It is so irritating when writers quote themselves. Drives me nuts. But this one is very, very relevant.
On July 3rd, 2014 – we jotted out the below Editor’s Opinion article attempting to diagnose what was making Cadillac feel so ill. We scathed…
This really is not an old-man brand anymore. But sadly, it is definitely run by losers. Not losers in life, mind you. They must be smart and successful – but they are definitely, definitely not cool people. They live in Michigan and are sheltered C- and D-county (aka, rural) people who have never even stood on Broadway, let alone alphabet city.
We landed on really boring style and trim choices, a lack of cultural relevance for high-net-worth individuals, and a overwhelming managerial malaise.
Finally, the cars are awesome, we thought. Dealers are posh too, like a St. Regis hotel throughout. But the last 5-percent of the marketing and product rollouts were so miserable as to sink the cars’ sales potentials.
Fail Scenario 1: 2013 ATS? Cool Youtube videos around the world of car driving hard. BUT! They are all the same red ATS. The same red that plastered every media outlet for 2 years and 200-million-dollars when the 2009 Malibu launched.
Fail Scenario 2: 2014 CTS launch: Comically high prices, extremely tired wheel and trim choices, and lack of back-seat emphasis. Comfy? Sporty? Young-person-car? Old-person-car? Fast car? Slow car?
No one knows, and many still do not. Aside from the Vsport and new CTS-V, obviously, the CTS has almost zero sporty appeal, despite it being an excellent machine even as a turbo four-cylinder.
New boss. New ad agency. New office location. New flagship luxury limo.
That is a lot of newness, basically trying to correct something that, one might assume, could be fixed in a 3-hour meeting.
Our quick suggestions:
— All Cadillac’s should ship looking gangster and mean and fast, even if they are the base CTS and ATS.
— Poach buyers more aggressively. Drive comparison events for shoppers.
— Far superior standard equipment tallies, plus underwritten leases to match 535i BMW, etc.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS’ SOLUTION
Luckily, Cadillac is very aware of all this stuff. Since that article went out, Cadillac has created a new President position and lured Johan de Nysschen away from Infiniti with a clean-sheet assignment and huge pay raise. Reporting directly to the General Motors Board of Directors and Mary Barra herself, Mr. de Nysschen has almost carte blanche to do one thing:
— Sell more Cadillacs
Sounds simple, right? It really isn’t.
First steps for Cadillac under de Nysschen are decisive and promising. He is relocating 50 critical decision-makers to lower Manhattan, where their new desks will be. This will help.
Detroit, even fancy Renaissance Center GM HQ or posh Grosse Point suburbs, is a total ghetto. It warps the mind.
Second, changes to the CT6. Crisper, and more youthful, we presume — thanks to de Nysschen’s taste. This is the Q50 Eau Rouge guy, so we know he likes it fast and sexy when it comes to cars.
Third: try to convince skeptical Mercedes and Audi and Porsche owners that Cadillac is any good, at all desirable, or projects any sense of culture.
PROGRESS SO FAR?
Going fairly well. We saw a gloss-black pair of rims on a base ATS at the Houston Auto Show. The CTS-V and ATS-V look extremely fast and cool, both offering dark-exterior-trim packs.
New ad campaign is not an instant hit. It barely shows the cars, and the theme of brave entreprenuers is so tired as to almost be cliche. The Dare-Greatly.com website would work for any vaporware, product or service. Literally anything. One wonders if this was in the Publicis agency hopper before being re-edited “just for” Cadillac.
The name is awful. It makes me think of a below-average-sized male organ, does not align with the A8 or 750 limo’s, and is needlessly confusing.
Cadillac is still a basketcase. The Escalade rebadge for 2015.5 was not well-handled, the SRX is so old and crappy you might not know it is actually still for sale in 2015. ATS/CTS inventories keep rising. Non-Escalade Caddys are not selling well. At all.
Will this wider, longer and bigger-inside CT6 flagship be a cure-all or a production Elmiraj?
Noooo, it will not. It is more of a CTS-L or a nouveau STS.
Is this spot any good from Publicis? Not really. Aside from making me want to watch Amelie or listen to St. Germain on Pandora? No.
But give it time.
We know first-hand that the ‘boring’ ATS — as griped below — is actually an incredible sports-car we would LOVE to drive every day. Its fantastic. And the Escalade? So much attention everywhere while piloting one, we were terrified of being robbed or killed while at the wheel.
That would be a big sign of achievement for the new CT6, and might be the ultimate metric for knowing if your Cadillac is ‘gangster’ enough to appeal to BMW people. Who wouldn’t want to be so cool they’re almost in danger?!
But if Cadillac can only do one thing to make the CT6 stick?
Ditch the chrome wheels and polished brightwork.
Or, as Amelie Poulan might say…. Tout de suite.
Letter from President of Cadillac Johan de Nysschen
Message to Cadillac enthusiasts and the odd skeptical observer:
Cadillac is embarking upon a bold new journey, and the Cadillac organization is invigorated. It’s not often that a 112-year-old icon with such a legacy reinvents itself, and it’s awesome for all of us to be part of it.
Of course, those of you who follow our industry know that, over the last few months, we have already begun to disturb the status quo. In the process, we have unavoidably ruffled some feathers: moving part of our operations from Detroit to New York City; placing Cadillac in charge of its own operational destiny; outlining a plan to dramatically expand the product portfolio; creating a consistent nomenclature for our cars. And yes, as far as the car names go, I know it appears as if we are changing one set of “alphabet soup” names for another, but as they say in the classics, there is “method in the madness.” Have faith, it will all fall precisely and logically into place over time.
Furthermore, if you’ve been following our new product launches, you will know that the latest generation of Cadillac vehicles are among the very best available on the market today. Not only have we impressed every industry expert, the cars have received award after award.
Cadillac is back. The fact is that Cadillac’s resurgence as an automaker of exceptional prowess and producer of superlative automobiles is well underway, and this is reflected in many of the strong gains achieved around the world last year. Cadillac has never produced better product than is available today — and we have only just begun our product offensive—with a single-minded focus to stun friends and foes alike, with one fascinating new Cadillac after another.
While product fascination provides substance for our ambitions, we must also embark on a philosophical shift to match these ambitions.
To once again become the standard for excellence around the globe, we cannot follow any of the examples set by the luxury market “establishment”, nor meekly succumb to preconceived notions about this great brand, or even, perceptions about our rivals. We respect each and every one of our competitors, but Cadillac will chart its own course, and we will speak our own truth.
Cadillac is on a mission to shatter the status quo. Cadillac will lead with highly aspirational products packed with advanced technology, superlative craftsmanship and distinctive design. And a brand character that symbolizes quality and respect. We don’t aim to be the biggest. We aim to be the best, the highly aspirational domain of the few.
In the words of one of the great American presidents, Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts.” Only those who are willing to accept risk, who have the courage to dare greatly, shape the future.
At Cadillac, we are about shaping our future, and with it, the future of the luxury automobile industry.
The presentation of the ATS-V in Los Angeles late 2014, followed by the CTS-V in Detroit in January this year, was the first salvo directly into what constitutes the very essence of the luxury segment. The next reveal under our bold philosophy of excellence will be in New York, on the 31st of March. The unveiling of the CT6 Sedan will be the latest, most daring expression of Cadillac’s ambition.
But that’s not where it ends—as I stated, we have only just begun.
Advanced plans are underway to introduce 8 all-new vehicles before the end of the decade. The transformation of Cadillac is happening all around us. And it has been a while since our industry has witnessed change of this magnitude.
The auto industry is a long-cycle business, and we cannot execute all our plans nor reach all our goals overnight, but Cadillac is now firmly on course to reclaim its rightful place as the iconic, global luxury brand, made in America. As we have our supporters, so too we will have our detractors—those who express their discomfort about this bold challenge to the status quo, through criticism and skepticism. We accept these loud protests at the disruption to the established order and understand it means we simply have to work harder and to convey the truth of today to those whose perceptions are still rooted in yesterday.
We know for some it may be a long and arduous journey.
But we are ready.
Johan de Nysschen