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Automotive News

October 6, 2014

Article:

COMMENTARY
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News


First, let's be perfectly clear. Cadillac is an American icon. It is not a German car. It doesn't matter who's running Cadillac or what his background is. Cadillac belongs in Detroit.

If the management of Cadillac wants a little breathing room from General Motors management, a friend of mine made a good suggestion: Build a new headquarters building on the site of Cadillac's Hamtramck plant. Cadillac used to be headquartered inside the assembly plant on Clark Street in Detroit.

The idea of moving sales and marketing staff to New York can only mean that someone wants to live in New York. There is no rational reason to put them outside Detroit, in New York or anywhere else. It would only separate them further from all the important decisions that will be made in Detroit about Cadillac. They all need to participate in design, engineering and manufacturing decisions. It would be another distraction they don't need.

Changing the naming of Cadillac models to an alphanumeric BMW or Mercedes system is equally wrong. What ever happened to names like Fleetwood, DeVille and Eldorado?

It is most disappointing that the new head of Cadillac had this decision thrust on him without any chance to evaluate the situation or get some wise advice from outside the company -- from his dealers, for example. It would appear that he had no choice in the matter.

The success of Cadillac is going to be product -- pure and simple. Create great products for the dealers and customers, and GM will see a resurgence of the brand. It would seem foolhardy to put the marketing folks as far away as New York so they can be completely ignored on all product decisions.

The head of Cadillac should take some time, take a deep breath and put the decision on hold for a few months until he gets enough advice, from both outside and inside, to make a rational decision.

Perhaps he should talk to some Ford executives who moved Lincoln staff out to California in the 1990s. They even moved the design team. It didn't work, and they took quite a while to recover from that bad decision when they returned to Dearborn a few years later.

To go ahead with this decision will be nothing short of catastrophic for Cadillac, its dealers and their customers.

To fragmentize decision making over several hundred miles makes no sense. To copy a numbering system that is obviously German in origin makes no sense.

My only advice to anyone planning to settle in New York City is be sure to rent, not buy. It's a bad idea.
 

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If the management of Cadillac wants a little breathing room from General Motors management, a friend of mine made a good suggestion: Build a new headquarters building on the site of Cadillac's Hamtramck plant. Cadillac used to be headquartered inside the assembly plant on Clark Street in Detroit.

My only advice to anyone planning to settle in New York City is be sure to rent, not buy. It's a bad idea.
The HQ location suggestion is a good one in my opinion. However the model names of Cadillac's past should remain there - and I am no fan of the proposed new numbering-name system.

The advise on NYC living arrangements is gold however - no one can afford to buy here any longer!
 

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I don't think deNysschen had any of these decisions "thrust on him..." - he clearly demanded full control before accepting the position and is now implementing his ideas about how to move Cadillac forward. We will find out how well suited these ideas are...I expect the product to be stellar, accepting volume reductions to support higher pricing is rational, the naming convention seems destined for forgettable mediocrity and the move to NYC is an obvious distraction tried before by others with little hope for moving the ball forward.
 

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Well, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac was not his real name, so let's get over the whole tight ass opinions of model naming and HQ traditions. The ATS, CTS, SRX wouldn't sell any better if it was named differently. Nor would it make any difference wether Cadillac has its HQ in Detroit or New York. Who gives a ....

They are making business decisions. Yes, I am also a fan of the old naming. But I am sure not going to turn down a great car, because it has letters and numbers instead of a real name or because the HQ is in New York.

So, from a business point of view a big mistake? Not really.

BTW, if I think LUXURY I sure don't think of Detroit at the moment.
 

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Well, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac was not his real name, so let's get over the whole tight ass opinions of model naming and HQ traditions. The ATS, CTS, SRX wouldn't sell any better if it was named differently. Nor would it make any difference wether Cadillac has its HQ in Detroit or New York. Who gives a ....

They are making business decisions. Yes, I am also a fan of the old naming. But I am sure not going to turn down a great car, because it has letters and numbers instead of a real name or because the HQ is in New York.

So, from a business point of view a big mistake? Not really.

BTW, if I think LUXURY I sure don't think of Detroit at the moment.
Umm, no
 

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I agree with this article 100%. Cadillac had the opportunity to establish an American-chic niche, but now they're simply emulating German competitors. You can't out-European the Europeans.
 

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I totally agree that Cadillac has to be American first. Stop trying to be European. There is no way it will ever be accepted like the German makes.
I don't think you understand what goes on behind the scene with people who has lots of money.....the ones that can afford the high priced cars. GM could make the best car in the world, but for those people because GM is headquartered in Detroit, they miff at it. They can not see themselves buying anything that has to do with Detroit. Some of my relatives are like that. Another example is with cellphone. These snobbish people who buy cellphones will buy an iPhone even if Samsung phone are just as good if not better. They don't even want you to call it a cellphone.....it's an iPhone. Oh! Excuse me! There's a lot of truth in what I'm saying.
 

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I totally agree that Cadillac has to be American first. Stop trying to be European. There is no way it will ever be accepted like the German makes.
Never is a long time. In GM's glory days, they were the best and they can do it again. It does not mean the Caddy can not keep it's American heritage. Folks, you are making a poor judgement of GM decision to move from Detroit to NY and compete head on with the Germans!
 

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Keith Crain is up in years and a Detroit homeboy so I can't fault him for his views. Cadillac can benefit from an inspirational, psychological cultural jolt, however, and Hamtramck certainly isn't it. With electronic communications being what it is today, there is nothing lost there. You can been seen with cameras on your computer, work on the same docs together on-line and there are a host of other ways (like Webinar and Go-To-Meeting) to make it feel you are in the same room with a person actually thousands of miles away.
Not a fan of the new naming convention but people will get use to it, just like they have with CTS.

The mistake Cadillac doesn't want to make is clinging to much to the past. The bigger steps they make to distance themselves from the last 40 years, the better.
 

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As someone who doesn't live in America my opinion doesn't mean much, but, I think Cadillac is crazy to go to this alphanumeric naming system. One of the beautiful things about Cadillac is its rich American history, not using its traditional names makes it feel like an anonymous brand. If a car company doesn't care about its past, why should I care about its future?
 

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Well, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac was not his real name, so let's get over the whole tight ass opinions of model naming and HQ traditions. The ATS, CTS, SRX wouldn't sell any better if it was named differently. Nor would it make any difference wether Cadillac has its HQ in Detroit or New York. Who gives a ....

They are making business decisions. Yes, I am also a fan of the old naming. But I am sure not going to turn down a great car, because it has letters and numbers instead of a real name or because the HQ is in New York.

So, from a business point of view a big mistake? Not really.

BTW, if I think LUXURY I sure don't think of Detroit at the moment.
who in the world buys a luxury car based on where the management and marketing teams has their office space? the idea that you can only create competent luxury cars by walking the streets of NYC is ludicrous. This is 2014. We have airplanes, we have the internet, we have video conferencing. This sort of justification for an office relocation would make more sense in 1960 than in 2014. Now its easy to transfer ideas and communicate across vast distances instantly. NYC isnt going to solve the problem. Im not so convinced that their trajectory would be any different if there was no move. The new guy has made it clear they are going to grow slowly and maintain the current pricing scheme. With newer products and more gaps filled they will sell more vehicles eventually. That is likely to happen regardless of where Cadillac is based. The ATS, CTS and Escalade were pretty well received and are very competitive products. Im not seeing how they were compromised by the fact that decision makers were in Detroit.
 

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OR, move the HQ out to Milford... you're still in and around GM (let's face it, a lot of HQ is out there already) but not "in Detroit", so you can trick a lot of those Detroit haters.
As far as moving to Hamtramck, NO! You face just as many issues, or MORE, moving there! Remember, there's a REASON the RennCen has its own police and fire departments, and its police dept is LARGER than many of the suburb's cities, even though they only police 3 blocks!!
Ultimately, GM needs to leave the RennCen and relocate to Milford. I know the only reasons they're staying is 1. Politics, 2. Money (see #1 and tax breaks, etc). It'll never happen though, not unless Detroit pulls all the incentives away.
 

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The HQ location suggestion is a good one in my opinion. However the model names of Cadillac's past should remain there - and I am no fan of the proposed new numbering-name system.

The advise on NYC living arrangements is gold however - no one can afford to buy here any longer!
When you think of world class and/or luxury cars, is NYC the place that jumps out at you?

When you think of world class and/or luxury cars, does a mumbo-jumbo assortment of letters and numbers come to your mind?
 

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This decision reeks of lack of understanding of the Brand, its Customer Base, and how to turn an otherwise negative situation into a tremendous opportunity.

If Cadillac wants to appear more "legit" they should have picked some up and coming neighborhoods in it's native Detroit. A city which is clearly undergoing some amazing transformations recently. I am sure there is a fashion scene there that would be a great place to house an automotive company. I've read some recent articles about the "Avenue of Fashion" in northern Detroit which was one of the most fashionable places to shop in the heyday of Detroit. Also, there's significant investment going on in New Center, the site GMs HQ for the majority of the 20th century. Cadillac could have easily moved its self back here as a "reaffirmation to what made Cadillac great in the 20th century." This new scheme to move to NY is a major missed opportunity. SMH
 

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The letter names are silly and meaningless. And incessantly trying to copy and beat BMW is obviously not working for either Cadillac or Lincoln. Just look at the Malibu for confirmation. It keeps trying to be a Camry and has failed to come even close in sales ever since.
 

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I can appreciate Crain's comments. In fact, part of me agrees with him wholeheartedly. On the other hand...If Cadillac wants to be the "Standard of the World" again, it needs some drastic changes. Is moving to New York a good idea? I don't know, I'm conflicted. But I get the sense that GM's corporate culture is still very insular and stifling, so maybe moving a thousand miles away has some merit. Who knows? Maybe one day, if Detroit ever becomes a revitalized and rebuilt city, Cadillac can find it's way back home.

As far as Cadillac's names go... Cadillac has it's heritage. And in large measure it a great heritage. No one will ever be able to expunge that. Once Cadillac gets it's naming order established, I can't help but imagine that names like Eldorado or Fleetwood, will find there way back in the line up again.
 
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Keith Crain is making some good points, but his conclusion that the result will be disaster is one giant overreaction.

As much as I hate the new naming convention and would love a return to real names, most people won't care one way or another. I've been critical of Cadillac's use of alphanumerics since the mid-00's when it became apparent that CTS/STS/DTS wasn't going anyway anytime soon.

The move to NYC, I think, seems to be a bit overblown both ways. I don't believe the move to New York will result in some design epiphany that will catapult Cadillac to the top of the luxury universe. At the same time, I also don't think there's a huge downside, either. At the very least, getting some executives and designers out of the status-quo zone that is Detroit could only be viewed as a positive. Perhaps some small amount of independent decision making will result.

All in all, the story above is one man's rant about something he doesn't like, vaguely supported by his own experience and nebulous sense that what's past is prologue.
 
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