Those of us in North America know about the capabilities of Cadillac’s best, but what about the rest of the world? Sure, the automotive media in Europe likely have written about the track times of the ATS and CTS Vsport at Nürburgring, but is that translating in sales?
That is one of Cadillac’s biggest challenges. As General Motors’ American flagship continues its metamorphosis into a world-class luxury contender, will European consumers take Cadillac into consideration in a niche created by the Germans? “Our goal is to take a much more consistent long term approach than what the company used to historically,” said GM President Dan Ammann to Autoblog. Cadillac’s way into European hearts may come from a different, more creative manner.
Cadillac’s current dealer network in Europe is not fully established, so this gives the brand opportunities that it normally wouldn’t try. “I think the future of retail in the automotive industry is without bricks and mortar, at least in comparison to what we do now, which is investing multi-millions in dealerships all over the country,” says Cadillac chief marketing officer Uwe Ellinghaus. The former BMW executive sees annual European deliveries at about 2,000 units for the next few years, but he sees a chance to experiment with a more novel, personal approach.
“Because of our limited volume, it will be easier to take care of customers on an individual basis. So we see a competitive advantage there and can pioneer a new retail format, with pop-up stores, virtual stores and a flagship store, maybe. If this approach works we then roll it out in rest of the world … We want to control better not just the transaction prices but the quality of the experience at the dealer customer touch points. This industry has one common Achilles heel, and this is that the dealers do not like automakers to get too far into their business.”
Ellinghaus also says what’s needed to increase European appeal is a diesel engine, but Cadillac will not offer a diesel until the right motor is available, which will not happen for a few years. “Until then we will rely on customers who don’t need to buy a car that meets the lowest CO2 emissions limit, or buyers who do not have company policies that force them to lowest engine variant available.”
Cadillac’s current European roster consists of high-performance models, which Ellinghaus doesn’t see as a liability. “So from a brand-building perspective, I like it because you can only build a brand from the top down, never bottom up.”
“One thing is for sure,” adds Ellinghaus, “if we say we want to elevate Cadillac to a global premium brand, we can’t leave Europe untapped. Our new cars already rival Europe’s best and even win some comparison tests. Five years ago, that would have been beyond imagination for any Cadillac. So the product is there, the brand is not yet, but we will build brand image slowly and steadily and not dump cars into the market.”
One aspect Ellinghaus feels strongly about—and which may arouse cheers from Americans—is Cadillac’s European-style naming strategy. “We need to revise our entire nomenclature, especially with our expanding portfiolio. We need something better–not just a copy of German practice. There are better ways to give buyers guidance in terms of hierarchy and size than the current names and acronyms.”