NAIAS 2017: Cadillac Gears Up Brand for Next Product Blitz

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Cadillac NAIAS 2017

Cadillac isn’t making big products announcement at the 2017 North American International Auto Show as Ford is, with its new F-150, or General Motors sibling brand Chevrolet, with a bigger new version of its Traverse SUV.

GM’s luxury marque made huge product splashes last year not only with an all-new CT6 flagship sedan but also with a revised version of its SRX crossover that it calls XT5 under the brand’s new product nomenclature. It’s also advertising its huge Escalade SUV more than in recent years.

And even as customers clamor for short supplies of those vehicles and as overall momentum in the luxury-car market eases, Cadillac US sales increased by more than 3 percent last year. And its sales in the crucial China market continue to improve robustly.

But for Cadillac CMO Uwe Ellinghaus, work never stops on what he has called “a 10-year journey” of turning around the Cadillac brand. The plan began in earnest in 2015 with the brand’s move from Detroit to Manhattan, continued with the introduction of a new tagline “Dare Greatly” and a huge presence in the Oscars telecast. Now it is expected to progress much further in preparation for a coming Cadillac product offensive that will begin with a minor “refresh” of the existing XTS sedan this year and intensify with the introduction of a new Cadillac crossover vehicle in 2018.

“We need to prepare dealers, brand people and customers for the next phase,” Ellinghaus told brandchannel. “There’s the opportunity for a broad degree of freedom for a CMO not to have to launch a new car but to stimulate demand regardless. We will tell our brand stories anyway, and we’ll be able to focus more on our web presence and our customer experience at dealers.”

Among other things, Ellinghaus said, Cadillac is working with US dealers on an experimental approach to physical facilities upgrades that will make showrooms more resemble “airport lounges” than typical car dealerships.

The brand is also rolling out, first only in New York, its BOOK by Cadillac subscription service for vehicle ride-sharing, giving participants complete flexibility in driving a range of Cadillac vehicles on demand for $1,500 a month.

But also, recognizing that customers are making fewer stops into physical dealerships, Cadillac is working hard on improving the customer experience in other ways such as cutting the time it takes to apply for and receive financing and insurance information.

As GM’s high-end brand, Cadillac is expected to take a leadership role in deploying the company’s new automated-driving technologies, as it has historically. In that regard, Ellinghaus is looking forward to introduction sometime this year of Cadillac’s proprietary Super Cruise system, which will allow hands-off operation of the vehicle on highways.

“That’s just the starting point” for Cadillac’s move toward autonomous driving, he told brandchannel. “Yet we’re still skeptical that the majority of our current customers will want to give up on driving our great products entirely.”

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