General Motors has two men in charge of inducing change at its Cadillac brand, newly appointed CEO Johan de Nysschen and chief marketing officer Uwe Ellinghaus. Ellinghaus comes from BMW, where he held a number of significant marketing roles, while de Nysschen, a well-known executive in the automotive industry, has history with Audi and Infiniti.
Both de Nysschen and Ellinghaus have extensive experience with foreign luxury automakers, particularly German brands, making them perfect for the job at Cadillac. Ellinghaus has been in his position for nearly a year now and recently sat down with Brand Channel to discuss the changes de Nysschen and him have worked on so far.
Ellinghaus said he first needed to show his bosses at GM that a luxury brand works differently than a normal automaker. A luxury brand is “all about focus, continuity and consistency,” he said, which are “the sort of secondary virtues that the German brands are so good at.” Part of this was making the nomenclature of its models clear, which is what prompted Ellinghaus and GM to change Cadillac’s naming convention.
“The previous thought was that we have to go in between the segments dominated by the Germans. But I said we need to right-size our cars and make our nomenclature clear,” Ellingahus said. “Mary Barra herself assigned me to come up with a suggestion for fixing the nomenclature. Future cars will have “CT” and then a number behind it that indicates its size in our hierarchy, and future SUVs and crossovers will have an “XT” and a number.”
Another area where Ellinghaus sees room for improvement is in the “American-ness” of Cadillac. The company can have a desire to compete with Germany luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz or BMW, but it won’t help to emulate them. They must find ways to convey a sense of American character while still rivaling competing products in quality, design and performance.
He said Cadillac will convey “American-ness” by having less technology-driven marketing and also added that the brand is working on defining its values and injecting itself with more “American spirit.” If you really “don’t want the American-spirit this brand emobodies, then you can go to the German brands,” Ellinghaus said.
Cadillac’s ATS and CTS are leaps and bounds ahead of anything the brand had produced before and as de Nysschen continues to plan vehicles to fill the many gaps in its portfolio, Ellinghaus’ marketing job will only get easier.