Cadillac will sell significantly fewer Cateras this year.
General Motors halted production of the car in Germany for two months to modify its new fuel system, restricting supplies to dealers, said Cadillac spokesman Chris Preuss.
He predicted Cadillac will sell 15,000 to 18,000 Cateras in 1999.
Sales of the near-luxury car in both 1998 and 1997 topped 25,000 units. And last summer, Jeff Pritchard, assistant brand manager of marketing for the car, said Cadillac eventually planned to boost annual sales to 40,000.
The production glitch, in addition to being a setback for the Catera, damages Cadillac's effort to woo younger buyers and to stay abreast of Lincoln in the luxury sales race.
Production of 1999-model Cateras started in late September 1998, said Kari St. Antoine, a spokeswoman at Cadillac. The first 8,000 units produced before the shutdown were held and fixed at the Baltimore port and released in late January.
In extreme cold or hot weather, gas from a full tank would splash out of the filler neck, according to a company source who asked not to be identified. Production resumed in late January.
Three dealers said they got their first 1999-model Cateras in the past 30 days. Two others said they took delivery in February.
As of April 1, there was a 163-day supply of Cateras vs. a 113-day supply March 1, according to the Automotive News Data Center. A 65-day supply is about average.
The unusually high days' supply was caused by Cadillac holding the 8,000 cars at the port.
The numbers are expected to decline now that a new ad campaign has started and a new national lease deal was added to commercials in April.
Two dealerships said they sold out of the 1998 models earlier this year.
Mike Pendergast, general manager of Wald Otto Cadillac in Albany. N.Y., said he sold out of the 1998 models in February, when he also got the first 1999 models. The new model is selling well there, he said, and he has ordered more.
'If people drive it (Catera), they like it,' he said. He added that Catera buyers are younger than traditional Cadillac customers and usually have been conquests from other brands.