General Motors Corp. closed the hood on its $61,675 Cadillac Allante yesterday, saying it will stop making the convertible two-seater that dealers credit with getting younger car buyers to consider Cadillacs again.
Even though it generated excitement, the Allante itself was never a hit. The roadster was expensive to make, in part because its body was built in Italy and its chassis made in Hamtramck, Mich., with final assembly done in this country.
Allante's high production costs and a weak dollar contributed to the high prices that held sales to a mere 1,878 from Jan. 1 'D through Nov. 10.
"It was never a volume car to begin with," said Bob Frankel, president of Frankel Cadillac-Range Rover in Pikesville. "It was
a flagship vehicle to bring people in the door. . . . By the time they shipped it back and forth, the costs got out of hand. "
The Allante was launched as part of an effort by GM to attract younger buyers to Cadillac, whose customer base has aged noticeably. The company was distressed by signs that its customers' children preferred Japanese and German luxury cars such as BMW and Acura.
GM originally hoped to sell about 7,500 Allantes a year, but sales never reached that level. Cadillac sold only about 2,500 Allantes last year.
Jeffrey Ballan, president of Chesapeake Cadillac-Jaguar in Baltimore, said the attention attracted by Allante helped to launch other Cadillac models such as the redesigned Seville and Eldorado.
But Mr. Ballan and Mr. Frankel said Seville and Eldorado buyers are now significantly younger than the Cadillac customers of the mid-1980s, and they credit Allante with helping to rebuild Cadillac's appeal to professionals and business people in their 40s.
The dealers said the car's high price was its only major problem. "People who bought Allantes love them," Mr. Ballan said. He added, however, that many customers who came in to look at the Allante ended up buying Jaguar convertibles.
"I can't say we sold a lot because we were never allocated a lot [by GM]," Mr. Ballan said. Despite his affection for the car, he said, "business-wise, I'm not going to miss it."
Cadillac General Manager John O. Grettenberger said earlier this year that the first Allantes were underpowered and prone to water leaks in their convertible tops.
Today, however, Mr. Grettenberger said, poor sales and the need for GM to reduce costs and concentrate on its core vehicle lines led to the decision to discontinue the model next year.