Badge engineering and platform sharing have been successfully used by carmakers for years, with the likes of the Volkswagen Group elevating it to an art form. But not done right, rebadging is disastrous, as General Motors found out the hard way in the early Eighties. With the W123 and W201 Mercedes-Benz saloons taking the US market by storm, the big boys in Detroit saw the urgent need for a compact saloon from Cadillac. But the solution they found wasn't exactly breathtaking. Catastrophically, they decided to rebadge a pedestrian Chevrolet Cavalier as a Cadillac.
The problem was not that it was badge engineered, but that it was done without any obvious effort whatsoever to re-engineer it to Cadillac standards of performance and ride quality. The fact that it was powered by a wheezy 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine mated to either a four-speed manual or a three-speed automatic gearbox didn't help, nor did the price tag, cheekily set at almost double that of the Chevy it essentially was.
Sure enough, the Cimarron was a resplendent failure, and neither a long list of standard equipment nor eventual engine upgrades could save it from certain demise six years after it was born. While it helped Cadillac entice younger customers to its fold, the flip side was that a considerable number of traditional owners ditched the brand after the Cimarron debacle. In fact, there are stories doing the rounds that GM was so embarrassed by the Cimarron that it bought back most of the examples sold and crushed them all.