Cadillac in a

difficult marriage

Cadillac BLS, 2006, front, static

PERHAPS one of the most difficult marriages of the early 2000s was that between world motor giant General Motors and traditional Swedish manufacturer Saab.

The two just did not make sense together as the philosophies were so different.

It all started in 1989 when the automobile division of Saab-Scania was restructured into an independent company.

General Motors took 50% ownership with an investment of $600 million, and then in 2000, exercised its option to acquire the remaining 50% for a further $125 million, so turning Saab Automobile into a wholly owned GM subsidiary.

It all soldiered on until 2010 when GM sold Saab to the Dutch automobile manufacturer Spyker. There then followed a chain of events which saw Saab go bankrupt.

One product of this unfruitful union with GM was the Cadillac BLS, an entry level luxury car which cost more than one billion kronor to design.

The BLS was, at heart, a heavily restyled version of the Saab 9-3 and was hoped to provide Cadillac with a healthy drive onto the driveways of Europe with its American styling and Saab engineering.

Manufactured at the Saab Trollhattan factory, sales began in March 2006, and it was introduced to the Arabian, Mexican, South African and South Korena markets in addition to Europe.

It was available with a 1.9 diesel engine and two petrol engines, a 2.8L turbocharged V6 and a 2.0L.

The car was known by many as the "Bob Lutz Special" - a reference to GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz who oversaw all GM product development at the time.

Lutz was a dedicated supporter of badge engineering and saw an opportunity to make the Saab 9-3 fill holes in Cadillac's product gap.

Predictably BLS was not successful. In 2007, Cadillac produced 2,772 cars at the Trollhättan factory with 282 sold in Germany, a market with total annual sales of 3.15 million.

Production figures plummeted in 2006 and the BLS reached the end of the road in 2009.

I drove a few examples of this car during my career and it was at best average. It bore little similarity to the great Cadillacs of the time including the STS of the same era and was never going to make any inroads into the preserve of the German brands such as BMW and Audi.