Earlier this year, General Motors celebrated the opening of a dedicated Cadillac pavilion in Beijing, erected to attract Chinese luxury car buyers from the leading brands — which just happen to be German. On display was a 1927 Webster’s dictionary opened to the entry for Cadillac; the definition: “Something that is the most outstanding or prestigious of its kind.”
The Wreath and Crest brand may have had its ups and downs in the U.S, but it’s an entirely different story in China, where the brand and its 110-year heritage is associated with power, success, and — remarkably — Presidents of the United States.
“Chinese may or may not like America, but they definitely like the power that’s associated with America,” said Michael Dunne, an industry analyst and author out of Jakarta. “They admire, respect and like power and America is the world’s leading superpower, so owning an American car offers an opportunity to be part of that.
Indeed, the pavilion also showed off a scale model of Cadillac’s U.S. Presidential limousine — a feat not remotely shared by Audi, the leading luxury brand in China that sells almost ten times as many units as Cadillac. That is mostly due to a number of unfortunate circumstances and poor planning by the Old GM, but something that New GM is addressing head on. Over the next several years, General Motors will move Chinese-market Cadillac production to the country — a move that will allow it to shed hefty import fees carried by most of its product portfolio. In addition, Cadillac will introduce one new model a year to the market starting with the Cadillac XTS and followed by the ATS.
“We are held in essentially the same regard as BMW and Audi and Mercedes-Benz, and part of it does go back to this really fond association with America” and its profile of power and success, said Vice President of Cadillac marketing Don Butler. “It’s the car of presidents.”
Most intriguing is Mr. Butler’s assertion that half of the world’s luxury goods will be purchased in China by 2020. And if that statistic is accurate, Cadillac better start selling more than 10,000 units a month in the Land of the Red Dragon — or else its scale, and subsequent ability, to develop The World Class will be drastically curtailed. For its part, the Cadillac pavilion will be an area in which GM will showcase the brand’s uniqueness by inviting influentials to enjoy art, including pieces by pop icon Andy Warhol and modern Chinese artist Yue Minjun. Expect Cadillacs to adorn, if not complement, their works.