IRVING – Joe Fetzer is no Jerry Jones, but the Cadillac executive stood on the 50-yard line at Texas Stadium yesterday hoping that the Dallas Cowboys’ recent success might rub off on the all-new 1993 Fleetwood.
The Cowboys have gone from a dismal 1-15 record in 1989 to being a Super Bowl contender this season. Fetzer would appreciate similar results for the Arlington-made Fleetwood, redesigned for the 1993 model year.
Cadillac utilized Texas Stadium and the Cowboys Cheerleaders to introduce dealers in its six-state Southwest region to the new Fleetwood, the replacement for the ailing Cadillac Brougham.
Cadillac sold just 18,000 Broughams in the 1992 model year. The company has high hopes, however, that the new Fleetwood will parallel the playmaker status of the Cowboys’ Michael Irvin in its luxury lineup.
A Fleetwood comeback would help workers in Arlington by adding another high-volume car to their production line.
The plant also makes the Buick Roadmaster and Chevrolet Caprice. The Roadmaster has been a strong seller, but the Caprice – criticized for its bulky body style – has never met expectations.
Art Hester, manager at General Motors’ Arlington assembly plant, asked dealers for feedback on customer reaction to the Fleetwood.
“Cadillac is a very important part of our plan to become a recognized world-class operation,” Hester said.
Mike Seiler, shop chairman at UAW Local 276, joined local President Dave Perdue in asking dealers about Fleetwoods already delivered. Local 276 represents the plant’s 3,400 hourly workers.
“The comments we’ve heard today have been very positive,” Seiler said.
The plant began Fleetwood production this summer but has been building them slowly to ensure high quality, Perdue said.
“Our goal is to build the best quality Cadillac that you could put on the road,” Perdue said.
Fetzer, Cadillac’a west area sales, service and marketing manager, acknowledges that Cadillac once considered killing its full-size entry when the Brougham went into a steep decline three years ago. But the company decided it could not walk away from a solid customer base, he said.
Average Fleetwood customers are about 60 years old, retired and in control of a considerable amount of disposable income.
The Fleetwood, known in the industry as the Big Caddy, is popular with retirees who drive long distances. Its 7,000-pound towing capacity makes it popular with trailer and boat owners.
“Our design motivation was to carry forward some of the tradition attached to the old Brougham,” Fetzer said.
“We’re aiming at a market with customers that have liked the big Cadillac for a number of years.
“Our old Brougham had some of the highest owner loyalty in the business. We knew we had to take that into consideration. We didn’t want a dramatic, radical departure from past styling cues.”
The new Fleetwood has a rounded, more aerodynamic design. It does not depart from traditional Cadillac styling like the new Eldorado and Seville models, which are designed to take on European and Japanese competition.
Fetzer said the GM division hopes to sell 38,000 Fleetwoods in 1993.
A performance like that, which industry experts say could easily happen, would bring the car back to late 1980s sales levels. Cadillac dominated its competition then, much as the late-model Cowboys are doing now.
Yesterday’s event drew more than 140 dealers from the Southwest region, which includes Texas, Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico.
The dealers later drove off in 140 blue Fleetwoods produced in Arlington for the rollout.
Dealers spent the day kicking the tires on the Fleetwood and kicking footballs through – or nearly through – the goal posts at Texas Stadium.
Cadillac also sponsored a performance and autograph session with the Cowboys Cheerleaders, who entered the stadium dancing behind a pink Cadillac Allante.
“We wanted to do a big event like this for our dealers because this is big car country down here,” said Dennis Urban, Cadillac’s Southwest zone manager.
“The old Brougham at one time represented 20 percent of our market in this six-state region. That means one in every five cars our dealers sold was a Brougham.
“Our goal is to get back to those days.”
Cadillac began shipping the Fleetwood from Arlington in the last two weeks in limited amounts. Urban said that dealers should have a normal supply built up within 30 days.
The national advertising campaign will begin in mid-October. It will include television spots as well as ads in select newspapers and magazines with an upscale audience.
Cadillac had hoped to have 5,000 cars spread among its 1,600 dealers nationwide by the beginning of last week, but a production line problem delayed deliveries.
Inspectors found minor fit problems with some parts. Plant management moved to correct the problems on the assembly line before it allowed cars to be shipped.
The $33,000 Fleetwood will be a much more sophisticated car than its Brougham predecessor.
Cadillac has added driver-side and passenger side air bags as standard equipment, along with antilock brakes and the same traction control system used on its prized Allante.
“A lot of the buyers of this car are concerned about safety,” Fetzer said. “Traction control and dual air bags lend themselves to this car’s customers.”
Cadillac is conducting extensive training seminars to acquaint dealers and sales managers with the new safety features on the Fleetwood.
As part of the program yesterday, a Fleetwood was driven over a 50-foot-long plastic tarp that had been soaked with water and soap. At about 30 mph, the brakes were applied to show how drivers could retain control of the car in icy or wet situations.
A traction-control system monitors the speed of each wheel using sensors to provide continuous information to electronic brake-control modules.
If the computer determines that one or both of the rear wheels are beginning to spin, it reduces wheel spin by selectively applying rear brakes and relaxing the throttle to decrease engine power.
A blue light on the instrument panel tells the Fleetwood’s driver that the car’s traction-control system is in operation.
The Fleetwood will be powered by a 5.7 liter fuel-injected V-8 engine that delivers 185 horsepower. Fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg in highway driving.
The car has a 23-gallon fuel tank that gives it a driving range of 575 miles.
Author: Michael D. Towle; Star-Telegram Writer
Copyright 1992, 1994 STAR-TELEGRAM INC.