Here come the Cadillacs

Jan-Ake Jonsson – get ready to officially hand in the moniker of running GM’s global premium brand in it’s home market. It’s not that you won’t be running it there anymore, it’s just that Saab can no longer claim that title or the potential that goes with it.

Edmunds Inside Line are running an article that details my worst fears, that GM really are pushing for Cadillac to be expanded worldwide as GM’s top tier premium marque – and with a full range of uglies in the kit as well.

In brief, GM will be expanding the Cadillac lineup to include a 12 cylinder behemoth, a new smaller SUV and a compact car. The framework for the SUV is most likely the same as that which will underpin the coming Saab 9-4x, as we’ve already heard.

From Edmunds:

General Motors’ Cadillac brand is in the process of a major product overhaul that will usher in a new look, as well as a number of new models, for the premium brand.

The sweeping transformation is a key element of GM’s blueprint to build Cadillac into a truly global luxury brand that can compete with such European stalwarts as Mercedes-Benz and BMW in nearly every size and price segment…..

…..By 2012, Cadillac will be offering a range of vehicles on four different RWD platforms, starting with a new compact architecture known internally as Alpha. An updated version of the Sigma platform underpins the ’08 CTS, while the next-generation DTS luxury sedan and a new V12 flagship sedan known as the XLS will be built on the upcoming Zeta platform. The replacement for the XLR roadster will share the new C7 platform with the next-generation Chevrolet Corvette.

Cadillac also plans to add a new midrange crossover vehicle, known internally as the BRX, off a premium version of the all-wheel-drive Theta platform. Suppliers refer to this new platform by the code name TE.

The Alpha platform will be almost Epsilon sized, so it looks like GM’s perhaps going to go RWD for Cadillac and FWD/XWD for Saab and Opel.

Not only are Cadillac getting all the new models, they get first use of the new engines as well. You may remember that at the Geneva Motor Show, Gm announced the development of a new diesel powerplant that will be first used in the 2009 Cadillac CTS, despite the fact that a new Saab 9-5 is expected that year.

There’s also news (thanks Mike) that Cadillac will get first use of new direct injection technology too. This will give the 3.6 litre Caddy a Saabesque boost from 255hp to around 300hp with no added displacement.

Perhaps Saab will be allowed to debut new environmentally friendly floor mats some time in the future.

This Caddy deal is a very ambitious plan, one with Bob Lutz’s name all over it and one with several potential outcomes. Given Cadillac’s lack of acceptance everywhere except for the US, they had really better know what they’re doing.

What it means for Saab, of course, is that it will (at best) play second fiddle in GM’s global premium stable and quite likely take the crumbs that fall from Opel’s and Cadillac’s table.

I’m not sure what the Swede’s tradition of taking lemons and making lemonade is, but I hope it’s a long and storied one.

—–

I had an email a week or so ago about this very topic – Saab’s placement in the market – which made some modicum of sense.

With the recent and continuing Opelisation of Saturn in America it may be that GM bundles Saturn and Saab together, with Saab being the premium/performance arm of this Euro offering for the North American market. This situation already exists in Canada and given that Saturn has a good reputation for service, it could be a bonus for Saab.

This would tend to make some sense, though it’d be at odds with some other markets in the world, where GM are looking to set up a premium arm dealing Saab, Cadillac and Opel from the same outlets.

That’s what’s evolving here in Australia as well as in some European markets, too.

—–

Fair warning – write down the date … the way I feel right now as I’m writing all this, if the next 9-5 is not a genuine and real Saab I may well be off to Alfa for good with just a vintage Saab left as a memory of what once was.

The 9-5 will be that big a barometer as to where GM is taking Saab into the future.

GM are playing chicken with an entire brand and it’s customers. I really, really hope they know what they’re doing and aren’t filled with overconfidence.

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26 Comments

  1. FFS!

    IIRC, Cadillac sales totaled about 3000 in 2006, up from just over 2000 in 2005. OK, that’s a mahoosive jump in percentage terms – but in absolute terms they are selling bu99er all.

    Just because 8,000 people (probably footballers) in Europe have bad taste, I can not see GM starting a brand effectively from scratch and creating sales greater than those of Saab?

    Saab hardly has any presence in the German market where it should have more. Is a bad-interior, bling-bling behemoth of some chromed yank-tank 4×4 really going to cut it in Europe? Oh, hang on. David Hasselhoff is big in Germany …hmmm, bad taste. Cadillac might sell well there. I have argued myself around to GM’s way of thinking.

    hell.

  2. This disgusts me. Makes me wanna hurt someone. Maybe I should sell off all my Saabs and start driving a corolla. That way I won’t get my hopes up, and when GM ****’s up Saab further, I won’t be inclined to do something illegal.

    I don’t have no alfa in the usa to buy. Maybe that new Volvo hatch will be cool…

  3. I can see Cadillac becoming like Merc and Saab being more like BMW in terms of quality and driving experience, and both those brands more or less have different demographics. GM wants to build an american luxury car, and I don’t think any of us wants them to do that with Saab. A V12 behemoth? Leave it for Caddy, not Saab (unless its E100 😉 ). I worry that GM will muck it up since they have very little experience with building a true framework for a luxury brand, not to mention an American luxury brand which no one outside of America wants. I just worry about GM losing money and hurting Saab indirectly, thats all.

  4. 1. that cadillac is making all new models to become a “…global luxury brand…,” means less of an “american” look (and, thus, more of a “european” look), which is bad news for saab. aside from the need for new products, saab needs less competition, also.

    2. cadillac can keep rwd. saab just needs xwd and fwd.

    3. can gm grow 2 premium-luxury brands at once? only if the brands target different consumers, like cadillac and hummer. but with cadillac and saab, there’ll be too much overlap for the same consumer “dollars.”

    4. maybe gm is just giving saab “scraps” until cadillac becomes more viable globally; then, saab will be forced to exit “stage left.”

  5. It would be one thing if this strategy succeeds – while we might not like where Saab is in GM’s new world order, there’s still a place for it.

    What worries me more is if the strategy fails. And GM has to go through another round of cost cutting in 10 years or so. That’s the worst case scenario for Saab — that Cadillac in Europe sinks like the Titanic, and sucks Saab down the drain with it.

  6. I think the idea of a Saab/Saturn combo makes better sense that the caddy/hummer/saab..at least here in the U.S. Saab would benefit from the much younger average buyer that walks into a Saturn dealer versus Caddy. While Caddy has certainly changed in the last few years there are still plenty of people who would not be seen dead in a Caddy showroom. Plus the buying experience at a Saturn dealer would certainly give the Saab brand a MUCH needed boost. Plus the obvious service benefits for the customers. A net result would be more sales and surely a better ranking in J.D. Powers rankings..which sadly as of last year was 2nd to last..just above Land Rover. Plus the Saab would be seen as an aspirational model for buyers already in a Saturn. And the really great benefit is exposure. If anything Saab suffers from is lack of exposure. And with Saturn’s “opelization” as its been called continues I think it would be a win win situation.

  7. I think the idea of a Saab/Saturn combo makes better sense that the caddy/hummer/saab..at least here in the U.S. Saab would benefit from the much younger average buyer that walks into a Saturn dealer versus Caddy. While Caddy has certainly changed in the last few years there are still plenty of people who would not be seen dead in a Caddy showroom. Plus the buying experience at a Saturn dealer would certainly give the Saab brand a MUCH needed boost. Plus the obvious service benefits for the customers. A net result would be more sales and surely a better ranking in J.D. Powers rankings..which sadly as of last year was 2nd to last..just above Land Rover. Plus the Saab would be seen as an aspirational model for buyers already in a Saturn. And the really great benefit is exposure. If anything Saab suffers from is lack of exposure. And with Saturn’s “opelization” as its been called continues I think it would be a win win situation.

  8. My fear is that if and when caddy becomes more mainstream in europe,Saab will be dropped. If you think about it when saab production is intergrated into the GM production format and if trollhattan stays open but building other GM brands it will be a lot easier to gently let Saab slip away,and if you look at the apparent lack of funding on Saabs future it makes me wonder.

  9. I truly hope these reports are at least a bit exaggerated…GM has got to be smoking crack to expect solid global success via this strategy.

    Swade,

    Your 9-5 litmus test is frighteningly accurate- a bad 9-5 will tank the brand like a torpedo to the hull…repairs are beyond question, and sinking is a matter of sooner or later.

    It’s almost like your favorite team is down with time running out…and the question is will they even be given the chance to pull something off?

  10. There has to be room for both. Like someone pointed out, there is a difference between the buyer of a Merc and a BMW/Audi. Also not that saab is cheaper than those.

    On the price ladder, Chevy is lowest, followed by opel/saturn, then saab and finaly caddy.

    The two first one’s are volume brands. Saab and caddie are not.

    If you think how to diferentiate, first already now these two brands are aiming towards two different completely different target groops. One who wants to tell the world that he has money, the other one not. One who has to tell the world that I am good, one who has the self confidence and do not need to comunicate this to the rest of us.

    If you want to differentiate the brands, one will be RWD, one FWD/AWD.

    One goes for larger engines, one for smarter.

    One goes for crome, one not.

    One for the sporty driving, one for the “mushy” comfortable driving.

    One goes for the smaller cars (do not see a 9-1 caddie), one goes for the big one (do not see a saab escalade).

    I could think of more, but you get the point

    Finally, remember that we are talking about the smallest brand in the world (and caddie in not much larger) so there has to be room for both.

  11. This may seem a strange comparison but when Daniel Craig was cast as Bond there was outrage from die hard fans. Yet according to any reviews I have seen he is considered to the best Bond yet. I think it is wise to tell GM and SAAB what we as a community are looking for from SAAB and to be as vocal as possible in asking for SAAB to be given the funding and models it needs but we need to both see and drive the product (both Cadillac and SAAB) before slating it. Which we can do if it is rubbish.

    I still keep an open mind about GM getting SAAB into profit and then selling it. Which may not be a bad thing.

    As for Alfas, if you think SAAB service is bad, wait till you try an Alfa Dealer.

  12. A Saab/Saturn combo in the US is the last thing that Saab needs. This is what GM has done in Canada, and it means that Saab’s are sold in a small corner of a low-rent showroom, hidden behind minivans.
    Saturn’s entire sales strategy consists of being a few thousand bucks cheaper than the equivalent Honda models, as long as you don’t mind less performance, handling, fuel economy, quality, durability, style, etc… This may change once the Corsa comes out, but I doubt it.

    Saab is much better off sharing facilities with Cadillac. At least Cadillac owners have high expectations and self image (even if they don’t have the best taste in cars).

    This isn’t rocket science. Daimler-Chrysler doesn’t sell Mercedes and Dodge in the same showroom.

  13. Swade, this is dreadful news. Perhaps GM should do what George Costanza once did; whatever decision they would normally make, just do the opposite. If every decision they make is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. All kidding aside, GM is wasting time and $$ trying to push shite uphill with the Caddy brand. Developing Saab as the global premium brand would be the path of least resistance and would make much more sense. I wish Alpha was still available in the States! Long live my 9-3!!

  14. I really need to get my bum in a low mileage Viggen b4 all this goes down. I’m hoping for a decent 9-1 type vehicle in the future, but god knows what will happen.

    Does any see this as the beginning of the end?

  15. From what I’ve been told by a reliable source in the luxury market SAAB will target the 3-series BMW and other entry-luxury cars like the AUDI A4. Cadillac will go after the BMW 5 and 7 series, AUDI A6 and A8, Mercedez-Benz and other higher-level cars.

    I don’t know what that means for the 9-5 except that perhaps it’ll target the higher 3-series cars (like the 335i, where the 9-3 will target the 328i) and the AUDI A4 S-Type and such. That’s just my speculation.

    The best news I’ve heard about the BLS (I was hoping to hear they’d cancelled it, but this is the second-best news I could have read, I guess) is that it will move to a RWD platform. This says to me that it will no longer be on the same platform as the 9-3 and really won’t be a direct competitor anymore. The scary thing (to me) is that it will be better positioned to more directly take on other RWD sport sedans like the BMW 3-series the SAABs are supposed to go after though.

    John: “I seem to have the same calculator that GM use to forecast their sales.” Or the calculator they use for past sales accounting (http://www.saabcentral.com/forums/showpost.php?p=914350&postcount=1)…

    Saaboy: “Maybe that new Volvo hatch will be cool…” LOL! Now there’s an oxymoron, if I’ve ever read one: Volvo-cool? I wouldn’t hold my breath! 🙂

    Saab9X: “maybe gm is just giving saab “scraps” until cadillac becomes more viable globally; then, saab will be forced to exit “stage left.”” Actually the story I’m getting starts off the same but ends differently. SAAB has to suffer in the short term and sacrifice a little (like sharing the BLS so Cadillac can get a foot and dealer network installed in Europe) and when Cadillac and Hummer are flush with this worldwide luxury cash, then they’ll benefit SAAB. Right now it seems SAAB is on the back-burner in GM’s worldwide luxury plans.

    patric95: “here in the U.S. Saab would benefit from the much younger average buyer that walks into a Saturn dealer versus Caddy.” I hope it doesn’t come off as elitism, but SAAB’s demographic is not the same as Saturn’s. SAAB’s demographic are educated, slightly wealthy young people who want something “different”. Saturn largely caters to a lower-to-middle-class demographic.

  16. Suddenly Renault buying Saab seems like a good idea.

    In my opinion, GM didn’t understand Saab when they took over and now don’t understand the harm they are doing to their own business by homogenising and diluting a distinctive brand. If you know about computers, compare IBM Thinkpads when sold to Lenovo.

    Yes, its true that without GM there probably wouldn’t be a Saab today, but the GM experiment needs to end soon. To my eyes, Saab needs to be taken over by European management who know how to build sporty, distinctive cars.

    GM’s attempts to get Cadillac into the European market is folly. The atmosphere in Europe is about being green and reducing our consumption. GM’s American brands scream “gas guzzler” all over them.

    Maybe James May of Top Gear was on the mark by welding a Saab and Alfa together – let’s hope they never try it with a Caddy!

    I reckon its time for GM to part company with Saab and hand it back to the Europeans.

  17. “Platform.” No kidding. It’s such a loose term anyway. A car can share a “platform” and be completely different than any other vehicle built on that form. So what if they share a floor pan and a couple of crossmembers, maybe even some suspension parts? Platform sharing should not be confused with badge engineering (Ford/Mercury or Chevrolet/Pontiac). Can anybody really tell a G6 convertible is the same platform as a Saab convertible? No, they don’t drive the same or even share powertrains. I really think Saab sharing platorms with other cars, ultimately is a good thing, as long as they “Saabify” it with Saab personality, familiar styling, handling, etc- all of which can be done no matter what the car’s backbone is.

  18. This is depressing…

    1985 Griffen:

    I said MAYBE didn’t I? I am semi-fond of the S60R… I’d love to see an AWD 9-5 Gripen to take on this S60R. 9-3 should be a definate a4, 3series competitor.

    Btw, Audi’s ‘S’ is closer to a BMW M3, and merc c55 amg junk, territory which Saab has never attempted to cover.

  19. It’s nothing less than immoral to plan for a new V12 useless piece of carbon producing shit box. Hey Lutz, it’s time you view «an inconvenient truth». Wake up call will be very painful. Environmental refugees have already started arriving. Is it not in New Zealand? Sorry my memory is failling me.

  20. Swade, i’m with you. Hold on to the Viggen mate, she’s the last of her kind.

    I’m stuck, Alpha doesn’t do it for me and i hate the thought of BMW. I’ve spent the last 10 years arguing with my mate that they’re boring. how can any self respecting pride filled male go back on that?

  21. I’ve come to the sad conclusion that Saab is like a college. The college I attended was great when I was there. I liked the administration, professors, campus, and students. But now that I’m not there, I have some questions about what is happening. It’s just not the same anymore. Should I still be loyal? or would that loyalty be to somethin that used to be way back when?

    In my mind, loyalty to Saab can be viewed in much he same way. Most people like a particular model within their favorite car company. It all started with the Classic 900 or … my first drive in a turbo charged Saab convinced me that this was the only car I’d ever drive.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately), the ideals and philosophies of car companies change over time. It seems strange to think that the original Saab cars didn’t have turbo charged four cylinders. Isn’t that what distinguishes a Saab from other cars? It all depends on who you ask.

    So, will I give up on Saab. Oh, I don’t know. I still own one presently and I enjoy it. I’ll leave that decision until I have to make it.

  22. 9-5=4

    That’s how long Saab will last with a bad 9-5.

    Worst case outcome?

    The Saab badge will be stuck on Daewoos and the marketing will claim “great value”.

    It’s happening already at a GM brand near you…

  23. I grew up with my 99EMS and then great 900 Turbo. Ever since then I tried several times to get interested in Saabs again but I cannot. Everything that made it a unique vehicle, a Saab, is gone. Things like the engine placement, the seat belts, the shape and look. All gone. The distinctive look and character is gone. I cannot tell one from a Camery, Tarus or other “melted candy bar” car shape.

    Sorry for the rant but that is my opinion. I now drive a Cadillac STS and am looking at an XLR-V

    Bob

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