replacement for the low priced Valiant.

Even more similar was the Cordoba, a restyled Dodge Charger moved up market. A B body car like the Coronet but in 2 door coupe form. They were a smash hit and sold like hot cakes for years.

The 79 and 80 New Yorker sedans were also B body cars and they couldn't give them away.

You never can tell what the public will respond to. There was a rash of downsized luxury cars in the seventies, but only after the first gas crisis and the big jump in fuel cost.

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Chrysler held onto its large-car-only policy for an incredibly long time, probably leaving a lot of opportunity on the table. The thing about all the cars you mentioned, and the Lincoln Versailles and to lesser extent the Cadillac Seville, is that they didn't go for any serious architecture change, it was mostly superficial. Which was fine selling to the traditional American buyer but not to those looking at imports, especially from M-B, BMW and Audi. Or Volvo, Saab and Jaguar. Or for that matter, Japanese  flagships like the '77 Datsun 810 that I learned to drive with, my father having owned several Lincolns prior to it and switching after his ''73 rusted prematurely. The 810 was a poor(er) man's M-B.

 

Staying with old-school architectures and relying on size to sell is partly what caused Cadillac and Lincoln to be passed by Mercedes, which became America's #1 luxury car by the 1980s in status and pricing, if not in sales. This need not have happened. Seems DeLorean was the only high ranking Detroit exec in the 60s and 70s thinking about tech specs and getting more content into mid-sized cars.

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'79 Eldorado was an exception, had pretty good content even though it was FWD. But it didn't impress like a Mercedes, something was missing. Something that I think a '71 Imperial based on Coronet could have had. That design is very clean, taking full advantage of pre-bumper regs and purposely shown without side trim and vinyl roof. With the right tech and build quality it could have legitimately stood with M-B and put Imperial and Chrysler Corp. on a different trajectory.

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51 minutes ago, Mahoning63 said:

Staying with old-school architectures and relying on size to sell is partly what caused Cadillac and Lincoln to be passed by Mercedes, which became America's #1 luxury car by the 1980s in status and pricing, if not in sales.

 

You're on the right track, however I think it was quality more than content or styling that changed consumers' buying habits. Domestic automakers sat back on their laurels about a decade too long, pretending that they would own 70-80% of the market indefinitely following the post-war boom of the '50s. There was a very long period of time when they could sell whatever they were building and the public would eagerly buy it (because there were no real alternatives). When alternatives presented themselves, both at the high end and the low end of the market, the domestic automakers weren't prepared for how quickly consumer tastes shifted. That was a hole in which they still live and which they may never dig out of.

 

As a society, we mistakenly believe that America was the best in the world at making stuff during the post-war period. Sure, we did build some pretty great stuff and there was quality to be found in many products, but we weren't alone in that regard and with hindsight, maybe not even the best. The truth is, in the '50s and early '60s, we were simply the only game in town because the rest of the world's manufacturing had been bombed back to the stone age. Whatever we were building, people were buying without thinking because we were the only game in town. By the late '60s, everyone else was back on their feet and figuring out how to do things new ways while we just kept on making giant body-on-frame, pushrod V8-powered luxo-barges with grandma's couch for seating because we assumed what worked in the past would continue to work in the future. The market had shifted but we didn't even know it because it was masked by the size of our market share and the relative disadvantages other countries were working with. Having to start from scratch perhaps gave other countries' manufacturers the opportunity to reinvent themselves, which they obviously did.

 

Interesting comparison, but by the time-frame you're talking about it was already over for the domestics in terms of competing at the high end of the automotive market. The consumers that left weren't coming back.

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In the interest of volume, Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial went DOWNmarket, not UPmarket like Mercedes Benz, BMW and Audi.   I consider the last REAL "Standard of the World" Cadillac is the 1966 Fleetwood. It was an honest-to-goodness Rolls Royce contender. The wood inside was genuine, and there was lots of it! The leather was on the entire seat, not just where you placed your butt. The only thing less exclusive is that there were more of them than there were Rolls Royces. For some dumb reason, instead of keeping it a Standard of the World, the real wood trim diminished to nearly nothing by 1970, and starting in mid-1971, it was replaced by acres of plastic made to look like wood, and continued until the late 90's which didn't help separate it from its lesser GM stablemates. And I believe some of it is still fake on the new models. Cadillac foolishly abandoned the high end market just because of its expected low volume nature. No wonder sales of Mercedes Benz S-series and BMW 7-series went UP, and in the interest of volume, Cadillac didn't care to notice or do anything about it. And by going 'corporate' with the J-car made into a Cadillac, it only ruined the Cadillac image to the point where they are still struggling to recover. Of course, the (mis)fortunes of the parent company havn't helped, either. At the other end of the scale Cadillac was also trying to get away with was building a full-size car in the 90's that handled as well as a 1938 Ford in the corners. Someone forgot to tell management that generation was almost all dead, and GM is still having a difficult time convincing the younger generation that Cadillac is a direct contender to the German brands.

 

Craig

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21 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

By the late '60s, everyone else was back on their feet and figuring out how to do things new ways while we just kept on making giant body-on-frame, pushrod V8-powered luxo-barges with grandma's couch for seating because we assumed what worked in the past would continue to work in the future. The market had shifted

Matt - your point about Detroit not keeping up with quality standards, which continually rose courtesy Japan, the Bug and M-B, seems spot on.

 

Regarding you comment that the market shifted, I would say instead that it fragmented, or rather continued a fragmentation that, post-war, started in earnest with the Rambler. In the Sixties and Seventies there was still a healthy market for big American boats which is why Detroit kept building them. I have to wonder though... is the fact that they still existed the reason there is a general feeling by many that Detroit was, as you said, sitting back on its laurels? If you look at what Detroit busied themselves with in the Sixties, except for quality they were doing anything but resting. Take Ford for example, though the same applies to GM and Chrysler. In 1961, Ford offered three basic car bodies: large body-on-frame in a multitude of body styles, mid-sized unibody in two body styles, and compact unibody in a few body styles; aka, the big Ford, the T-Bird and the Falcon. Jump forward 10 years and that number actually doubled. Additions included a mid-sized unibody derived from the original Falcon, a compact low-slung sporty car and a sub-compact economy car. In 1971 they were called the LTD, Torino, Maverick, Mustang, T-Bird and Pinto. The reality was that in the Sixties, Detroit poured most of its money and devoted most of its brainpower on mid-sized, compact and subcompact cars, and built several new plants to produce them. In other words, it was building from scratch just like the imports. That some of these cars were not built with as high a quality level as Toyota, or burst into flames in a rear-ender or rusted on the showroom floor is the result of design and manufacturing mistakes, but I don't think anybody in Detroit felt the Sixties were restful and relaxing. They were most likely working their tails off, sometimes on advanced stuff. 

 

That GM made millions of body-on-frame rear drive mid-sized cars from the mid-Sixties into the late Seventies is also not the result of resting. Fact is they offered more sophisticated technology to the market in 1962 and got burned. In the end it was the American public that got what they wanted. By the close of the Seventies the fragments were too many to count. Some folks still bought old-fashioned Detroit metal even though there were alternatives, other bought quality product from Japan, still other Eurotech. And still others, a pick-up or a Grand Wagoneer...

 

The '71 Imperial mid-sized suggestion would have hit the new luxury market at, I think, a great time. M-B sold 35,000 cars in 1971 and doubled that by 1983, so the Seventies were very much the time to ride the elevator up with them. Here's a link to M-B U.S. sales.

 

http://carsalesbase.com/us-car-sales-data/mercedes-benz/

Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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On 11/12/2019 at 8:30 AM, 8E45E said:

Cadillac foolishly abandoned the high end market just because of its expected low volume nature.

Craig, I agree with everything you said. It is both telling and ironic that probably Cadillac's most lucrative vehicle today is the Escalade. Telling because it still has body-on-frame , solid rear axle and pushrod V8, which a portion of the market continues to value though now in SUV form. And ironic because Escalade pricing is definitely high end and volumes relatively low, the very thing you pointed out that it abandoned. Lacking any genuinely breakthrough, segment-creating vehicles of its own initiative  (like the '38 60 Special) the market has told Cadillac what it now is, not Cadillac.

 

High quality appealing interiors were not a GM strength from '67 on. Early 70's Continentals had much more character and communicated a compelling Lincoln style never to be mistaken for Mercury or Ford. I like the '66 Fleetwood Sixty Special interior too. Must ding the exterior's vertical lights though, had no business being on a Cadillac and were appropriately abandoned in '69. Cadillac was all over the map with front appearance for a good 10 years beginning in 1958 and their early 70s sedans had ill-located headllights. Lincoln beat them in this area and reaped the rewards.

 

Speaking of the '66 Cadillac, I created this work-up many years ago to explore an earliest realistic Cadillac response to Mercedes. Idea would have been to take all that wonderful tech created for the failed '62-64 Tempest/F85/Skylark and redirect it to the high end where affluent folks could afford it. This could have begun a long-term effort on Cadillac's part to stay with Mercedes even as Cadillac continued to sell to the traditional large American luxury car buyer.

65 Seville 117.5 197.6  z.jpg

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A mid-sized Imperial was probably in play as early as 1963. No special tech at this point other than perhaps Euro-spec radials and four wheel disc brakes. Rear quarters and taillights would have needed to be more dazzling than Plymouth but front might have been carried if hidden lights offered, or maybe Imperial could have used the Plymouth design and Plymouth could have gotten something else. It really was a nice design this year.

1963 Imperial Mid-Sized Luxury.jpg

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19 minutes ago, Mahoning63 said:

A mid-sized Imperial was probably in play as early as 1963. No special tech at this point other than perhaps Euro-spec radials and four wheel disc brakes. Rear quarters and taillights would have needed to be more dazzling than Plymouth but front might have been carried if hidden lights offered.

 

Chrysler's downsized "S-series" was planned as far back as the summer of 1959, for the 1962 model year, which would have included all Chrysler products from Plymouth to Imperial.  https://auto.howstuffworks.com/1960-1963-imperial8.htm

 

After a management shakeup in 1960, Tex Colbert was demoted, and Virgil Exner's contract was terminated, and the corporate-wide downsizing plan was canceled for the most part.  Only the smaller 1962 Plymouth and Dodge Dart got to see the light of day from the aborted S-series project.

 

Craig

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Some unique viewpoints in this thread, esp RE Cadillac. Can't say I see some of them the same way at all.

RE a Plymouth-derived Imperial 'mercedes competitor'... not seeing it being successful. The busy jumble of period mercedes design aside, the Coronet lacks the detail & refinement to 'graduate' to the luxury class, even with some front & rear fascia tweaking. ChryCo had the ammunition to stay ahead of mercedes with the only albatross being excessive size. Of course, mercedes spent considerable monies enlarging and puffing up their offers to better fit the USDM; the brand really wasn't competitive until the 1980s. And by that I mean product-wise; luxury brands should never chase volume, it's an antithesis to the definition of a luxury product.

A fresh 'baby Imperial' could've had some potential, but certainly it should have been an Imperial exclusive and not a rework of a bottom tier model.

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"1963 Imperial" hardtop coupe is an interesting idea. Might need a new lower roof that was more raked at rear. The convertible would work as is.

 

wrt  '71 Imperial concept, I guess beauty will always be in the eye of...

 

To mine it could have been one of the most striking sedans of the 70s, with verve, athletic proportions and flowing lines that the big Imperial, because of its need for max interior room and sheer bigness,  could never match. 

 

But if an early 70s mid-sized Imperial had to have unique sheet metal, and perhaps had to be a coupe, what better template than the '70 Cordoba del Oro concept? It is almost certainly sitting on a modified version of that mid-sized platform.

 

https://www.forcbodiesonly.com/mopar-forum/threads/1970-cordoba-del-oro-concept.14331/

 

Recently tried the theme on a Charger. Got mixed results.

1973 Imperial del Oro.jpg

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3 hours ago, 8E45E said:

Interesting... but hugely bloated.

None of the mercedes sedans had any 'verve, athletic proportions', so not seeing why that would be the direction here.
If Imperial were to field a model aimed specifically at mercedes, it still would best be a all-new proprietary coupe with trimmer dimensions.

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9 hours ago, WQ59B said:

If Imperial were to field a model aimed specifically at mercedes, it still would best be a all-new proprietary coupe with trimmer dimensions.

The goal was to explore a car that matched Mercedes in competence and fell into the broad category of mid-size but biased towards American preferences, which meant it needed to be a little larger, more cushy and have more swagger. A 'tweener between 450SE and the big American boat. I think the anchor needed to be a sedan, the coupe being the companion. This was not playtime for Imperial, it had to go after families as much as playboys. And if no share with Dodge/Plymouth, no business case. In its home market Mercedes sold a 280SE taxi and de-contented S-Class trim levels to get scale. Imperial wouldn't have had to do that, could have kept its name pure. The play was never to clone Mercedes. Cadillac has been trying to do that for 20 years now. It was a failed mission at the highest strategic level back then and still is today. All of this IMHO. Could be wrong, often have been...

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M-B sold 35,000 cars in 1971


As strictly opposed to the one (physical) model Imperial, MB has long been a full-line brand, and a majority of that 35K weren't remotely in the Imperial's arena.  The American-esque big displacement 450 SEL 6.9 only sold 1,816 units in the U.S. in it's 5 years here - a mere 360 cars per year.  While it was much higher priced than Imperial, that would have been the competing model in all other aspects.  Imperial was still 'cushier' but this class of buyer THEN (early '70s) was still shopping for isolation and highway aplomb, not handling.

 

Of course, that would gradually change. Cadillac went with those changes and has built some exemplary automobiles. Imperial did not (and does not). But a 'tweener Imperial appropriating mercedes' competence on a mid-size chassis' would be doing exactly what you claim Cadillac has 'failed' doing.  Meanwhile, ChryCo allowed the Imperial to whither from it's robust & highly unique heyday (IMO; '57-68).

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What were the 450SE/SEL volumes? That would have been the price competition.

 

Exemplary doesn't mean profit.

 

Cadillac has not been doing what Imperial could have done, it has been building sport sedans that literally match Mercedes, BMW and the rest when the side view line drawings are overlayed. That's one problem, the other is that Cadillacs of late sometimes punish their drivers, especially ATS/CTS. Nor do thos cars offer an overall higher level of room, which is part of comfort. None of this should ever happen in a Cadillac. What they need are breakthroughs that break rules.

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• Cadillac most certainly is profitably- that's without question. GM made $10.8 billion profit in 2018, whereas MB made $7.6 (euro).
The luxury market target has shifted over time, and all players are building 'sports sedans', with new players shoehorning into the arena (genesis, volvo, etc). BMW, for example, made their image on building sports sedans that were Chevette-level in amenities and equipment.  How did they get to the 7-series of today, unless they were benchmarking leading brand's SOP??  Why did Mercedes introduce such amenities as A/C & power steering & automatic transmissions & heated seats years & years after Cadillac did?  Should not mercedes still be building well-assembled yet austere sedans with plain interiors and low-power engines, like the mainstream 240 always was? 

 

"Matching" other segment players is called competing.  There is no such thing as 'natural automotive evolution'.

• Cadillac (and if it were still here; likely Imperial) are held to quite different standards; those of huge volume / comparatively low price; the hallmark (in general) of American brands. Cadillac is NOT General Motors by itself and has traditionally/during it's heydays sold at the levels it does today, despite many many more players. Meanwhile, off-shore brands' volumes over time (BMW, MB) is ignored... except when it surpasses the domestic brands.

• 450SE / 450 SEL volumes still have to be in a minority vs. 240 / 300 sales in this period. At the time, there were very very few willing to 'pay more for less + better handling'. Again; that would change over time.

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I agree that the 450 6.9 is irrelevant to this, but remember that most 450's were not 6.9's.  While I agree that the 57-68 Imperials are superior in several respects, they were getting killed in the market place by Cadillac, and secondarily Lincoln.  The timing of the scenario is important here.  As previously stated, Mercedes was no longer distributing with Packard and was still getting established in 1970, but had a beach head and a reputation for build quality by the 1980-'s.

 

Cadillac was a viable target and benchmark in 1970 as they still dominated the US luxury sales.  But later their self-induced decline with poor quality, out of touch with market wallowing and bulky cars sets in.  Their image became old man cars.  They went from segment dominator to fifth place in a more fragmented segment.  The at least partially successful efforts to get their traditional customers were the Lincoln Town Car (which Ford could build pretty cheaply because of shared parts and old technology) and to a lesser degree the Fifth Avenue (similar appeal but a bit down market).  Plush, comfy, handling not of primary importance.

 

To go after BMW/MB, who were growing share, would require a more performance and build quality reputation.  Chrysler's drivetrain componentry was well-regarded.  Build quality of the smaller platform, not so much.  So perhaps a "Polara special" platform with upgraded bracing, rust-proofing and a slower line speed, made in batches.  This direction is more like a roomier, better-trimmed Jensen Interceptor.

 

The third set of competitors, entering a bit later, was the Japanese premium brands, who generally aimed between the Germans and the Americans in performance/handling, but sold impeccable build quality and a competitive price.  I don't see them as a Chrysler target.

 

 

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14 minutes ago, bryankazmer said:

While I agree that the 57-68 Imperials are superior in several respects, they were getting killed in the market place by Cadillac, and secondarily Lincoln. 

This is exactly what I was talking about. Sales volume only seems to be important when domestic brands are losing it, or foreign brands are surpassing it (which again is a commentary on domestics). Should sales volume really be a primary criteria for a true luxury brand? As long as an Imperial was meeting it’s mission statement of being an exclusive luxury product (at a profit), should anyone really care how many were sold?

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Volume and profit are not completely separable due to amortization of fixed costs.  So while a luxury division may not bring in as many dollars, if it is not to be a loss leader (rarely a long term viable position) the (price x volume) must exceed the (variable cost x volume + fixed cost).  So companies look at how many components can be shared and still have a premium enough offering to get a higher price.  The history on this is all over the place.  Virtually every GM car in the sixties had the same door handle.  Was the Caddy owner upset that his door handle was on a Chevy?  Not really.  How about a top line Buick owner in the nineties whose sedan shared most of the body with a salesman company car Bonneville?  problem (even if both copied the Jaguar).  Chevy pick-up/SUV blinged up into an Escalade?  Big success.

A corporation's mission is to make money - and somebody always cares how much.

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On 11/11/2019 at 6:05 AM, Mahoning63 said:

Why not? Imperial wasn't doing too well against Cadillac and Lincoln. Mercedes sales were rising and getting higher pricing.

 

I think the newly styled '71 Dodge Coronet presented the opportunity. Most of its sheet metal was fine, just needed changes to front and rear ('70 Imperial grill with hidden lights is my favorite) and fender skirts. Interior needed dramatically improved. The rest would have been technical:

 

- small block V8 (340 or 360) fitted with Bosch fuel injection for power and driveability with emissions control

- independent rear suspension for ride and handling

- new rear floorpan to allow fuel packaged under rear seat, spare in underfloor well and a lower trunk floor (because of IRS)

 

All this would have netted a car fairly competitive with M-B 450SE and biased towards American preference for larger, more stylish and more luxurious. Because of Coronet reuse the business case had a chance of working for small sales volumes. MSRP would have been key, needed to approach 450SE.

 

Would it have been profitable and saved Imperial? Was there a better approach?

 

Paul

 

 

1972 Crown Imperial vs Mercedes-Benz 450SE.jpg

 

Why do you want to compare a car that was never built to a successful luxury sedan? Even if you did all those things mechanically the cars body style is already in the dinosaur history category. The 340 360 isn't exactly something that can live for extended periods of time like the Mercedes can at over 100 mph on the Autobahn for years upon years of service. Even with your modifications you are comparing apples to oranges

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1 hour ago, bryankazmer said:

A corporation's mission is to make money - and somebody always cares how much.

Of course, but usually thats just stockholders and the corporate accountants. My charge is no one (other than corporate accountants) care about volume. Would be interesting to learn the profit of -say- Chevrolet vs. ferrari.

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whether you view it as good or bad, others besides the bean counters do care about volume.  Sales, production, purchasing  do.  R&D does because it funds more development.  There is "bad volume" certainly.  We turned down some business because it was only marginally profitable, but it generally depends on how full your plant is. 

 

A key to your Ferrari vs Chevy question (a good one) is that Ferrari is the sales leader in their segment.  I don't believe Chevy is any longer a leader in any of theirs.

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Sales volume is important because it is a major line item on a business case, right there with cycle life, material cost, per unit revenue and investment to bring the product to market. There are other items as well but those are key ones. Every vehicle has a target volume that will deliver the hoped for earnings. Also a break even volume below which profit is negative. Imperial volumes stayed stubbornly stagnant and way below Cadillac. Given that the investment to bring them to market was probably less but not a lot less than to bring a Cadillac program to market, and Imperial pricing was similar to Cadillac to be competitive,  and cycle life  a little longer but not by much, and material cost probably similar, then it stands to reason that they were probably operating in the red. Would Cadillac have still been profitable had its sales suddenly reduced to Imperial level? Probably not.

 

This is why Imperial almost had no choice but to change its strategy. It needed a business case that re-balanced sales volume and per unit revenue, to reduce the former somewhat and greatly increase the latter, while keeping investment as low as possible. Material cost would go up somewhat but the added content was essential to better pricing.

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21 minutes ago, Mahoning63 said:

 

Imperial did its best from 1964--'66 to be more than a classier, upmarket New Yorker with the Elwood Engle-designed car, while Chrysler kept its Exner-styled body for 1964.  And it did not share its roofline with the C-body redesign in 1965 or 1966, though starting in 1967, the Imperial did the remainder of its full-size term until 1975 with a shared Chrysler body. 

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7 hours ago, Pfeil said:

Why do you want to compare a car that was never built to a successful luxury sedan? Even if you did all those things mechanically the cars body style is already in the dinosaur history category. The 340 360 isn't exactly something that can live for extended periods of time like the Mercedes can at over 100 mph on the Autobahn for years upon years of service. Even with your modifications you are comparing apples to oranges

Why? Because its fun. More importantly, it is my belief that the better one understands the past -  what happened and why, and what could have happened - the better they can understand the present and envision a different, hopefully better future.

 

Coronet body style is hated by some, loved by others. Probably same with the Mercedes though less polarizing. I think we can all at least agree on that. I can't speak to Mopar power. If it was unreliable at high speed would have been another task for Chrysler Powertrain group to tackle in addition to fuel injection, to extent they could have done anything.

 

The apples-oranges comment is a valid one, they certainly aren't the same cars. I was looking at the luxury space the way it is looked at by car companies today. At those high prices cars tend to get grouped more by price. Of course, four door cars don't get lumped in with two door cars but a Panamera, for example, will get bucketed in same category as S-Class even though one is a smaller, lower, sporty hatchback and the other a somewhat larger and more sedate sedan. There was a Consumer Reports article in 1976 that compared a 450SE (I think that was the car) with the new Seville. The Seville wasn't really in the same class and the M-B handily won, but the Seville's price was high enough to put it into a very small category of players and CU was just trying to answer the question of whether the money to buy either (the M-B was probably 30% more expensive than the Seville) was worth it. Whether folks back in the day shopped both is another matter. We now know that the Seville program didn't conquest many M-B owners/intenders the way Cadillac hoped, instead siphoned from the large Cadillacs, especially women who wanted to drive a smaller car. The thing that jumps out at me, as it informs a potential Imperial of 4 years earlier, is that Seville sold at an annual rate averaging 50,000 units between 1975-9 despite a significantly higher price than the larger Cadillacs. On that basis I would give the proposed Imperial a volume call of 5,000 units in its first year, rising in subsequent years if it proved itself the real deal.

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I think it would it would be more interesting to look at the reaction to ( what actually happened ) by the auto makers to the Mercedes , BMW's and Audi.

Here are a few reactions;

Cadillac Seville

Image result for image of the 1978 Cadillac Seville

 

Below, The X car that the above car came from;

CC170-dR-01-970x469.jpg

 

The Chassis and suspension that the above car came from as shown below,

Image result for image of the 1970 Pontiac Trans am

 

Fords versions;

Image result for ford granada 1978  image

 

Image result for lincoln versailles image

Chrysler,

Related image

 

Image result for image of the 1978 Plymouth volare

 

Just a note, When John DeLorean was head of Chevrolet, it was DeLorean's insistence that the new X body for 1975 (shared with Pontiac Olds and Buick X bodies) would have the following. The three Box European look, and the suspension and handling of the Camaro/Firebird and also available everything that you could get in the way of suspension/ handling of a Z28 or Trans Am. Properly set up a X body handles like a T/A or Z-28. Which is quite the contrary to the Ford Granada whereby if a customer was blindfolded couldn't tell the difference between a LTD's ride and a Granada.    

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8 hours ago, bryankazmer said:

whether you view it as good or bad, others besides the bean counters do care about volume.  Sales, production, purchasing  do.  R&D does because it funds more development.  There is "bad volume" certainly.  We turned down some business because it was only marginally profitable, but it generally depends on how full your plant is. 

 

A key to your Ferrari vs Chevy question (a good one) is that Ferrari is the sales leader in their segment.  I don't believe Chevy is any longer a leader in any of theirs.

• I'm aware of those points, but this thread was started from a product, or 'public' side of the equation. The consumer evaluating a 'baby Imperial' in 1972 didn't know or care about sales volume or profit margin- that's corporate-level / internal business.
• Ferrari is a much easier analysis because it's only in a single segment (high dollar sports cars). Mercedes as a brand goes from sub-median priced entry level to well into the 6-figure range. In other words, it's a full-line brand. As is Chevy.

 

8 minutes ago, Pfeil said:

Cadillac Seville

Below, The X car that the above car came from;

Seville is a K-Body, on a K-chassis. Initial engineering was begun with X-Body specs, but too much was redesigned to keep the same designation. It's the prime reason the Seville ballooned from it's projected $8K MSRP, to the $12K it was sold at- that's how far Cadillac pushed the Seville's development.

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Oh the Versailles, a plague on Dearborn's house too!!! Would rather be inspired by what could have been... in 1972 before bumper reg's ruined its purity. Same opportunity as Imperial but probably could have left the solid rear axle alone. Fuel injection still worthwhile in new emissions-controlled era.

 

1972 Lincoln Versailles.jpg

Edited by Mahoning63 (see edit history)
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9 hours ago, WQ59B said:

• I'm aware of those points, but this thread was started from a product, or 'public' side of the equation. The consumer evaluating a 'baby Imperial' in 1972 didn't know or care about sales volume or profit margin- that's corporate-level / internal business.
• Ferrari is a much easier analysis because it's only in a single segment (high dollar sports cars). Mercedes as a brand goes from sub-median priced entry level to well into the 6-figure range. In other words, it's a full-line brand. As is Chevy.

 

Seville is a K-Body, on a K-chassis. Initial engineering was begun with X-Body specs, but too much was redesigned to keep the same designation. It's the prime reason the Seville ballooned from it's projected $8K MSRP, to the $12K it was sold at- that's how far Cadillac pushed the Seville's development.

A HUGE change occurred in three short years between 1972 and 1975.  First, the Energy Crisis had not happened yet, and the 'biggest is best' where price by size/volume still prevailed.  A 'compact' Cadillac, Lincoln, or Imperial was far from anyone's minds, seller, or buyer in 1972.  All of the sudden, OPEC turned off the tap with resultant lineups at the gas pumps in 1974, and everyone's mind then turned to small, economical cars, and full-size luxury cars took a hit.  6-cylinder Mercedes Benzes were starting to sell well when GM noticed their success, and came up with the Seville.  It sold well, despite it's 12K price tag. 

 

A 'compact' US luxury car before 1973/4 was almost unthinkable, just as a luxury 4X4 Porsche, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Maserati, and Jaguar was at the turn of the 21st century with the exception of Lamborghini's LM002.

 

Craig

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Something doesn't add up here. Seville came out in May '75 so its development had to have started well before OPEC. And there had always been AMC's Ambassador. Even mainstream mid-sized sedans were being Broughamafied. The buying public couldn't seem to get enough "upscale" not matter the segment.

 

But I did just realize that the 1971 Imperial design proposal could be thought of in a different context. Not as a $12,000 M-B fighter but a $5,500 replacement for the Imperial Crown that was cancelled that year. In such a scenario there would have been no changes to architecture or engine and not nearly the effort to upgrade the interior.

 

 

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By the end of 1974 when the Ambassador was discontinued, it was a true full-size car on a 122" wheelbase. 

 

The Seville was actually in the cards in 1973, but not taken very seriously until the events of the end of that year, where it was rushed (by today's standards) into production.   It used the most computer-aided design of any car up until that point which greatly  reduced its development time.  Keep in mind, it used an Oldsmobile engine modified with electronic fuel injection, not a Cadillac engine.   

 

Craig

Edited by 8E45E (see edit history)
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You keep missing the elephant in the room, the 55 mph NMSL (National Maximum Speed Limit). American cars were built for American roads. Except for the "slow corner" most of the USA was made up of miles and miles of miles and miles. Having cars that could float down a straight TLB (two lane blacktop) at speeds in excess of 65-70 was just the American way. A "mile a minute" had always meant something here. One of the most important milestones was not 0-60 but 50-70. In 1970 we had a lot of Interstates but they were in patches. By 1980 they were common.

 

So three major things happened in the '70s: gas prices went up from 20c/gal in 1970 to 50c/gal in 1979 (then went to a dollar in the '79 crisis), the 55 speed limit meant 50-70 did not mean much and small cars designed for slower speeds became popular while the Interstates made passing ability irrelevant. AC became more important.

 

Because it was cheap, American engines received ded cams with 1800 rpm torque peaks and since this meant engines were "all in" at 4,000 rpm, HP ratings dropped drastically.

 

Suddenly small cars were in. Seville was a gussied up NOVA and Cimmeron was a similar Cavalier. Cheap. Phoenix was a Ventura with Grand Prix "stuff" and the first rectangular headlights. You could still get small cars with a V8 and manual transmission, just now they had 2bbl carbs.

 

Was also a time when gearheads were out and it was not politically correct to talk car. I was there.

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16 hours ago, WQ59B said:

 

Seville is a K-Body, on a K-chassis. Initial engineering was begun with X-Body specs, but too much was redesigned to keep the same designation. It's the prime reason the Seville ballooned from it's projected $8K MSRP, to the $12K it was sold at- that's how far Cadillac pushed the Seville's development.

 

The K Body ( not chassis ) is different that the X body, however the whole front sub assy. frame is the same as the X and F body and uses many of the same components. The Olds pictured in my thread has the Seville front hubs and rear wheel flange for 5 on five bolt pattern along with the Seville 12" rotors. all parts can interchange on that sub frame, in fact Seville's rear disc brakes which originally came from the F body fit as well. Yes the Body is different because of the 11" stretch but the measurements from the front to the "A" pillar are the same as the X body and the rear measurement from the "C" pillar to the trunk are also the same. The 11" stretch is from "B" to "C" pillar.

 

There is similar shared components between Granada, Monarch, and Versailles which all were built on the same assy. line.   

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