Flint on Caddy

Gotta be quick. Appointment in 20.

Ageing Jean-Luc Picard wannabe Motoring Analyst Jerry Flint has a piece on Cadillac in Forbes today. He looks over the model range and why Caddy isn’t doing all the things that GM would like it to do.

Of relevance here is the last bit:

GM also dreams of making Cadillac a global luxury brand. That, too, is a worthy goal, but the company has not had much success. The latest flop was an effort to turn a Saab into a Cadillac for the European market. GM executives have trouble understanding that a foreign Cadillac buyer wants something that says “Detroit,” not “redone Saab.”

Of those Europeans who are still awake at this late hour, how do you assess this?

It actually fits with what I think, that Cadillac should be purely US focused and a niche player in Europe for those who really want an American vehicle. Make Saab very European and Caddy very American.

But I’d be interested to get your thoughts.

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15 Comments

  1. Jean-Luc Picard wannabe… Ok – that was hilarious after I clicked through the link to the story.

    At any rate I would agree with him – even with the impressive new CTS, Cadillac still needs some more direction/continuity with its product lineup.

    I wonder how the Corvette does in Europe?

  2. My assessment is that Jean-Luc doesn’t have a clue, too…

    Europeans just don’t want a Cadillac even if for free. Any.

    The same way americans don’t want a Ligier. 😉

  3. Hehehehe :p

    It’s a french moped-powered microcar manufacturer, owned by Piaggio.

    (They had a good F1 run from 76 to 96, but that’s not what I was talking about. :))

  4. I agree too. Caddy should stay all american it’s no point of making it look and feel like a european. It is much better it has a small display at a dealer for them that likes the american way

  5. Every time someone on this site says “Europeans don’t want any Cadillacs,” I think of that one guy at the Saab Festival with the Cadillac bowling shirt that drives an STS. I think Swade has the right idea: sell Cadillacs to people like that guy, but don’t try to sell them to everyone, because that won’t work. Make them a niche brand in Europe and concentrate on getting Saab to that .5% market share in as many countries as possible.

    Point is, Caddies will sell in Europe, but probably only at about a tenth of the rate that GM thinks they will, and the ones that DO sell sure as hell aren’t going to be the BLS.

  6. Couple of reasons popped my mind, why Europeans don´t buy Cadillacs. America is out at this moment and it does not help the Cadillacs image as a rappers and an American mobsters car, there is no after market for Cadillacs and because of that Cadillac loses value fast, maintenance cost is high, it´s not as good as it´s competitors or if it is, it should be better that change to car with not so positive image, the interior design is cheap and out of date. The Cadillac in Europe is for Elvis fans and there are not too many left.

    My business parter from Israel owns almost brand new one and to own it here is such a headache. The car spends most of it´s time in service because of quality problems and too long ordering time for spare parts.

  7. Caddys don’t sell beacuse they have no image and no dealers. When someone buys a car it is usually down to Looks, image, badge and performance (of course discerning Saab buyres look for more). When Caddy created the BLS they removed the things that maje a Saab appealing – image badge and looks. what they wer left with was an ugly car will average handling and no image. The Chrylser 300 sells really well in Europe because it has looks and performance (and looks a bit like a Bentley and thus image). Being American did not hinder sales. The Voyager sells quite well too. The same was true of Rover in the states – no image, looks or performance. A crap product can survive in the home market but not abroad.

  8. This guy is clued up – witness the success of Chrysler 300C in the UK! It’s probabaly becoming the most witnessed American car on UK roads since it launched.

    The reason? It’s big, unapologetic, brash and got more bling than Jordan. In a word, it retained it’s American character (forget about the mercedes underpinning), it LOOKS like an American car.

    And people buy them for that reason. Maybe not for me but there is a crowd of peoplke who like this alternative distinctiveness of US styling and character.

    Cardillac should do the same, maybe more – heck, produce and bring the “sixteen” prototype here and make a statement. If I as a normal road user can figure this out, why can’t top GM executives?

  9. The reason of the sales success of 300C might be also in price and in diesel version (Mercedes engine). It costs less than 9-3 similarly equipped.

  10. The UK has a very exceptional car market, quite unrelated to the rest of the europe and more tolerant to different concepts of what a car should be.

    I agree that if Cadillac focused on beeing a niche manufacturer in Europe, they would sell as little as they do, but look better while doing it.

    Even so, I suspect that if it is to sell as little as they do, GM will just not want it.

  11. My two cents worth – Cadillac should stick with selling cars in the USA until or unless they decide to build models that truly appeal to European tastes rather than American tastes. If they want to sell them to Europeans with a taste for American luxury cars like Cadillac, that’s fine, but I think it will be a small market. Likewise Saab should stick to selling cars that appeal to European tastes, and then sell them in the USA for those people, like me, who like that kind of car. (Actually I like American cars as well, or did back when they had rude, crude, 427 cubic inch big-block V8s.)

    I think that there is room enough in the car market, and in GM, for both brands to prosper.

    As a followup to my comment yesterday on Saab surviving – several commenters believe that GM should put more money into developing and marketing Saab. I agree. And GM should also put more money into developing all their other brands as well. However, money is scarce at GM as they operate in a high-labor cost environment in the USA and in Europe. Every dollar that goes to employee salaries and benefits is a dollar that can’t be used for product development. So GM scrimps on development and parts to save money and try to compete with car companies with lower labor costs. Volkswagen is in the same situation in Germany, as it is owned in part by the government which looks at the company as a source of local employment, and resists job cuts or shifts in production. I read that they lose something like $1000 per car sold in the USA because their production costs are higher.

    One way to get production costs down is to move design and production to countries with lower costs, such as Korea, and increasingly China and India. That’s fine if you are a car buyer, but less so if you work at a car plant in Trollhattan or Detroit. But that’s the reality that all the car companies are facing. Some companies like BMW and Porsche can survive in high-production cost countries because people are willing to pay the cost premium, but most other car companies are not in that situation.

    Lastly, Swade, I know that you are no big fan of Jerry Flint, but I think you are too hard on him. He has more experience in the car industry than any 5 commenters on this blog (me included). If he has a fault, its that he looks at the car industry from a USA-centric perspective, and that is too narrow a focus these days. But he has a perspective that comes from observing an industry over many years that some of the johnny-come-lately writers lack.

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