California Autos Examiner

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Cadillac wants to become an alpha brand

Cadillac General Manager Bryan Nesbitt

This article is part two in my series of interviews with Cadillac managers. To read part one, please click this link.

Like the rest of General Motor's brands, Cadillac is on a road of reinvention and rediscovery. Fortunately, its reinvention is moving along quite nicely with the CTS family portfolio one of the most impressive efforts in the domestic car business.

View some select Cadillac photography from the Los Angeles Auto Show in the slideshow below this article.

Cadillac needs to move on from playing a game of catch-up to actively grabbing the ball away from competitors and taking the lead. Part of this story will involve Cadillac's marketing efforts. Cadillac currently has three advertising agencies in "bake off" and hopes to move forward soon. I asked Cadillac general manager Bryan Nesbitt what was wrong with Modernista's Kate Walsh commercials and why Cadillac felt the need put the account under review. Nesbitt said that while the Walsh commercials received their fair share of notice, advertising is not just about television. For its part, Modernista told AdWeek,

Citing creative and strategic differences, Modernista! and Cadillac have decided to part ways. This ends a nine-year relationship between Modernista! and General Motors.

No matter the case, Modernista is out and Cadillac wants an integrated marketing proposal that captures not only television and print but digital (social) as well. Time will tell what GM and its choice for an advertising agency will come up with.

Previously, I had discussed the forthcoming Alpha (ATS) small sedan that looks to be a fierce competitor. Cadillac is also in need of a large car solution that will combine the STS and DTS model lines. When I asked Nesbitt which sedan, large or small, took priority he answered "Both." Cadillac certainly does need to crack the large car nut. Ideally, Cadillac introduces a large sedan that gives the CTS some pricing headroom and allows the ATS to comfortably slot itself into the lineup. Nesbitt said that Cadillac is looking at what elements will define the large sedan. Presumably that means that Cadillac is looking at differentiators between the CTS and STS/DTS replacement. For example, the ride and handling on the CTS might lean more towards the sporty side of things whereas the larger sedan may lean more towards a luxurious feel.

Cadillac has mastered exterior design, refining its models into unique, attractive vehicles that rival the best in the industry. The same goes for Cadillac's newer interiors, where its designs are appealing and there is a premium feeling throughout the cabin. Where I haven't seen Cadillac take a command position is in the use of cutting edge technology. To be sure, Cadillacs such as the CTS do have many "in demand" features, but Cadillac more often than not adds features after other manufacturers have premiered them. If you want to see what I am talking about, read through this press release on the 2011 BMW 5 Series, the amount of technological innovation and option availability is mind blowing. The bottom line is clear, if you want to sell in California, then look to what BMW is offering. Californians are tech crazy, they live in their cars with hellaciously long commutes. Thankfully, Cadillac's technology drought could be changing, as a recent NYTimes article on GM stated

G.M. will pay top dollar if it gets the most advanced technology before other automakers

The ATS sedan looks to be a real statement for the brand and if it all comes together it could be a competitive benchmark kind of car. I have very high hopes for this vehicle.

The other area that I feel that Cadillac should put some real effort into is getting its dealers up to a certain standard. Cadillac has a facility model in place, but to my knowledge very few dealers have implemented it. In these uncertain times, asking dealers to pony up for a refresh can be a tall order, but with the hardware side of things reaching such a high standard, the dealers selling and servicing those products need to be world class as well.

In summation, Cadillac is firing on all cylinders. The CTS is great, the SRX is selling well and the ATS has all the makings of being mind blowingly great. With product development momentum moving so strongly , the marketing and sales sides need to make sure they do not let these vehicles down. As for next year's Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, look for a very special matte finish Cadillac to wow the crowds.

Below this post, view a short video of Cadillac General Manager Bryan Nesbitt talking about the 2011 CTS Coupe.

General Motors covered some of my expenses to attend the Los Angeles Auto Show.

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