Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's the Cadillac of ?

Cadillac has long been synonymous with American Luxury and has been known traditionally for its cushy, senior-friendly sedans. After 110 years of business, Cadillac now faces a problematic crossroad: who are their clients and, more importantly, who are they as a brand?

In the past if you wanted a luxury sedan, you would buy a Cadillac. Over time Cadillac has developed their senior-friendly sedans with more plushy leather seating and amenities than you would ever need in a car. It gets to the point where you might be mistaken into thinking that you were actually driving a couch and not a car. Until the introduction of German Big 3 (Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz) to the American marketplace, Cadillac automobiles were the undefeated champions.

When the Big 3 showed up in the 1980s with the far superior Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and the Mercedes Benz C-Class, the American marketplace began to take notice. With superior performance, handling, safety and reliability compared to their American counterparts while still coming in at around the same price, Cadillac knew they were in trouble.

Over the past three decades Cadillac's sales can best be described as volatile at best. In the 1960's Cadillac had a 40 - 50% market share, but in the 1980's and continuing into the 1990's their market share tumbled to below 20%. While BMW was producing nearly 330,000 3 Series sedans for the US market, Cadillac was producing a mere 40,000 Sevilles, the BMW 3 Series’ main competition.

Cadillac has been slowly digging themselves out of a ditch over the past few decades due in part to the early success of the new Cadillac Escalade SUV. Unfortunately the Escalade reached its peak production in 2004 with 62,000 units, compared to the 25,000 units produced in 2011.

Even after over a century of automobile production, the question remains........Who is Cadillac?

They are no longer the main supplier of luxury cars in America, they are no longer the choice for senior drivers, and they have never been the choice of young professionals. Cadillac is going through an identity crisis that has 110 years of an image they need to break.

Cadillac’s key to regaining market share is to not copy what the German 3 are doing with their offerings by increasing their sportiness. Instead, Cadillac needs to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Yes, they have been differentiating themselves for the last few decades, but it has been in the wrong direction.

Please view the video below that reviews Cadillac’s new CTS-V Coupe.

Cadillac's new flagship car, the CTS-V Coupe, takes the company in an entirely new direction. Alas, Cadillac’s new approach is far from innovative. It is filled with engines producing huge amounts of horsepower, where, unfortunately, there is a lot of stiff competition from the German Big 3.

Now how does Cadillac’s new flagship car, the CTS-V, play along with their brand image? Well the short and simple answer is it doesn’t. Cadillac is trying to get into a position within the marketplace where they can make a move to steal back market share and disrupt the German status quo. My question is how exactly does a company break the brand image that it has created for itself over the past 110 years? It won’t be easy to reposition such a well-known brand, but it is possible.

Cadillac has made great strides recently in doing just that. In 2011, Cadillac won in three of ten categories for Kelley Blue Book’s Brand Image Awards; the most of any automotive company. They took home awards for best exterior design brand, best interior design brand, and best comfort brand. While Cadillac is proving they still sit at the top in terms of plushy, big leather recliner worthy comfort, they are starting to be recognized and branded as much more in relation to overall luxury design. A position once held by the likes of Porsche, Lexus, and BMW.

Cadillac recently launched their very first fully backed team to race in the SCCA World Challenge Cup. There is a saying in the automotive industry, “ If it wins on Sunday, it will sell on Monday.” If Cadillac's team car can prove itself on the track, there is no doubt that I'll soon start seeing plenty CTS-V Coupes on my commute to work every morning, which I believe is exactly what Cadillac is hoping to accomplish with this new CTS-V Race Car.
There are many different ways Cadillac could rebrand itself in the marketplace, but one thing they must achieve to succeed is becoming known as a company with superior customer service. Luxury brand customers like to feel special and if Cadillac offered an amazing experience at every touchpoint, customers will be more than willing to switch brand.

We have all heard the saying “Its the Cadillac of Mini-Vans” meaning it is the biggest and comfiest Mini-Van out there. But what does that mean now? Cadillac has the opportunity to change their brand image. Does “It’s the Cadillac of Mini-Vans” mean that is has sharp and aggressive designs and a large engine?

Only time will tell if Cadillac will be successful in rebranding themselves into a highly stylized luxury automotive group that’s no longer for just for senior drivers. But I wish them luck because personally I am a huge fan of the brash CTS-V Wagon.