Cadillac’s Melody Lee Allots 10 Years For The Brand’s Turnaround65
Cadillac did not unveil a flashy new vehicle or concept at the 2017 North American International Auto Show, but it’s because the brand is very busy plotting its next moves to return to glory.
Melody Lee, Cadillac Brand Director, sat down with Campaign to discuss how she plans to lead the brand’s turnaround. In short, she has given herself 10 years to begin seeing the results she expects will occur.
It’s a “10-year plan,” she said. “It requires an enormous amount of patience, taking the long view, and sticking with the strategy no matter the naysayers.”
Lee and her branding techniques have come under fire multiple times by automotive media and Cadillac enthusiasts alike who think the lack of vision is disturbing. However, we’re only beginning to see the start of a master plan, according to Lee.
Specifically, she was asked how her work is engaging younger, potential Cadillac customers. To that, she responded:
One of the things that we have going for us at Cadillac is a sense of emotional appeal. Our competitors often differentiate themselves on technology, on engineering prowess, on technical ability. There’s no denying that they are very, very good at delivering against that with their products.
There is no good brand without good product. There is also no good product without a good brand. My focus is the brand simply because what I want to do is make the brand so compelling that a customer comes to us and says, “Which Cadillac should I drive?” Because you can talk about the attributes of any product until you’re blue in the face, but if Cadillac is not a brand for them, then I haven’t done my job.
It’s more about lifestyle and a dream than the car itself. You’re seeing this resurgence of American luxury really coming back again. American luxury is meant to be used. It’s not that old-world luxury that’s put in a glass box or on a pedestal or worshiped or put away in the closet to be passed down. It’s stuff you use. I think that’s where we really are trying to differentiate ourselves, to make you feel something when you drive a Cadillac.
Lee wants her branding to come across as “real” and authentic in nature, leading her to choose brand influencers who are not household names. On the flip side of things, she’s working to make Cadillac synonymous with luxury by creating luxury culture spaces that happen to be tied in with Cadillac. Think Cadillac House and its many exhibits and functions.
Ten years is a long time, and we’ve yet to see how Cadillac will truly grow under its current executive team. If last year’s sales results are anything to go on, Cadillac is making improvements, but it’s still far from the top.
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She’s given herself 10 years to begin to see results? What a great job, you get to set your own timeline and your own measure of success. Of course if she’s helped destroy Cadillac in 10 years, she still collected 10 years of fat paychecks and can say “ooops” when her so-called “plan” doesn’t work.
GM needs to hold people more accountable than this. The plan to copy BMW is clearly not working, you can see it in the (lack of) ATS and CTS sales. The “old style” Cadillacs such as Escalade and XTS still sell well, but “the plan” is to phase these out in favor of bringing out more BMW-like product, and market it to 20 and 30 somethings, which has never been Cadillac’s main base.
It’s one thing to embrace a bad plan. It’s another thing to say you’ll wait 10 years before you’ll begin to see positive results from a bad plan. In 10 years, the last vestige of the Cadillac brand may be destroyed. Is that what GM wants to risk?
If they want to compete with BMW, they might want to look at what BMW buyers are actually buying. BMW sold 70k compact crossovers in the US last year (X1/X3) – up a lot from 2015. Their main car models were all down 20% or more.
Cadillac, in January 2016, had exactly one crossover – a clear laggard in the segment that hadn’t been refreshed since 2010. Pure lunacy. The brand has two full size cars and no compact crossover. They thought it was more important to have two compact cars on the lot (ATS and ELR) than to have something that competes with the NX, MKC, in 2013-2015. If I were running GM, I’d have fired whoever designed Cadillac’s product strategy.
In case you missed it. Cadillac has crossovers in the pipeline that will be here in the next 2 years or less.
Yes Cadillac misread the coming crossover craze and yes their development process has been slow to respond but I would rather them do it right than a half-assed attempt by rushing them to market.
Cadillac has been trying to reboot for 18 years, dince 1999. Maybe some brands are too damaged and/or undefined to save.
Cadillac makes Buick look successful. Corvette has more appeal than Cadillac. GMC is more popular amoung the wealthy.
Poor, sad, German-inspired Cadillac.
Agree that the turnaround has been going on for a while and that the brand is damaged but there was a long period of brand neglect and lack of investment.
Turning that around does not happen over night.
Think about BMW, Audi, M-B and Lexus for instance that cultivated their brand image and desirability over generations and generations of great products like 3/5/7 Series, C/E/L Class, A4/6/8, etc. vehicles. That along with strong branding (marketing, advertising, motor sports, etc.) has lead to the dominant position that those automakers enjoy today.
It will take Cadillac generations of products and years to reach the same position as those German luxury makers and Lexus.
I 100% agree with what you said. No matter how “young” and Hip Cadillac tries to become, they will always have an old customer base. Its like, if you (Cadillac) know a girl (older, loyal customer base) who has a big crush on you (will buy lots of cars), and you turn her away (cater to the 20 somethings) and chase after the popular, sexy cheerleader (BMW, Lexus). THESE DUMB ASSES AT CADILLAC NEED TO TAKE A HINT!!! what are they selling a lot of, XTS’s and Escapade’s which are large, comfortable and simple, so why turn away from that? I also would like to see a Cadillac convertible, they could easily turn the ELR into a convertible, after all it does look somewhat similar to the XLR.
Hard to tell, these days, who’s calling the shots on Cadillac – Johan? Reuss? Uwe?
From the sound of this, Cadillac is Melody’s brand, and she’s given herself 10 years to get it on track…
As far as engaging a younger consumer, 10 years from now, Melody’s going to be in her mid/late 40s – so unless they’re planning to wait for hipsters to move from Soho and Brooklyn to Westchester and become soccer moms and dads, that’s going to require a lot of patience from GM. Likely Mary Barra will be retired in 10 years.
Melody will be 45 in 10 years. Too bad she will no longer be interested in a Cadillac at that point, because she’s determined to re-make it as the brand for ultra-rich 20 and 30 somethings. And yes she’s definitely all about the Manhattan lifestyle, as if people on Manhattan buy a lot of cars. She was probably the main person pushing for the $1500/month “book” program.
Here’s a quote from Ms. Melody “Giddy” Lee: “I don’t buy products, I buy brands,” she told Fortune. “I don’t use Apple computers because they are the best computers, I use them because Apple is cool. We need to show drivers what the Cadillac lifestyle is all about.”
So that’s her thing. Not great cars, a “cool brand”, because that’s how she decides when it comes to purchasing something. She’s a “brand” person and she’s “giving herself another 10 years”. I agree Captain Carl, who the heck is even in charge of Cadillac now? Does Melody own the voting majority of GM stock? If not, how can she “give herself 10 years” to “start to see results”? Is Barra asleep at the wheel. letting the employees dictate their own employment terms? Where’s the GM board of directors to hold Barra accountable?
I have been wondering this now for awhile with Barra. I truly believe there needs to be some executive changes. As far as Cadillac, I truly think if the Board dose not do something about Uwe and possibly even JDN within 10 years, Cadillac will fall completely to the wayside. How dose GM’s Board of Bystanders simply authorize 12 Billion in funds for Cadillac and the results they hear are this little Melody Lee saying well in 10 years we will have the brand turned around.. Would you like a little longer Lee? What a joke.
How or why do these( ill call them people for now not to get kicked off GMA) think that thier way is the right way? How do you take a storied nameplate like Cadillac and just in a few years believe you can change what everyone thinks of it. I am not saying we need Eldorado, Deville and Fleetwood nameplates to come roaring back. But why couldn’t Cadillac come up with new names to attach to their cars. Also, look at the so called marketing.
I see a recent XT5 commercial with 3 young dumb witted acting women in a XT5. The commercial looked absolutely horrible. I see a Lincoln Continental commercial that I thought was beautiful and brought home the message of luxury and prestige.
I am 38 and still in the demographics that these people are going for. To be honest, something needs to change at Cadillac and it absolutely needs to to start with this arrogant acting Lee and Uwe. My rant done
Original Dan, I agree 100%. That XT5 commercial with the 3 ditzy young women sitting in the car through a light drizzle is not the way to sell cars, especially that car. I also think the “Dare Greatly” and “Don’t You Dare” campaigns were silly, ineffective, and apparently were created or approved by Melody. Apparently that “alt right” debacle happened on her watch (according to the “PR Week” article). She might be an important force behind Cadillac’s Manhattan coffee-house “headquarters” as well. So who the heck is Melody Lee, and what does she know about cars or Cadillac history?
I do have to give Melody credit for one thing though, she’s created the dream job for herself. It’s as if she sat down and wrote out everything she wanted in a job, and now she’s got it. I don’t think she even particularly likes cars, but that’s ok, She gets to hang out at the Cadillac coffee-house, hobnobbing with her favorite artists and fashion designers. According to that article, she feels like she’s buddies with “DJ MICK”, whoever that is – whom she calls an important “influencer” and thus somehow good for Cadillac. I searched briefly for “DJ MICK” (yes capital letters), and he looks like the typical “hip” guy, we know he’s hip because he wears a knit wool hat on his head indoors, and that’s clearly so trendy now (and has been for 25 years or so). Melody apparently also gets to travel a lot and stays in the top hotels, eats at the finest restaurants, all at Cadillac’s expense and in the name of establishing the “Cadillac brand” as the finest in luxury.
On top of all this, Melody insists that she must be given (an additional) 10 years before Cadillac will even start to see results from her branding program, and that they must “ignore the naysayers” (who correctly point out that it’s not working). Sounds like the perfect scam to me, to tell your boss not to expect to start to see results for another 10 years, meanwhile you indulge yourself in everything you’ve ever wanted at company expense, whether or not it has anything to do with Cadillac selling cars. I’m guessing that in 10 years, Melody ask for another 10 years to start to see positive results, telling GM that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Hopefully GM will have fired her long before then.
Cad had an add on the home page for XT5 a few months ago. It was a vid of a couple brushing their teeth, sharing a wash basin and spitting over each other’s shoulders. Gross. I closed out the page before seeing the ending. Who thinks of these stupid things?
BMW rose on the back of ‘the ultimate driving machine’ – Lutz was the client, interestingly. So product and cool-factor rose together.
And BMW (and Porsche) were way ahead of the curve with SUVs/CUVs, when it was considered blasphemy by purists. Cool products and a cool brand outlook went hand-in-hand.
Apple, same deal – think different and cool, innovative product went hand in hand.
I think Ms. Lee is missing half the equation – dare greatly has to be more than fearless, aspirational fashion designers in Manhattan.
Executed correctly, there’s a difference between exclusive and exclusionary. Daring greatly appeals to a mindset vs a certain demographic cohort. It may resonate more with a younger market. But it doesn’t preclude people who got to where they are today without having dared greatly.
Telling people you’re cool vs just being cool (product included) is a fool’s errand.
That said – yes, I saw the ‘new’ BMW 5 series – like an expensive Camry. They shouldn’t get lazy – X5, X3 and X1 are their money makers, but they need to dial things up. Sorry this is so long. Just want to see Cadillac get back to ‘special’.
Marketing is always going to be a reviled profession that has the agenda to change minds, to spark envy.
She did mention the engineering and technical prowess of competitors. And missed a chance to add a good word about GM’s engineers.
The Apple and cool comment caught my eye, also. People that care about a product’s specifications and quality lead the trend followers. I’d be surprised if Ms. Lee was a MacIntosh user in the ’90s.
Culture creating would stir less backlash, if it was model specific. The mid-tier brands could do it with less downside risk brand-wide, because of having both GMC and Buick. And, I admit I don’t get the whole ‘I’d like a Caddy, tell me which one’ thing.
Book can work for them. They’ll get to database potential buyers. What will they do with the vehicles that cycle out of the program?
JDN is in full control. How long do you think it took bmw,mb,audi to get were there are to day? More then 10 years I would say.
Speedy, the “remaking” of Cadillac (as a BMW wannabe) has already been going on for about 15 years. The current team apparently wants another 10 years before they “begin to see results” according to this article/statement. That’s far too long to waste heading in the wrong direction.
Would you have someone on the job where they’ve been there for 15 years with bad results, and they say “give me another 10 years, and you’ll begin to see good results”? That’s incredible. It should not take 25 years of remaking to “begin to see results”, meanwhile the premiere US luxury brand is being destroyed as this band of clowns drops the classic plush roomy American luxury ride for a cramped, jittery German-like “sporty” ride with very limited appeal.
I thought Cadillac was already in the middle of an attempt to turn the company around as the ‘art and science’ campaign has been around since 2010 and with Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen killing every concept design, it’s still unclear as to what direction Cadillac is pursuing and when will the clock for Melody Lee’s 10-year to begin and what type of input will Ms Lee have with the type of cars Cadillac will build. Cadillac sales of cars like the ATS and CTS in the US are awful despite these cars considered by many as being the best Cadillac had designed and built in over 50 years.
The signals are in the Campaign article, that they’ve decided copying BMW has carried them as far as it can.
They are dispensing with formulas. I imagine that to be the ELR ad with the cocky older guy. She stressed about changing perceptions and provoking reappraisal and creating culture. All while appearing real and genuine through their influencers.
Count me as pessimistic. I see comments online ripping, severely, into Caddy management where you’d think the commenter has dealt with them personally. That’s not me. I just think the identity politics sub-text in ads is a bad choice and spinning the NY thing as explanation of it leaves a bad taste.
Cadillac has been trying to zoom back to life since 1999. If it requires 28 years (1999-2027) to “turn around” Cadillac, then one can argue that the brand was far too damaged for salvage.
I’m beginning to feel this way. Cadillac makes great product yet the brand is a luxury market turn off with possibly weaker street cred than Buick.
Two years ago, even Motley Fool announced “mission accomplished” upon the into of ATS and CTS, yet customers felt differently.
Maybe Avenir (Buick) & GMC can increase transaction prices to luxury levels? Possibly a RWD Buick based on Avista could have a strong halo effect. Maybe Avenir could produce other RWD models.
Maybe Cadillac can’t be saved. It’s too late for coffee houses and museum naming rights.
Successful luxury brands like M-B,BMW,Audi,Lexus etc. took decades to get to the sales and brand success that they enjoy today.
It wasn’t just one or two generation of C/E/S Class cars from M-B or 3/5/7 Series it was generation after generation after generation of those products that created their loyal following. Also making consecutively good, innovative and well-executed products.
Cadillac is still profitable for GM so they can take the time to steadily rebuild their image.
They didn’t damage over 28 years and it will take more than that to fix it.
Excellent post EvDave and post of the day.
For the pessimists who down-thumb you on something logical, don’t get it and acting foolishly for nothing.
Uhm Cadillac sales are up massively thanks to the Chinese buying into the brand. So it is mosr definitely staying and growing and not dead at all. New crossovers and SUVs are coming too, so just give it two years and you’ll see a marked difference already.
Too many are quick to pronounce Cadillac dead when they are still growing sales world wide and generating profit for GM.
LIncoln, Acura, Infiniti, Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover all sell less in the US than Cadillac but I do not hear anyone calling for those brands to be closed.
Not to get too technical, but as Alex pointed out – GM profits in China are split 50-50 with SAIC. And China slaps a 35% import tax on anything made here that we export. (I’m sure I’ve already messed this up).
So, the good news – Cadillac sales are on-trend to surpass US sales in around 2 years. But given the profit split and the import tax, you’d theoretically have to sell, what, 135% more in China to make the same profit. And that’s just a guess – who knows whether their margins, ATPs and taxes match ours of not.
Good news, is, they’re selling a lot. But they’d have to sell a lot more under the current arrangement to make it as profitable as the US, as I understand it. And – who knows whether ‘Dare Greatly’ works in China (building a global brand, you generally want to stay with a central thought or theme … Just Do It, Think Different, Ultimate Driving Machine, Vorsprung Durch Technik, etc.)
Maybe Alex can explain it more clearly – I’m sure there are intricacies I, for one, have no knowledge of.
The increased volume that China provides also has another benefit which is to improve the economies of scale meaning the more of an item you produce the more you lower the cost said item.
So you can spread out the R & D costs over a larger number of vehicles.
There is no doubt that the NA market is what drives profits though.
The cash cow of the of Cadillac that is the Escalade is sold primarily in NA that will almost certainly ensure the continued profitability of this market into the foreseeable future.
Cadillac is not.. and never has been dead. It was stuck in a conundrum of luxury versus sport luxury from 1999-2005 while all other brands essentially went the BMW Route. Since 2005 it has been pushing forward to truly realize the potential it could be. Keep in mind the DTS, the most old timey of Cadillacs just got retired 4 years ago. The XTS had to be created to bridge the gap.. and now we have the CT6 Plat.. which is arguably.. and by some reluctantly a better overall vehicle than the S550. Yes.. a few.. and I mean like 3.. details keep it from being a decisive victory.. but lets be honest.. somehow Caddy is doing it for $10K less. In reality.. the only idiotic move they have made is, as someone else mentioned, not have the vision to see the CUV boom coming and have product avail.. which is insane considering over at Chevy/Opel they have plenty of product to sift thru and get to the market. To hell with the stupid rants of enthusiasts.. no one is doing track time in their X5s. A Lambda based (now LWD C2x) would fit the bill for the time being in representing them in this segment better than just having the XT5 and Escalade
When Cadillac finally turns around, will I still have a valid driving licence? Or will it even be required?
Cadillac’s changes are already apparent in my area….they are in the process of disenfranchising all the dealers in my area, forcing me to drive to the “big city”……where, instead of buying a Cadillac…I will choose between BMW and Benz…..way to go Cadillac!….
So your only reason for buying a Cadillac was that it was in your area?
So BMW and Benz have dealerships in your area and Caddy doesn’t??? Just wondering.. because typically BMW and Benz distribute their very tight network to high traffic areas
I think what Jay was saying was that Cadillac is ‘in the process of disenfranchising all the dealers in his area, forcing him to drive to the big city’ so since he as to do that instead of buying a Cadillac he will choose between a BMW and Mercedes.
That means his only reason for buying Cadillac in the past has been proximity to his home.
Maybe Cadillac should reconsider Project Pinnacle and just open up dealers in every village, town and city.
XT3 crossover(compact) in 2018, XT7 crossover(large) 2018-2019, New escalade SUV new light weight chassis in 2019. These XT3 will be out next year, right after that XT7 crossover. They are already being build as we speak.
JDN has already told you what crossovers are coming compact crossover xt3 under these XT5, a larger crossover XT7 above these XT5. That would give Cadillac, a compact crossover/midsize crossover/large crossover and a large suv.
Well I can see the some still have not done their home work and really taken into account the true history of what Cadillac has been through or the reality of what it takes to bring them back.
The past has been a mutt-led mess of mismanagement and bankruptcy.
Yes Cadillac has been in rebuild for a long time but you must put it into perspective.
1 They have tried to do it the cheap way due to the lack of money on GM platforms from FWD cars. They tried to do the V8 on a cheap budget and had many quality issues in the 90’s. This is surviving the GM plan to down size and FWD everything.
2 Then we lead up to Chapter 11 where not much got done. Lutz worked magic as well as he could with what he had but he had little time and money. The XTS was the work of pre bankruptcy and was shelved till they could finish it so coming out they at least had something while they speeded up the Alpha.
3 They then went though a great number of managers that all were bullied by GM brass. Even Mark when he was doing the XT6 had to fight for what he wanted and never got all he wanted.
4 JDN comes in and finds a steaming mess of mixed products from many different people sending many different messages. He shelves the XT6 from being a Flagship as it is a good car but not good enough. The CTS and ATS both need changes as also while good cars they still lack in many areas. He is working to add more SUV models but he had to wait till the platforms were done and that is just happening now. Some feel you can change a company and all the models in a year or two but at best a mild refresh takes two years and that is what we got this year. It takes 5-6 years to pull off a major change and even another year for a new platform.
5 Then once the new product arrives it takes time for it to attract the public and gain their trust. We are dealing with a brand that has a damaged image from what it once was. It can be changed but it will take time and continued investment into new product.
Right now Cadillac has little self image to offer people. People buy cars like this because of the image it displays on them for the most part. If you are in business they take it as a reward for success and this driving a upscale brand reflects that success where ever they drive. Pride and ego are a big part of this.
I saw a show the other day on marketing and they showed how the tobacco companies all sold the same thing tobacco in a tight roll and it was all the same. So how do you sell one over another. Self image and make people feel like the product reflects back on them.
Take the Marlboro man. His image took a product that was considered feminine because it was filtered and convinced men to smoke the brand because of the rugged image it projected. Beer Companies do it also. The worlds most interesting man changed the image of Dos Equis man changed their image from a just another Mexican beer to one as being more upscale.
In cars the same thing needs to be done. Cadillac lost their mojo and are working to get it back. This is why they are not discounting cars even if sales are slow. Discounting is not a way to build an image.
They also need to earn the trust of the public again. That and image building takes time. You can not do it in one year and with one car. Even Tesla had to do it over many years and several cars with a lot of well used web time with Musk running his mouth often. He was full of crap but he knows how to promote on the web and has turned the car into a cult.
Returning Cadillac to the top is like building a house. They are now laying the foundation under one leader for the first time in years. They are now properly funded and now in NYC to cut the interference from others at GM. They moved there to isolate themselves more than anything.
Cadillac now has teams of designers and engineers that only work on their products, No more tech guys working on a Cruze on Monday and a ATS by the end of the week. Dedicated staff will produce a much better product.
Also we have to forget that Cadillac is trying to be German. Sorry but the segment has become what the Germans are. With Cadillac they are just meeting the expectations of the segment but in a very American way. While you can mistake some of the Asian cars for a Benz or BMW a Cadillac can not be mistaken for anything but Cadillac in styling. The Germans took the segment and redefined it so it is what it is today. You either meet the segment or you are the odd one out as Cadillac has been.
The one Ace Cadillac has is they can focus only on lower volume higher end models. The are not trying to satisfy every segment globally as Benz tries to do from selling from Maybach to a 300 Taxi in a third world country. GM has Buick and Chevy to do the heavy lifting as well as Holden and Opel. This will let Cadillac focus on one segment only. This will help them rebuild a little faster.
Even BMW and Audi went from crappy cars in the 60’s to segment busters in the 80’s but it took time to earn the rep and image. They did it and Cadillac did it but it took them time too.
Be prepared there will be some a few set backs but there will be more gains in the long run.
For once Cadillac has been given the tools and support it has lacked for decades just two years ago so we will start to see change in about 2 years and see it progress from there.
Sorry to some for the reality check but that is how it happened and how it will work.
Scott3, nice post. You can always be counted on to defend current Cadillac management, but at least you explain your reasoning. I happen to disagree with your branding analogies however. I don’t smoke (never have), so I don’t know what motivates cigarette buyers. I do drink beer, and brand image does not matter to me. Taste is the main factor, price/value is also a factor, but a lesser one. Most often I’ll drink Miller Lite in bottles or tap, Pilsner Urquell in bottles, D.A.B. on tap, or even O’Doul’s (non-alcohol) in bottles. I’m not swayed by the advertising on any of those, and the only advertising I’ve seen for any of those brands is for Miller Lite, which I ignore. I’m bombarded with beer ads during the sports I watch, and it has zero effect on how the beer tastes to me.
My point is that if advertising/image does not matter even for a product as similar as lager beer, why should it be so critical to something as complex as a car? What matters is building cars that the public will want and that your competitors don’t have or can’t match on price. Where advertising is concerned, what’s important is selling WHY your car is better, not some silly image thing that implies your car is the choice of some knit-hat wearing hipster kid. Now sometimes image and function can mesh, as in the Matthew McConaghy ads for Lincoln cars. I have only watched part of one movie with this guy (“Failure to Launch”, it was not great and I couldn’t finish it) but he does provide a cool image for Lincoln. But that fits with what Lincoln actually is trying to sell in terms of product: quiet elegant roomy comfort, the type that Cadillac used to rule but has now abandoned for German sport-mode cars. Lincoln may not be making great cars (yet) but they are moving to grab the market that Cadillac should have owned; instead Cadillac tries to be a hipster German wannabe, and it’s laughable (as well as not selling).
I don’t know how Melody Lee got her job at Cadillac. I’m guessing the Uwe hired her, along with 3 other young “marketing experts”, in total they are “the fab four” to some. I’m not really feeling the “fabness” though. What does she know about cars? The ads don’t impress me, the marketing doesn’t impress me. All that impresses me about Melody is that she’s totally snowed GM into paying her to live the life of luxury, and she’s told them not to expect any positive results for the next 10 years. I have to grudgingly admire someone who garners so much in the way of pay and perks, for so little in the way of performance.
As to the reason Cadillac no longer rules the luxury car market, IMO it;s not because the public got tired of comfortable-riding, roomy, strongly-powered cars, or that Cadillac had terrible marketing (although the Catera duck was a very low point). It’s mainly because they had reliability issues and secondarily because they flopped when they tried to address European car sales in the USA with their own small, underpowered (but fuel-efficient), and German-like cars. Name the 3 biggest flops of Cadillac in the late 20th century, and that’s the Cimarron (too small and just an underpowered, rebadged Cavalier), the Catera (a German car from start to finish, with merely a Cadillac badge), and the V8-6-4 engine (meant to give the power of a V8 but with much better gas milage, an unreliable nightmare). All 3 of these problems were due to Cadillac not truly being Cadillac. The only problem Cadillac truly needed to “fix” was reliability. It was not due to the market demanding harsh-riding German-like cars, no matter how much the auto writers may have loved those.
Today Cadillac hires foreigners for the top jobs, and seems embarrassed by its own history. That’s just sad and a losing approach. The foreigners think that all Cadillac needs to do is imitate BMW’s cramped and hard “feel the road” ride, make the cars the same dimensions as the Germans, car for car, change the car names to a German-like letter/number combo, raise the car prices to match the German ones, and market to Millennials (even though they generally don’t have much to spend).
It’s ironic that Cadillac’s marketing team uses the “Dare Greatly” slogan (ripped off from Apple’s old “Think Different” slogan and campaign) yet the only thing remotely daring about today’s Cadillacs is the styling, the rest is just copying all they can from the Germans. Even the styling is becoming more German-like under Johan, who has clashed with Mark Reuss on that (Reuss wants Cadillac to continue the bold angularity, Johan wants the more soft, rounded, Euro-look). Also ironic with “Dare Greatly” is that it’s based on a Teddy Roosevelt speech in which he said the professional critics did not matter. Yet today’s Cadillac seems all about pleasing the professional auto-writers, and their personal taste (rather than the public’s_
Moving the design team to NYC is another bad idea. The designers and engineers need to be at the source of production, and that’s Michigan not New York. Ford tried the same thing in the late 90’s when they moved the Lincoln/Mercury HQ to California, in an attempt to absorb some of California’s coolness and hipness into their cars. It didn’t work, caused a lot of problems, and they soon returned to Michigan. The only reason to move to NYC is that perhaps some people at Cadillac would rather live in NYC than Michigan. They’d rather hang out at coffee houses and fashion shows than make cars, somehow imagining that all that “image” will transfer to the car. As if people now ill look at Cadillac as “imported for New York City”. I don’t think so.
I am not defending anyone. I am just telling it how it is. I just tire of people who have no clue or just do not use all the facts into what is going on with Cadillac.
As for the marketing just watch the show at the link I posted below. You are not disagreeing with me or my analogy you are disagreeing with documented history of what was done and happened in the 1950’s.
Things need adjusted but today most luxury brands are ego and image driven. If you don’t care then you drive a Kia or some other none descript low priced import.
Note too do not believe all the PR. They have said the move to NYC is for absorbing the market. But what I have been told by people inside GM has been it was to put space between them and Detroit interference.
Also to attract top talent for their staff as who wants to live in Detroit?
Even the move to California for Lincoln I suspect it was more about getting away from Ford and where would you have a better chance of hiring people to live Detroit or Orange County? New management came in back under Ford control and it came back to Detroit.
The PR lines often are just that lines. They can not say why they are really making some moves in public.
Drew, The consumers that Cadillac is competing for in the luxury market has a lot to do with status and image.
Just because you don’t shop that way has nothing to do with the reality of the market.
There are automobile brands that are perfect for you…they are the Toyota, Honda, Chevy, Ford, Mazda and KIA brands.
BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Cadillac is mostly about image….as most of those consumers have not even opened up the hood of their cars.
In a way similar to the Toyota Camry & Corolla owners. Most have not a clue how a car works, they just are buying an appliance that Consumer Reports rated very highly.
All the brands have some sort of image and most consumers do buy based on some sort of image.
Gino, thank you for reading my post and responding. However, I do think there’s a difference between Toyota and Lexus, between Chevrolet and Cadillac, etc. Sure you get a better value in the pedestrian brands, but the premium brands are not just about image – you do get a better car, albeit for a lot more money. I would want to own a nice riding, comfortable, reliable car, with a nice stereo and useful electronics, etc. – whether or not anyone knew I owned it. A car is not like a Rolex watch, which I suspect no one would own if they couldn’t show it off to others as a symbol of how much money they supposedly make.
As to people who buy a car because it was rated highly in Consumer Reports, they are basing that purchase decision on someone else’s analysis of value. That’s a lot different than buying due to the whims of “coolness” inspired by professional marketers and “influencers”. The car has to be good, and a good value, to be rated highly by Consumer Reports. Someone who chooses to follow the CR analysis is not likely concerned with projecting an “image” of wealth or hipsterness. Melody Lee apparently thinks that if she gets the right hipsters and influencers, she’ll have Millennials driving Cadillacs. Or at least she’s selling that concept to GM, so that she can stay on their payroll for another 10 years, before they realize what a crock it was.
I never bought a Cadillac for status. There was a Rolls-Royce in the garage for that. I walked past the Roller, got in my Cadillac and went about my day. I bought Cad for comfort, luxury and reliability. I was fortunate not to ever own one of the problematic Cadillacs. I avoided the obviously strange models ( V8-6-4, Cimarron, Allante, Catera)
I’m a second generation, dyed in the wool, life long Cadillac buyer. I grew up in Cadillacs, learned to drive in a Cadillac and always bought one as my daily.
I had a great run with Cadillac. The CTS I bought last year is the last one. Too many compromises. Cadillac declares issues as “within spec” as opposed to performing warranty work. I’m done.
Sorry to see it end but it was good and for that I will always have fond memories of Cadillac.
My next car could very well be a Camry. The car I’m driving now should have left me about 20K change. There is not a drop of Cadillac in that car.
Like Gino stated there are different reasons people buy different vehicles. Often high end Luxury is for image and status. I can recall when I worked in a poor part of town people would be driving a new Cadillac yet living in a house half the cost of the Car. They were wanting to present a high roller image.
On the contrary I know people who could be driving a Bentley and they are worth millions but yet drive old pick up trucks as they do not like to show off.
Many who buy high end cars are sending a signal be it they want to look affluent or successful. To some it is a reward for success to themselves. Some like it for the advanced technology. But in the end most love to be seen in a car that exudes a positive high end image.
Some even use it for business. When doing a deal some are more inclined to deal with someone driving a new AMG vs. a Chevy Spark. The AMG driver may have a better shot at closing the deal as he looks successful even if the Spark owner may have better numbers.
It is all about Human Nature and how to sell product to this.
Vanity has always been a strong selling point.
In cars like Honda or Chevy it is about Value, quality and utility anymore. Advancements are nice but they are looking at can I afford this and will it not break. Can I fit my life in this car? They are not out to impress they are out to get value and use from the vehicle with no regret.
If we all wanted the same thing then we would have one type car. Even now with growing Cross Over Sales they are working hard to make them different to attract buyers from others.
Scott3, likewise thanks for reading my post and responding. I’ll concede that while I don’t buy products because of the “image” they supposedly project, there may be others who will do just that. Some people are insecure and feel they need an expensive car to project an image of success, or to get a woman to consider dating them, etc. This could even become a reality, in the sense – as you point out – that a person might want an expensive car in order to close a business transaction, so that the other person can feel comfortable about whom they are dealing with. I get all that about “image”.
However, in all of those cases, it’s simply about having an expensive car to show off one’s supposed wealth. In that event, any expensive car will do. Perhaps Cadillac should raise prices even further, and advertise “we make the most expensive cars on the road, and if you see someone driving one, they are almost certainly rich and successful”. Then Cadillac can run that ad even more than the “My Pillow” ads, and they’ll still make a profit on the cars if the prices are high enough. Why pay for hipster marketing and DJ “influencers”, if it’s simply about the perception of $$$? Why also bother to do much in the way of engineering? Just jack up the price of the car, tell the world it’s really expensive, and you’ve got a winner on your hands.
And sure, not everyone wants the same type of car, but there are clear functional differences between cars. The public does not need “image marketers” to differentiate one car from another, with the idea that they are otherwise identical.
Scott3, if the main reason to own a luxury car is to show off how much wealth you have, then Cadillac should raise prices even higher than Johan has been doing, and then run a bunch of ads on tv (even more than the “My Pillow” guy) saying “We make the most expensive cars in America, and if you see someone driving one, they are clearly a winner and better than you”. Marketing and engineering problems both solved at once. No need for fancy engineering, it’s the price/status that matters. Advertising budget would be huge, to make sure everyone knows how much the car costs. Cadillacs would still be profitable, despite the massive advertising costs, due to the ultra-high car prices.
Obviously we don’t all want the same thing in cars, as you say. They’ve never made a car that had exactly everything I wanted, even within what is currently technologically possible. Carmakers should not get fixated on the idea that there are only certain types of cars, e.g. those that closely resemble each BMW model in terms of specs. Cadillac should lead instead of following. Leading does not mean you copy BWM but then hire some young “fab fours” to hypnotize Millenials into thinking that your BMW-clone is “the coolest of them all”, even though it’s really exactly the same as all other BMW-clones, just like a generic cigarette that you hope to juice sales by giving a cowboy theme (including “Magnificent Seven” music by Elmer Bernstein).
I can Attest to that Scott3, doing business is the main reason why my mother bought a Cadillac. She couldn’t care less about what other people think of her but in her line of work (sales) she has to look like she knows what she is doing and she chose Cadillac, because when she was growing up, Cadillac was like today’s Mercedes or Audi.
Cadillac is not running away from its history. If you look at Cadillac House’s images, you can see vintage Cadillacs on display. Thinking otherwise like you suggested, is ludicrous. Even Cadillac has a history page on its website.
Johnls, Cadillac may have some vintage images at Cadillac house and a nod to their history at their home page. But they are running away from their own history in ignoring what made them successful in the first place in terms of making cars. It used to be that when you bought a Cadillac, you got an extremely roomy comfortable ride, with the latest in electronic gadets, and a very elegant yet cutting-edge look.
Now with Cadillac you often get a car that wants to be a BMW, even when that means a cramped, hard, “feel every bump in the road as if that’s a good thing” ride. You get the BMW sizing. You get the BMW naming conventions. You get foreign-born top executives who used to work for BMW or Audi, who have no connection or understanding of what Cadillac means to Americans. That’s running away from Cadillac history. It wouldn’t surprise me to have them soon rename the company CMW. Yet the further they run away from being Cadillac, the more their sales decline.
Lincoln was running away from their past too, now they’ve embraced what they used to be (including a real car name, the Continental instead of the MKS it replaces), and they are seeing a resurgence that Cadillac could be seeing if it weren’t so deadset on being a BMW-clone instead of being Cadillac.
it’s going to be 2029 before Cadillac gets its mojo back…..sad.
You do realize that the 10 more years analogy is not set in stone.
It is a possible projection of when their branding efforts will take hold.
It is not indicating when they will see sales growth or have the majority of their products currently in development on the road.
Having Cadillac customers arrive at dealerships someday asking which Cadillac should I drive is a a wonderful goal and will be a true sign that Cadillac has arrived once again. But Cadillac will not arrive at that level unless it can attract customers very soon that know exactly which Cadillac it is they want to drive.
(I’m not sure Cadillac, let alone GM, has people in place share my opinions. But it interests me not to discuss it.)
Speaking of discussion, I’m curious if you happen to remember the name of the marketing show you mentioned, Scott? I have some interest in that world and anything like that that I can consume while kicking back on the couch definitely interests me.
It has me getting ready to start watching the series on Netflixs.
I minored in marketing so I have a real interest in this kind of stuff.
So many people have no clue why something’s are as they are and fall victim to its persuasions. You see it here with some of the arguments and precessions.
Thank you. I don’t know if anything can get me committed to a series, but this sounds good. Going to set it up to record now…
I am going to record it so I can cut the advertising.
The Netflix series looks good but I am like 7-8 years behind. I hate to watch that much and seldom can sit to binge watch. I may save it for my I pad when I am stuck someplace waiting and just work my way through it.
I saw little over half of the first show so I need to go back and watch more.
I do have a flat screen in the garage now so I can work and watch. That way I can still get something done.
Funny, you’re 7-8 years behind on Netflix, and Cadillac is 7-8 years behind where they need to be.
I hope you didn’t spend $12b on your Netflix subscription.
Funny how after all the information that has been available for free you still lack the full understanding of how things work in a a auto company and in the real world. Also you really show no knowledge in the past history of Cadillac and the details of what all has been going on.
I put my 7-8 years to good use in education and experience in the real world what have you done?
Jeez, Scott. Sorry to upset you.
I guess, given that Escalade is a bonafide success, I’d have an x3 and x1 version ready to tee up. I see a ton of ‘Sclades on the road.
Or the Cayenne/Macan marketing model. Build around what’s working (at least in the US).
And a killer sedan or coupe, like the Elmiraj. But that’s just me talking – I do get marketing, and know C’s history. And I’m pulling for it. The dealership experience needs to be on par with their competitors, too. Anyway, the sturm und drang continueth. At least we all have passion for Cadillac to succeed, yes?
My wife and I don’t watch much TV at all (or maybe I’m not being honest with myself), but when we do we tend to binge watch. We’re almost through with Westworld now. Not sure what to think of it honestly. Before that it was the Night Of and Fortitude, which we really enjoyed.
I need to investigate putting a TV in the garage. Or better yet, look into some Samsung virtual reality glasses.
I have a couple things I watch but I am usually too busy with business and home life to sit and watch much. Often I am just sitting down to watch something about an hour before bed. Besides much of what is on is just not worth watching. How many CSI shows does one really need.
I DVR a lot and only watch some. Even then I fast forward much.
The TV is good for Ohio State games ans Cavs so I can work on the cars and kind of keep it on in the back ground. I have it hooked to the dish so I get all the games.
I am looking forward to the second show here as it is very good.
Also get the book What Would Jesus Drive. It was written by an advertising marketing man for Ford, Nissan and several other companies. He explains much on how they dealt with conflicts internally and crisis externally. Not much GM in it but a very good read.
Also some here would benefit much with reading all of the books Bob Lutz wrote as well as the John Delorean book. John regretted what he wrote but he did us a favor as he pointed out much of what lead GM to chapter 11.
I also have been lucky though work to have got to meet and know many people in the tire, Auto and Racing industry. I have two friends that were held the lead on the Racing PR for BFG, Goodyear and Firestone at one time. The funny part is the two from BFG and Goodyear were very good friends and still are today.
Listening to people from the inside is very educational and informative. It is not the kind of stuff you read on a Forum.
I have been lucky to have had a passion for cars but also been able to make money working with and around them. I may not get rich but I am comfortable and don’t hate my work. Not many can say that.
Ok, common ground – the Cavs are building a nice model, picking up the cold blooded shooter from Atlanta – like the Bulls with Paxson and then Kerr. Mystifying that Atl would give up their shooter to a team in the same division, but the Cavs are building a team model to help support LeBron and Kyrie.
So we’re on the same page, sort of? Escalade is LeBron. They’ve built a team around him. Sorry for the sports analogies, but that’s kind of how I see Cadillac – build around what’s working.
I know and have worked w Lutz, btw. He’s not scary if you bring your A game. Anyway, Like I said, I think we’re all passionate about this marque, and want it to succeed.
Scott, I went back and edited the comment I left you in response to your post and a message popped up saying it was marked as spam… and presto my original post vanished. Not cool GMauthority.
I’m going to have to sign off now but I do appreciate the recommendations. Enjoy your weekend!
Thanks for the posts.
You appear to look and get
the big picture and too many miss on this point.
Just look above you last post.
Thanks Scott. We can all learn from you.
As I said in the past, I was a former new Cadillac owner in the tune of 3 of them- 2 Deville DTSs and a 07 DTS. I am not in the position to buy a new Cadillac right now. But trust and believe under CEO Barra and for sure Cadillacs new so called leadership and management, I would go elsewhere for a luxury car if I was able to afford one. I am a longtime GM and Cadillac fan, I am finding it harder and harder to like GM under Mary Barra. I cannot even find a sub Cadillac car I would consider buying do to GMs obsessed use of Start/Stop tech.
As far as all the talk on here about Cadillac. All it takes is imagination back into Cadillac products and marketing and all of sudden people will notice. I am 38 and have yet to find a millenial that even has interest in cars and if they do they want Tesla or a small electric car.
Lee and Uwe honestly beliive they can change a lifetime of a brand concept in a few years. You are alienating your current clientele to go for a generation of people that WILL NEVER look at Cadillac unless its the Escalade. I keep hearing how it was done with Audi and it took so long and how successful they are now. News Flash.. Audi was a joke from the start and far from a prestige status symbol of a autmobile. I understand GM has a lot of products in the pipeline for Cadillac, but it will not mean a thing with the hipster marketing.
I will end this with saying something i said plenty of times. We just saw Lexus come out with a next gen LS, Lincoln has the new Continental and even Genisis has a new sedan. If Cadillac dose not have SEDAN flagship in the works to sit above the CT6, you can forget even putting Cadillac in the same sentence as M-B or BMW, you can put thier name in with Tucker, AMC, Mercury, Packerd.
Original Dan, I totally agree. Cadillac wants to drop its customer base in order to pursue Millennials who don’t have the money or the interest in luxury cars, especially Cadillac. They are being egged on by “branding experts” like Melody Lee, who insist that even if no positive results are seen for another 10 years, to stick with the program.
Melody Lee has somehow done a fantastic job of marketing herself. She’s insisted that she and her staff need to be swathed in the luxury lifestyle at GM’s expense (the best hotels, the best restaurants, the best clothes, New York City not Detroit) so that Cadillac can somehow absorb all that luxury via her persona. What qualification does Melody even bring to GM? A degree in Engineering? Design? Marketing? Psychology? Hypnotism? Most biographies don’t mention her academic background. But I did find a few couple of places where they list her academic background. Get this – Melody has BS and MS degrees in “international affairs”, whatever that is.
I’ve seen a lot of scams in my life, and to me this stands out as one of the biggest and most obvious scams of them all. Melody has nothing to lose if after 10 years Cadillac has been destroyed, she’ll still have made the big bucks and lived the extreme luxury lifestyle for herself, and can always claim that the program just needed more time than she first projected. I don’t know if Melody is intentionally doing this as a scam, or if she truly believes she has a magic wand that she can wave and make Cadillac “cool” for Millennials. Either way, she’s riding a long term intentional or unintentional scam (IMO), and GM will pay a big price in falling for it.
Lets not get so dramatic here. GM is not going anywhere soon and Cadillac will remain in production.
Even at this point with incomplete product and no marketing they are making more profit from Cadillac than they did pre bailout.
The case of Higher ATP has put them in a place where it gives them time to rebuild the divisions products and establish a new image and self reflection for owners.
Now I am not a big fan of many Marketing people most are educated but lack true passion and understanding of the products they are marketing. These two points are key to me with any marketing person.
As for Melody here I can not answer for her as I am not familiar with her personally nor is any one else here. The proof of her skills will be once the new product arrives. If the needle is not moved then they will find someone else to do the job. At least with Marketing it is easy to blow up the system unlike a product that is not right changing how you sell it is much faster and cleaner.
The bottom line here is Cadillac’s must be sold and marketed differently than Chevy or Buick. They enjoy the higher ATP and they do not have to survive on large volumes outside the SUV segment.
The truth is Cadillac is returning to its roots where only the most wealthy can own them and they much get the details on these cars right to where they will be compelled to own and trust them. It used to really mean something to own a Cadillac and in the past couple decades it was reduced to that you sold Mary Kay.
Not picking on you but the future is not in the hands of the DTS owners. If that was a Cadillac to you then you need to buy a Buick, Lincoln or 300. Cadillac needs to be much more than that and make a statement in the classes they are in.
The future lies with the buyers of the future. You are not going to change the minds of many brand loyal people today but you can form the impression on those moving up. While today’s Millennials are minimalist Democrat idealist they are the future wealthy Republican realist in the future. There is many a old hippy today living in large houses and driving a Benz.
The future is not you. If they focused only on 50 and older then Cadillac would fade away just as Lincoln nearly did by trying to sell the Town Car forever.
As for Lincoln. Genesis and Lexus they all are in the same boat as Cadillac and have to earn the higher image. But in this segment it is not all about selling the most cars it is about making money.
Most automakers look at these sales as add on high profit sales. This is very easy added income. These models are only second to trucks in total income for the automakers.
Just look at Infinity and how long they have gone and really never been very relevant. Yet they are still here and they are still making a ton of money for Nissan.
Ford had plans on killing Lincoln till some inside were able to make the change when they changed leadership. They saved it as these are added profit cars and are like printing money.
At Chevy you have to move volume but here you can clear 3-4 times the profit per same development dollar spent.
No one needs this kind of car but you need to market it to where they have to be seen in this kind of car. This takes time and often the next generation to do this as they do not have preconceived notions or they also like to move away from what Dad drives.
I will tell you now that Cadillac may never pass up total global sales of Benz or BMW but they can easily make more money and do it with less cars if they do this right in the markets they share. If they don’t they will still be laughing all the way to the bank.
At this point we have yet to see the very first jDN car. We have yet to see the full vision of their products. They have yet to hear for certain that the DOHC V8 is going into production let alone if it will be TT.
We do know the ATS and CTS will be replaced with new models and names. We know the XT5 and CT6 will be redone to reflect the new line of thought. We know there is several new SUV models coming. We also know there may be a few surprises along the way too. We also know that there may be a high end sports car in 2025 once the other product is moved to where it needs to be.
Right now Cadillac has the platforms right but they need to get the execution right. They need to step up the styling and quality of materials.
As for Melody she has a tough job right now as she need to trump up a line of products that even her own management judges to be too little and buy time till the new product arrives. This is kind of like being the press secretary for Obama right now. She can not tell what she knows. She can not tell what she thinks and she has to buy them time by keeping anticipation up till the products arrive.
I know what they are going to do. Not specific but the general changes like most here. But the unwashed public has no idea and she has to rally them with out telling them anything. Not an easy task even for the best marketing people.
In the end here this is not the usual Chevy, Ford, Dodge battle. This game is much different and you do not have to lead to win. To be honest it is about the only easy way to make money with a sedan or coupe anymore with the increase in Crossover sales.
But to go back to the DTS would be a death sentence. we failed there once already why go back.
The only reason the XTS is still alive is the sales including fleets are good and it is really an Impala under the skin. It was a cheap car to develop and it is cheap to build. That = $$$$. It really does little for image though. It makes some old people happy.
FYI the millennials at work are picking up on the ATS and they love it. We have a had full of owners and they are all 30-45 years old. Yes they make good money. They like the V6 and AWD.