What’s Wrong with Cadillac

Dear Cadillac,

I am young(ish), trendy (somewhat), and a discerning consumer of automotive sheetmetal. According to you, I am precisely the audience you want to target. But you’re not doing it right. I’m in the market for a car this fall, but you are not on my shopping list. Would you like to know why?

This may confuse you, but your problem is not really your product. I think your cars are beautiful, especially the CTS and ATS. I loved the look of the ELR before anyone else did (actually, maybe no one does but me?) The V-series beasts and your race cars are just superb. You have come closer than any other American brand to achieving German-like performance. I truly would be quite happy to spend time in one of your vehicles.

I do have some constructive criticism, though. For one thing, your lineup is confused. Why do the XTS and CTS overlap in price? It makes no sense to have two vehicles at the same price point, at least not when you have a total of three sedans in your entire portfolio. The ATS, CTS and XTS should be distinct – in features, in price, in purpose, in message. Sorry to bring it up, but the Germans do this very well: BMW withs its 3-, 5- and 7-series, Audi with its A4, A6 and A8 (although, admittedly, Audi and especially Mercedes are starting to blur the lines). Each car has its reason for being (occasionally arguable) and its target audience. This is not just for the benefit of linear people like me; it makes good business sense. Why compete with yourself? Figure out your lineup.

Next, figure out your pricing.  See CTS/XTS overlap. Also, the CTS used to be affordable. Now it is not. So you give deep discounts. But that doesn’t make me feel very confident as a potential Cadillac owner. I don’t want to drive something that needs to be deeply discounted to sell. And not just for image reasons. That also raises questions about quality and value, especially residual value. Pick a pricing strategy that makes sense, and stick with it.

I know you are working on both your lineup and your pricing, and I really do have confidence that you will get those things sorted. That’s not what’s wrong with you. Here’s your real problem.

You, Cadillac, are having an identity crisis.

It’s obvious you don’t want to be the old-people car of yore. Can’t blame you for that. It seemed for awhile like you wanted to be the American choice for the car enthusiast. I LOVE that! Great idea! The problem with that was, at the time you didn’t have the product to back it up. You were working on it, but you weren’t there.

Now you’re there, but you’ve abandoned us enthusiasts for anemic hipsters. WHAT.

You have a great product, and I think it’s only going to get better. Why don’t you ADVERTISE that?? I look at your marketing these days, and the cars are barely there. Now it’s about lifestyle and fashion and, good grief, SoHo. SOHO? WHO ARE YOU?

Here is an excellent example of your problem: airlifting a vehicle over Manhattan. WHY. WHAT IS THE POINT. Your Chief Marketing Officer Uwe Ellinghaus says it is to get the attention of fashionistas, because that’s what the young people care about these days. Oh. Is that your demographic now? Fashionable Manhattan twenty-somethings? Are you sure? I think not. I think those kids are a) not buying cars and b) if they are, they’re buying German. They’re not going to buy you. I would buy you. Why don’t you try reaching out to the young professionals who, for business or lifestyle reasons, need something bigger or more practical than a sports car, but who also care about performance and quality and about sending a message of, hmm, maybe aggressive discernment? (I totally made that up. Still, I think it works.)

Stop doing things like moving to SoHo. Honestly, I don’t really care where your HQ is located. But I do care about your reasons for it. You moved to NYC to be hip because now you think that’s your audience. See above – wrong. You airlift a vehicle over Manhattan (did it ever occur to you that foreign objects in the sky might not create happy associations for New Yorkers??), but people are rolling their eyes at you. We don’t care about stunts. We care about great cars. Cars that get us where we need to go and that are reasonably comfortable and unreasonably fun while doing it. Hey, we may also have a weakness for good ol’ Americana, and flashing your badge gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling…at 90 mph.

We’re here, and we’re giving you plenty to work with. But you are not here. You’re off in SoHo wearing skinny jeans, drinking lattes, and trying to avoid being what you are: a CAR COMPANY. One with a rich legacy, a successful racing outfit, and a pretty great design language. Tell us about all that. Show us how you, and your lovely new vehicles, contain all of those things. I think you will be surprised at how many of us are receptive to those attributes.

Now get going. We don’t have much in common right now. Maybe in 3 to 5 years, when I’m ready for my next car, the two of us will have something to talk about.

Until then,