Saab Vs Cadillac

Saab sold around 136,000 vehicles worldwide in 2006.

Cadillac sold less than twice that amount – 227,000 vehicles in the Unites States last year and around 3,500 vehicles in Europe. A few more sales would have no doubt been picked up in Canada and perhaps the Middle East, but I’d say Caddy would top out at around 240,000 vehicles worldwide.


Worldwide, Saab has a model range comprising two models that are reasonably similar in dimensions and engine size, and one of these models (the 9-5) is around 10 years old. It has one other model marketed full-time in North America only, the 9-7x.

Cadillac, has six models for sale, primarily in North America, and also markets the BLS in Europe, where it sold seven units in August in its country of manufacture.

Cadillac ‘relaunched’ in Europe around three years ago with a sales target of 20,000 vehicles for all of Europe by 2010. That figure has been revised down to less than 10,000 now and they won’t reach that, either.


I’m sure Cadillac contribute something as well, but Saab leads GM divisions in turbocharging technology, has used that to lead effective application of flex-fuel technology, and is now also the leader in adapting the new XWD system that will be expanded to other GM brands in the future.

Saab is also the manufacturer of the safest GM cars your money can buy.


From Automotive News, yesterday:

I remember the day General Motors Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz stood in a new, gleaming Kroymans dealership on the north side of Munich beaming like a proud parent. “This is only the beginning of better days for Cadillac,” he told me, his hand pressed against the side of a shiny new Cadillac BLS. “I am convinced that we’re going to get it right this time.”

This time.

When it comes to the success of GM’s premium-vehicle brand in Europe, at some point this time always becomes next time. Cadillac relaunches. Sales flutter upward a moment, then slam back to earth. Until the next time.

Privately, I wonder if Lutz has run out of patience with GM’s American brands in Europe. Word is that the automaker is seriously considering taking back importing, marketing and distribution operations from the Kroymans Group, its Dutch-based distributor.

A year ago, GM appointed a boss from Brussels to make sure everything at Kroymans was running smoothly. Taking complete control would be the final step. And maybe it’s time. Globally, GM is finally working as one entity, merging all functions. Why not in Europe? What’s out of sync?

Why has Cadillac sold only 1,576 cars through June, far from a one-time goal of 20,000? Why are Corvette sales down? Why is Hummer still an unknown on these shores?

I would say it’s a lack of focus, a lack of product and a lack of market awareness. Initially, Cadillac didn’t even offer the BLS with a diesel option — in a market where diesels take more than half of all sales. And, Cadillac simply put an American skin on a Saab architecture. If you decide to compete against a BMW 3 series or Mercedes C class, you can’t go halfway.

Whatever happens on the product side, GM must run as one operation in Europe the same as it does in Asia, South America and the US. I’m not knocking Kroymans. They are very good at what they do. But do they know what a customer in Munich or Monaco wants? GM does.

If Cadillac is GM’s pinnacle, the carmaker needs a fresh approach at every level. Uniquely European cars. Dedicated distribution, sales and marketing operations. And a reinvention.

GM is proving elsewhere it can get it right. GM can get Cadillac right in Europe too. What they need is time. If they have any left.

I’m not going to knock the writer’s thoughts too much here. I think he makes his case pretty well, except for the last point:

If Cadillac is GM’s pinnacle, the carmaker needs a fresh approach at every level. Uniquely European cars.

Cadillac need uniquely European cars? I thought Cadillac was supposed to be the epitome of American design and – let’s face it – ostentation.

So the author is suggesting that rather build up a brand (i.e. Saab) that’s already known and accepted in many parts of Europe – a brand that’s already distinctly European and is now contributing much to GM’s engineering and powertrain divisions – GM should invest (how many millions of?) dollars into making distinctly European Cadillacs?

I think this guy might just be ripe for a seat on GM’s board of directors.


How about this:

Despite a massive multi-million pound investment in nine dealerships by retailer Pendragon Group, Cadillac BLS sales barely surpassed 200 units in the last year.

A multi-million pound investment. And that’s in the UK alone. What would the cost be for all of Europe? What could Saab have achieved with that investment? In terms of both sales now and enhanced model development for the next couple of years.


All this is just another reason why someone should just cut the cord on Cadillac in Europe. Stop throwing good money after bad and allow Cadillac to build truly American cars and grow an organic niche brand in Europe without this major marketing push that’s going nowhere.

Cadillac has it’s place and it should be grown further in a way that’s true to its heritage. It’s not an every-man car and never will be, especially in a location that’s so philosophically different from the US (i.e. in Europe).

Market Saab more aggressively in Europe where it’s already got a name for itself and a European heritage and identity. Give it the same level of support you’ve given Cadillac in that region and watch it grow!

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  1. I am of the opinion that GM just doesn’t get marketing Cadillac to the Europeans right. The brand as a whole has a dull, unexciting image, and is too attached to McCulture in the eyes of Europeans to be appealing. Not to be overlooked is also the fact that GM timed their push at the worst possible time, when Europe as a whole has fairly negative feelings towards the U.S.

    Furthermore, GM is stuck marketing Cadillac in England, Germany, Sweden and a few other Western European countries – they’d actually be more successful at selling these cars in Eastern Europe, for a few simple reasons: better overall perception of America and its products, automotive markets growing at high double digits – thus a lot more room to grab market share. However, GM had to do this a few years back – it is too late now as the single EU market is a lot harder to penetrate.

  2. Dear swada and all the saab fans.

    I am from China, far from you, and I am in love with Saab. I have pay attention to this website for a long time, and find a lot of interesting and meaningful comments and blogs for Saab. I want to share with you all the saab things, and help saab to be a successful brand in China, even worldwide. thanks!

    Parts of this comment have been edited – SW

  3. BTW… This was on leftlanenews a couple of weeks ago:

    Mark La-Neve, GM’s vice president of vehicle sales, service and marketing said in a recent interview, “We think we’ve got room for expansion in the Buick lineup, and we see Buick over time hitting that space in the market where today Acura is, Volvo is – that’s its historic position, where it’s a cut above Dodge, Chrysler and Ford. It [Buick] was always a near-luxury premium car.”

    Wonder if they gonna try to sell Buick in Europe as well… Now *that* could be fun to watch!

  4. Swade – did you get the comment I posted to you on Cadillac in Southern Africa and GM Southern Africa take on it? It sounds pretty much the same lame duck response similar to the amount of money being splashed onto Cadillac without the return on investment. Saab apparently is a niche and low-volume product in this part of the world (I think we have ’em since 1999), but now all the marketing dollars is being earmarked for Cadillac of which we saw the batch in its new guise 12 months ago! GM is simply misreading the market nuances as far as Cadillac is concerned. Someone wispered in their eyes that Caddy was the way to go. Sounds very American to me – like throttling the concept of democracy in the throats of anyone close enough to listen.

  5. I did get it Danni. Didn’t have it handy when I was writing this, though, as it was on my home email. Very relevant though and I’ll see if I can dig it up.

  6. There are plenty of European cars that are not sold in the US since they are simply not wanted there. The customers have shown the manufacturers what works and what does not. It is funny to see how desperate the American makers are to push their brands on Europe. But also here the customers shows what they want and what not. It is time the GM learned from its mistakes with Cadillac in Europe, no doubt nice cars but no match for the competition, and pulled out. The only thing that makes sense and Money for GM is to put the money on Saab. Show for once that the GM colossus is driven by market forces and not by ridiculous American politics. No offence intended towards the US friends on this site. But check out the DVD with “Who killed the Electric car”, very enlightening.

  7. “This is only the beginning of better days for Cadillac,” he told me, his hand pressed against the side of a shiny new Cadillac BLS. “I am convinced that we’re going to get it right this time.”

    haha, would like to see his face, when you show him this qoute, remember this? haha…

  8. People seem to make too much of the cultural difference issue. Are Europeans really that shallow that they base their daily decisions on international politics? You guys have been watching too many movies. 🙂

    The Bavarians and Swedes have been successful in the U.S. but think back to Renault, Citroen, and Alfa Romeo and you see road kill. I’m sure the same is the case in reverse too. Cadillac’s failure is not due to the fact that they are American, it is because they have a bad strategy. They bundle 3 very different brands: Cadillac, Chevy, and Hummer together in one show room and wonder why people don’t show up.

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