In a recent interview with Car and Driver, Cadillac CMO Uwe Ellinghaus showed bitter German nerve when he was asked about Cadillac’s future plans as well as his perspective on the brand’s chief rivals BMW, Mercedes and Audi. Brands of Ellinghaus’ home country.
A key remark that he made was pointed right at the German big three, calling them “cold soulless sterile competition,” referring to the reputation the three have for their high quality, and the equally obsessive levels of perfection that they seek to obtain with each model. While it is still up for debate on whether Cadillac’s competition is indeed sterile or not, recent efforts such as the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V as well as the new 2015 CTS sedan do reveal that Cadillac is taking a much more adventurous approach to its familiar “Art and Science” design language and that in some instances, Cadillac offerings do tend to leap out more at the eye than many German rivals when viewed side by side.
Ellinghaus later revealed his commitment to not use the term “American Luxury” in Cadillac advertising, claiming that the term is outdated, and that it does not do a good job in establishing Cadillac’s own distinct identity (even though it’s an American brand). Instead, Ellinghaus aims to promote the American spirit and the sense of optimism that comes with it which will be done by using familiar settings and backdrops that are distinctly American but without resorting to cliches to get the overall point across.
Ellinghaus also vigorously defended the controversial alphanumeric naming system that was introduced shortly after brand president Johan De Nysschen took the helm at Cadillac, claiming that it is needed so the American brand can establish proper mental hierarchy not only across its lineup, but also when it is compared against equivalent competing vehicles. Ellinghaus revealed that while hierarchy is not a German invention, the German three are doing a better job adhering to it than Cadillac currently is. Adding to that was him saying that the brand needs to embrace this new-found hierarchy to give it a fighting chance in the sales race. He is even willing to do this despite Cadillac having a rich stable of historic nameplates, claiming “They are no longer meaningful. Let’s face it, those cars weren’t anywhere near as good as today’s cars are so those names are not arousing for those that still remember them.” He later added that he does not want exciting nameplates because he wants to build and focus on the brand as a whole versus all the attention being focused on one nameplate.
We have to wonder if Ferrari (458 Italia?), Lamborghini (LP700-4 Aventador?), Porsche (Cayman?) or Aston Martin (Vanquish?) have such problems on their brand names not being focused on enough.
While it remains to be seen whether Cadillac’s bold strategy pays off or not in the long run, the brand currently has the most compelling lineup it has ever had in recent years, and new arrivals such as the recently unveiled ATS-V do have the potential to help Cadillac resurrect itself as a legitimate rival to the Germans.