Cadillac can’t sell cars in Europe
To put this in some perspective:
Chevrolet sells about 30,000 new Corvettes in the United States every year.
30,000 is also about the number of cars BMW sells in the United States every month.
So, when Cadillac is forced to drop its European sales targets, it’s news.
They just dropped their target to 10,000.
In all of Europe.
Down from 20,000, and with the hope of growing sales to 15,000.
But that’s just the target.
For the first five months of the year, they sold 1,314 Cadillacs in Europe, up 34 cars from the same period last year.
At that rate, they’ll sell less than 3,000 cars for the year, on the entire continent.
Bear in mind, also, that there is a Cadillac model in Europe, the BLS, derived from a Saab and sold only in Europe.
Why do they bother?
For some years now, Cadillac has defined its brand in terms of its European competition. It has positioned its automotive offerings against the largest selling models of BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Functionally, Cadillac has allowed its product strategy to be dictated by the premier German auto manufacturers.
It is true, of course, that Cadillac operates at significant disadvantages in Europe. It does not have a dealer network that begins to compare to those of European manufacturers, nor a comprehensive network for service and parts.
But what it really lacks is a reason for being there.
General Motors already has two strong European brands: Saab and Opel.
There has been no rational reason for GM to attempt to establish an American brand with a somewhat dubious history of quality in Europe, when concentrating its resources on brands which already have established European markets and established infrastructures would seem sure to create better returns on their investment.
In reality, the European sales effort for Cadillac has never been about selling the cars ‘over there.’ It has been about creating an aura for the brand here, one that would give it a sophisticated, worldly – dare we say – European image in the United States.
So we get an STS which is explicitly designed with dimensions dictated by European tax laws,
And it doesn’t sell – there, or here.
But for the Chinese market, GM designs a variant on the STS with a longer wheelbase and more leg room.
As though the average Chinese guy was bigger than the average Texan.
Maybe there’s an intelligent agenda in all of this. If so, it’s a bit hard to envision.
A few years back, General Motors ran a pathetic series of advertisements for Buick which invoked the ghost of Harley Earl. Only really old people would have recognized the name, unless you’re such an anal NASCAR fan that you know that the Daytona 500 trophy is named for him. As ads, they made no sense.
Harley Earl established the concept of automotive styling. For four decades, he ran styling at General Motors. In a very real sense, he made General Motors what it was, at its peak.
Were Harley Earl alive today, he would have no difficulty understanding what’s wrong at GM.
It no longer knows what is a Cadillac.