Cadillac expanding in Europe, but I’m sure they’ll say it’s still no threat to Saab

Cadillac is growing in Europe!

Despite all my jibes about them selling just seven units in a month in Sweden, the fact is that Cadillac has sold over 3,000 vehicles in Europe this year, which is up 30% on the SFA it sold in the prior year (can you tell I’m grumpy this morning?).

Most of the sales increase has come from Russia, Austria, Denmark, Spain and Italy. Someone please check Vlad Putin’s garage.

Meanwhile, Saab sales have stalled in Western Europe this year, but GME tells us that they’ve grown in the East and South. No specific figures or countries mentioned, however.

The line that we’ve always received from GM about Cadillac and Saab is they’re not a threat to each other. That they’re not cross-shopped in any way and therefore the two brands can co-exist happily. I’m starting to think that that line should be filed with the one about the Epsilon platform not being able to accept AWD.

Figure this.

GM showrooms in Europe are set to go along a similar line that we’re going to see almost everywhere else – Cadillac and Saab shown in the same buildings. Sometimes there’ll be Opels in there with them and sometimes it’ll be Hummer.

Add to that scenario the news filtering through from GM-UAW contract talks that GM are planning on a new smaller RWD Cadillac to fit in under the current base model CTS and all of a sudden you’ve got very direct Saab-segment competition.

Alpha will be for Cadillac’s entry-level model. According to a knowledgeable source, it will be aimed at the near-luxury segment once occupied by the BMW 3 series and Mercedes C class, when those nameplates were smaller and cheaper.

Cadillac’s own chairman was against the idea of a smaller Cadillac, as was their previous marketing man, Mark LaNeve. Guess who trumped them:

Lutz favored it, arguing that it would help Cadillac in overseas markets.

This, of course, follows on from the half-baked BLS. Once again GM have had to learn the hard way that half-doing a car will lead to less-than-half-satisfactory sales and zero addition to reputation.

And now, instead of feeling like Saab has a real future with the investment that it needs, I can’t help but feel that the growth of Cadillac in Europe is an at-all-costs goal for the nodding heads in Detroit.

Any investment in Saab is realistically most likely to be an offshoot of decisions based on whether Cadillac can benefit as well. As far as I know there’s no Caddy planned for Epsilon II, but now that XWD is available I’d suggest you watch this space.


All this bile is based on the fact that I really believe that Saab have heaps of growth potential, and if GME want to add 100,000 sales per year by around 2012 or thereabouts, that investing in Saab would be a better way to go. They’ve got recognition in Europe and a loyal base elsewhere. Cadillac have cachet in the US only and are largely regarded as a flamboyant excess elsewhere.

Adding an entry-luxury Caddy to the lineup worldwide is a real and deliberate incursion on Saab’s supposed terrirtory. Saab may benefit via some crumbs from the General’s table, but I can’t help but feel that GM’s sole interest in Saab is stripping its engineering expertise and a little gravy by way of sales it would have otherwise missed.

Actually caring about the brand and the cars – that’s a job for someone who cares.

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  1. I think GM’s goal is to develop Cadillac into a global luxury brand- much like how Toyota is expanding into Europe with Lexus, GM wants to put together 1 big happy luxury brand for the world.

    Problem for GM is, unlike Toyota, GM has Saab and Buick to deal with also. The Buick issue has been resolved; Buick is pitched more at the Lexus crowd (and looking at Enclave inventory levels, it’s been rather successful) while Saab, well, Saab, although globally more successful than Cadillac, is seen in the US as somewhat of a ‘lost’ brand, so to speak.

  2. As jchan2 points out above, Buick is aimed as a lexus killer (see J.D. power reliability rankings this year.) Similarly, Cadillac couldn’t care less about Saab’s turf. They are after Merc. And, even as a Saab lover, I have to say the 2008 CTS is an absolute beauty of a car. Saab would do well to focus on how to pose a formidable challenge to Audi, who has really gained the reputation of late as a safe, turbo charged luxury performance car rather than being jealous of a successful stablemate. If anything, a successful Caddy is good for Saab in that it provides a proven roadmap.

  3. Selling 3000 Cadillacs in Europe sure isnt going to mean Saab is on the ropes. Cadillac is to European drivers what Hyundai is to North American consumers .

  4. Saab needs to make sure they get at least TWO all-new models (not just the next gen 9³ and 9⁵) before Cadillac can introduce a mini-Caddy.

    I think if Saab can expand their lineup they can increase sales enough that Cadillac won’t be much of a threat. This whole two-and-a-half model lineup has been going on way too long. Look at how sales dropped-off overall after the 9²X was no longer on offer, and it’s not like it sold like hotcakes. Assuming the new cars sell better than the BLS and 9²X, Saab should be doing much better on the road to black ink.

    In the next four years if all goes well Saab should have on offer the 9¹, 9³, 9⁴, and 9⁵ by the time Cadillac can bring out the small RWD Caddy to compete with the 9¹ (possibly). If it takes Saab so long to go from idea to product it should take Cadillac just as long, right?

    Once Saab gets into the black I think that it’s going to be much easier for them to convince GM to send more funding. It’s hard to ask for money when you’ve been losing it by the truckload for close to a decade.

  5. turbin: that’s around the same time the 9¹ is due and the Saab is being built on an existing platform! I just don’t get why it seems to take Saab so long to develop new cars. Maybe it’s because their engineers are so busy working on all of GM’s other projects.

    Come 2011 won’t the Saab 9¹ and baby-Caddy theoretically be competing on the same showroom floors?

  6. In Germany dealers of Cadillac are offering the new Cadillac BLS much more cheaper than a 9-3. Both cars with comparable equipments. My opinion is. The BLS saloon is looking better than the 9-3. Specially the impression of the interior of the BLS is of a higher level.

  7. Let’s say they reach 4.000 sold cars this year. That’s in a market with 20.000.000 sold cars. To put some perspective on that number. Ferrari and Maserati sold about 5.000 cars in Europe last year. Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini sold about 4.000 cars. Jaguar 41.000. Alfa Romeo 145.000. BMW 678.000. Mercedes 725.000.

    Nobody over here talk about Cadillac together with BMW or Mercedes or Lexus. They are not in the same league. Lutz can think what he wants, but that’s not gonna help.

    And about Buick… How can anyone say it’s rather successful? End of this year, the brand is probably down 60% last 5 years That’s Rover class. Q: has the price on the cars doubled during the same time? If not, then they are not moving anywhere but down the drain since they are obviously losing money fast. True, Buick is successful in Chine but I fear that success in that country is not the same as being a Lexus killer in the West.

  8. GM should focus on building American Cadillacs. I’m pretty sure the Cadillac buyers in Europe want a grand American luxury car. They don’t want a small Cadillac or a European Cadillac like the BLS.
    That’s the way for Saab and Cadillac to coexist.

  9. When was the last time a small Caddy was anything short of a failure?

    Catera? Wasn’t this a rear-wheel drive Caddy that actually had European origins (as an Opel?)

    So maybe it is time for the next small Caddy … they had a collossal failure in the 80s with the Cimarron; in the 90s with the Catera … so they are on schedule for another one right about now. (Or is the BLS the one for the 00s, and we’replanning ahead with this one for the 10s?) 🙂

  10. ctm, granted Cadillac is not where it wants to be yet. But, how many people think of Saab in the same league as Audi. Most of my friends from mainland Europe think it is funny that I drive a Saab. Saab is a joke outside of US, UK, Sweden.

  11. 1985 Gripen: “that’s around the same time the 9¹ is due and the Saab is being built on an existing platform!”

    I understand that the 9-1 will be on the Delta II platform which has not been released under any vehicle yet.

    I can also tell you why Saab will take longer. This is so GM can nail down the hard points of the running gear before letting Saab get involved. That way there will be no chance of Saab modifying components so much that they upset the Russelheim production lines.

    I also understand that the ‘baby Caddy’ will more likely be a RWD more akin to the 9-3 in size and therefore be competing with that model on the showroom floors.

  12. turbin: I understood the 9¹ is to be built on the same platform as the newest Opel Astra which is already in production, isn’t it? Am I wrong?

    The baby Caddy competing with Saab’s most popular model? Oh, that’s a great strategy… 🙁

  13. 1985 Gripen: “I understood the 9¹ is to be built on the same platform as the newest Opel Astra which is already in production, isn’t it? Am I wrong?”

    I understand (from Wiki amongst others) that the Chevy Volt was the first concept based on Delta II. The Saturn Astra you guys just got in the US is already old news in the rest of the world but will see out the current Delta platform with some refreshes.

  14. I know Caddy is a sore spot for you, but here in Dallas, Caddy and SAAB do co-exist very well. My dealer provides great service in three locations, plus he has other locations selling Lexus, Infiniti and others as well. It seems he runs all his dealerships as if they were selling Lexus. This was why I did not hesitate in buying another SAAB from them. Anyway, They have dedicated SAAB and Caddy salespeople, with a few cross trained. While I was there buying my new SAAB a few months ago, I noticed the other customers. There was no question which brand each person was shopping. I do not ever see SAAB and Caddy competing for the same customer. In my opinion, too many uninformed people think Caddy is the end-all for luxury. They aspire to drive a Caddy, and when they get one (generally not picky about which one) they think they have arrived. SAAB customers are well informed buyers. We have generally done our homework and selected SAAB as the best brand overall for our needs. We tend to know exactly which one we want. I could be wrong, but I do not think someone going into a SAAB dealer for a 9-3 SC is going to be talked into a 9-7X, much less an SRX.

  15. turbin: I wasn’t referring to the Saturn Astra, as I think that’s the current-gen Astra (though new to the U.S.), based on Delta right? I thought the 9¹ was going to be based on the same platform as that Opel Astra OPC concept from a couple years ago, which was slated for the next-gen Astra platform. However, I have a horrible memory and could be jumbling up and mis-remembering facts in my head.

    Now I see that I was wrong and you are indeed right. The Volt is the first car (actually I believe all of the E-Flex cars including the Opel Flextreme and rumored Cadillac hydrogen fuel-cell variant) actually built on Delta II, though it’s a concept. This is great news for Trollhattan, I think because they’re going to be set-up to produce Delta II cars (particularly the Astra), so with that hugely underutilized capacity they have at their plant, they could pitch-in and produce E-Flex cars too, maybe the Flextremes for Europe.

    The 9¹ is supposedly slated for the 2009 model year (which would mean it debuts at the end of next calendar year) according to wikipedia! I highly doubt that, but it would be a very welcome and pleasant surprise. It can’t come soon enough for Saab who desperately needs new products, IMHO.

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