California Autos Examiner

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cadillac: Present and Future

I had a chance to speak with several representatives from the Cadillac division while attending the auto show. Here are some of the nuggets that I gleaned from those meetings:

Cadillac loves Kate Walsh. Don’t we all? We’ll be seeing some new commercials starring Kate later this year. The ad budget overall, like almost everything else, will get a haircut. For the first part of the year, the focus will be CTS and Escalade and then later on ramping up SRX. Cadillac will maintain its relationship with the television show Damages and the Monticello Motor Club. Cadillac may also host some additional driving academies since the previous events sold out quickly.

Marketing hopes that the CTS wagon will be able to win over some buyers by losing the mom-mobile stigma that a wagon body style can invoke. While not expecting to sell in big numbers here in the U.S., it is hoped that the wagon can help the division’s fortunes in Europe.

While Cadillac has to have diesel technology in order to be a player in Europe, none of the executives I spoke with were very optimistic about the fuel’s chances here in the states. The cost premium for diesel, the amount of resources necessary for 50 state certification and the added cost at the time of purchase mean that there is little chance for even a low volume diesel in any U.S. Cadillac.

A flagship sedan, one that will replace the DTS/STS, is a very high priority for Cadillac. While previous large sedans from Cadillac have had exteriors that were not instep with the CTS, that will not be the case with the next model.

Also important, is a sub CTS model based on the forthcoming Alpha platform. After speaking with a number of execs, I would imagine that we might see something in Detroit next year. Indications are that the Alpha will have quite a “techy” dash utilizing capacitive touch and haptic feedback controls. Certainly the Converj concept has those elements, but I look to the Volt production car for hints on what GM might be doing for the Alpha’s interior.

When the next generation Lambda models roll out, there might be one less in Buick-Pontiac-GMC showrooms and a new model in Cadillac’s portfolio. I come to this conclusion for several reasons. Firstly, it makes little sense for the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave to compete with each other at the same dealership. Now that Cadillac has left the 7-seater crossover market with the SRX dropping down to two rows, it would make absolute sense to make the next Enclave a Cadillac.

One of the last remaining hoops for Cadillac to jump though, in my opinion, is upping the standards at its dealers. Currently Cadillac has a Standards For Excellence (SFE) program, where dealers can opt in (and pay up) to have their practices reviewed and suggestions made on how they can improve their customers’ overall dealership experience. Reps for the division estimated that 90% of the sales volume has been through SFE, but that the percentage of total dealers participating in the program is less. I would like to see a stronger push in this area. As many GM reps have said, the company most “over deliver” in order to win customers and one of the last places that GM under delivers, in my opinion, is at its dealerships. GM argues that its dealer CSI scores are “better than most” manufactures, but that has never been the experience of myself, my family or my friends.

The Corvette-based XLR roadster will soldier on for now, but its fate is uncertain. There are no definite plans for a replacement model.

For the most part, however, Cadillac is quite happy with its positioning. I tend to agree as the CTS family of vehicles is going to develop a core competency for the brand. If the SRX is able to build some momentum, then the last two areas of major importance would be a flagship and entry level models. Well, that and a seven-seater crossover :-)

please note: the image above was supplied by gm, i did not interview all those pictured above

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