In these days of dismal car sales, off 8% since their peak in July, one U.S. auto maker faces an enviable problem. Orders for Cadillac's new Seville sedan outstrip the General Motors Corp. division's ability to make them. At long last, it seems, Motown has designed a car that comes close to competing with Europe's and Japan's best.
More important, the customer waiting list suggests Cadillac's arduous struggle to remake itself during the 1980s is paying off. The Seville is the first all-new Cadillac designed by a close-knit team of suppliers, assembly workers, marketers, and engineers. It's a technique Japanese competitors have employed successfully for years, and one Detroit still is struggling to adopt. The result is a sleekly styled auto designed to appeal to the international tastes Detroit has chronically ignored. And it's more agile than the outsized land yachts of yore.
Of course, it will take several years of hard driving before we know if the Seville can match the enviable durability of some of its competitors. But Cadillac clearly has its priorities straight: Instead of furiously cranking out cars to meet demand, it's holding back to assure good quality while it debugs the Seville's new assembly line. That kind of long-term thinking could finally help Detroit stem the flow from Japan to America of the cars and parts that account for 75% of the $40 billion U.S. trade deficit with Japan.