The Cadillac Seville was first introduced to the market under its own name in 1975 by General Motors. The Seville remained in production until 2003 when it was then replaced with the STS. This article will discuss the history and progression of the vehicle, as well as the popularity of the Seville model.
The Seville was the first car developed by GM under the Cadillac name that used GM components. When the car was introduced it was the most expensive model in the Cadillac fleet at over $12,000. The price was due to the level of luxury afforded by the vehicle. The car was available in the 50s and 60s as a specialty model, but it was not made as a production vehicle until 1975.
The Seville was Cadillac’s second in line luxury vehicle, behind the long running favorite El Dorado. It was also behind the DeVille in sales even though it was more focused on technology then the higher selling car. It was designed as a response to the rise in popularity of European imports such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. At first these imports were cheaper than and not as luxurious as Cadillac’s, however as time went on they became both nicer and more expensive then their American counterparts.
The Seville was a huge change from earlier Cadillac models. The theory that “bigger equals better” clearly was no longer true, as smaller, sportier luxury vehicles like BMWs overtook the American luxury company. The Seville became the smallest and most expensive vehicle in the Cadillac fleet. The first Seville was a hardtop version of the El Dorado, Tailfins found on the 1959 model make it a very recognizable car.
1960 marked the last year that the Eldorado Seville was produced under that name. The next generation of Seville’s was almost named the LaSalle, however that nameplate was used for an earlier Cadillac sub compact, and the name was rejected because it may have caused confusion. The Seville was built on a rear wheel drive frame that was used in the Chevrolet Nova, however the frame was heavily upgraded and given the name “k-body” which turned it into an excellent platform. The car was very angular, and future Cadillac bodies drew on that. It was also a very wide vehicle. The headlamps and grill finished out the clean look.
The Seville was released in 1975 as an “internationally sized” Cadillac. It was was small and easy to maneuver, parking it was a breeze, and a 5.2L V8 Engine powered it throughout the 70s. Although many competitors such as Lincoln and Chrysler tried to release competing vehicles, none were able to surpass the class or performance of the Seville. In the 80s, Cadillac changed the body to a front wheel drive wheelbase that was also found on the El Dorado. As before however, the frame was customized to the Seville name. This jump to a new generation also saw a jump to a new body style.
With a shorter back, it was a bit of a throwback to Chryslers of the previous generation. This new body style was quite controversial, as many thought is wasn’t progressive enough. However as before, imitators tried and failed to match the vehicle in popularity. As hip hop rose in popularity, the culture adopted the Cadillac as something of an icon. The early 80s version with the short rear was deemed the “slantback” by many hip hop artists and fans. The sales of the vehicle were good in the early 80s, but as the middle of the decade approached there were some poor design choices made, primarily when it came to engine choices.
There was a brief period where the Seville used a 5.7 V8 Diesel engine, this proved to be a poor choice. There were also models that featured a new and ultimately flawed engine design that has been perfected in the modern era, but was unreliable at the time. The early-mid 80s was the Seville’s darkest hour, as even after they attempted to fit it with a new engine, it still had problems, as the engine was unreliable and not powerful enough for a full sized Cadillac like the Seville.
In 1986 a totally new body design was released. It masterfully combined the angularity of the original Seville while also being aerodynamic enough to please fans of newer body styles. Unfortunately, many consumers viewed the vehicle as bland, despite its new engine that offered an incredible 30 MPG. It was also the first production car to feature a computer system that monitored the car’s systems. Ever the innovators, Cadillac also included a very unique fluorescent dash, with bright and appealing dials and indicators. These new found electronic innovations were due to Cadillac’s acquisition of Hughes Electronics, a prominent satellite manufacturer.
Finally, the late 80s saw improved sales with the introduction of a touring model of the Seville that featured a very comfortable interior and suspension system. 1992 saw the triumphant return of the Cadillac Seville, with a body update that made the car look more European. The vehicle was attractive to buyers and critics alike, as it won Motor Trend’s car of the year award.
The Seville continued to sell through the 90s, and in 1998 another style enhancement was made. The car now looked fit for the new millennium. However, unfortunately, the vehicle’s popularity dwindled. The Seville STS was the last model released, in 2004, and then it was replaced by the Cadillac STS, which proudly bears the Seville tradition into the new millennium.
The Seville has a rich, colorful history, and was one of the products that defined Cadillac through the later half of the 20th century. Through the ups and downs the Seville remained a staple of Cadillac’s fleet. Even today certain Seville models are highly valued, as it car had some excellent high points over its life span. It’s easily one of the most important luxury cars in automotive history.