Fixing the Cadillac Europe Debacle.
GM's plans to make Cadillac a "global luxury brand" had fallen apart before the economy had fallen apart. Sales projections of thousands of sales a year never met goals. In Britain, 14 of the original 19 Cadillac dealers have shut their doors. The Cadillac product portfolio has never been a good fit for Europe with no small cars, no wagons, no coupes, no diesels, no turbos and large displacement engines which subject Cadillac to significant tax penalty.
Furthermore, GM's attempts to quickly remedy its inadequate product portfolio by rebadging the 9-3 hurt both Cadillac and SAAB. Cadillac's "image" as a RWD sport luxury brand is muddled by the BLS because the BLS is a FWD compact sedan that does many things competently but nothing excellently (just like the 9-3). The BLS does nothing but add another competitor to a segment where SAAB needs no additional competition. Furthermore, it drains development dollars away from the 9-3 (which desperately needs them) to design and engineer completely new sheet metal for the BLS.
There is almost zero awareness of the Cadillac brand in Europe and those who are aware of the brand are indifferent to it at best. Sales figures bare this out. Establishing a brand in a market as static as western Europe demands perfect product launches of class leading cars that are tailored to fit the market they are launched in. All of this would seem like a duh, unless of course you're General Motors and you're trying to launch Cadillac. There is nothing that Cadillac offers in Europe that Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Jaguar don't do better.
Because of a lack of appropriate powertrains (diesels, turbos), lacking product portfolio (small car, compact car, large car) - Cadillac will never become a volume luxury brand in Europe. Efforts to turn it into such by rebadging SAAB's will only hurt Cadillac and GM's viable European luxury brand - SAAB.
There is an easy way to negate these disadvantages - turn Cadillac into a hyper performance brand in Europe.
- This ends any overlap with SAAB's product. Furthermore, Cadillac should consider selling the V-Cars through SAAB and establishing Cadillac as the ultimate SAAB performance sub-brand. This would reduce overhead by using already established distribution network and could help strengthen SAAB's sporting image.
- When competing against AMG, M and RS cars, Cadillac won't run into the powertrain portfolio challenges it faces in the non-performance spec models and variants.
- The Cadillac CTS-V can spank the M5 around the 'Ring', something no one else has been able to do - Provides Cadillac an instant identity and the brand cache.
- Forthcoming V-variant of Coupe would provide Cadillac with the ultimate M6 killer.
- Enhances Cadillac's image as a sport luxury maker in the States by ensuring continuing slate of American and European comparisons between the M's and V's.
- Considering how low Cadillac's sales are in Europe, there wouldn't be much of a volume penalty either.
- The dollar's weakness could allow for Cadillac to export the CTS-V to Europe without the significant losses it would have incurred otherwise. Hell, GM might even turn a profit on this exercise.
- The eventual release of the ATS will allow Cadillac to field -V sedan, wagon and coupe variants to compete against the M3, C Klasse AMG, and RS4.
This would establish Cadillac as a serious performance sedan manufacturer in Europe and would allow Cadillac to reintroduce different variants as its powertrain and product portfolios more closely align with the demands on Europe.
- The introduction of engines such as the 2.4L DI Ecotech, 3.0L DI V6, 2.9L Turbo diesel would finally give the CTS the powertrains it needs to be taken seriously on non-performance models.
- The eventual introduction of ATS would provide Cadillac with a compact sports line to compete against the C-Klasse, 3 Series and A4.
- Cadillac should also consider investing in a SWB Alpha car to develop a competitor for the A3, 1 Series and B-Klasse.
- Cadillac should also consider powertrain combination that would be European exclusives such as using the 2.0L DI Turbocharged engine found in the Kappa roadsters.
I'm about as familiar with GM Europe as a certain Senator from Alabama is with reality so I welcome any input from our GM Europe crew (Bravada? Where are you?) and their thoughts.
I quickly wrote this on the Eurostar this morning so please excuse the occasional grammatical issue.