Is Jerry Flint Dreaming About Cadillac?
Jerry Flint is the automotive columnist for Forbes magazine, and he has a new column out today. You can read it at the Forbes website in here.
As car business guys go, he’s about the best there is.
So, it’s worth noting when he completely blows it.
In that column, he essentially validates the marketing strategy of Cadillac, joining the crowd of repetitive cheerleaders for the misguided Cadillac management. Of which he was one the last time.
You’d think he’d remember.
Flint endorses the new Cadillac CTS. It is, he says, a “winner.” He says he expects it to drive up sales by “at least 60,000 units.” Motor Trend, he says, “gushes” over it.
Jerry – Motor Trend “gushes” over anything that has tires and doesn’t have cutting blades.
Moreover, sir, that’s basically the same thing you said when Cadillac introduced the original CTS, a car that sold 60,000 units in its best year, which isn’t a recent year.
To put that in perspective, Chevy sells about 32,000 Corvettes every year and BMW worldwide sold about 240,000 cars IN JULY.
So, even if Cadillac manages to increase CTS sales by 60,000 units, which would put them somewhere around 100,000 a year, it won’t be a sterling success.
More to the point, though, Flint says that the future of Cadillac hinges on the new rear-wheel drive replacement for the current DTS/deVille. He says the DTS is a fine car, but “its core customers, a generation of older buyers, do not represent a growth market.”
That just ain’t true.
I’m one of them.
I’m neither brain dead or stumbling into my grave.
I’ve owned as many Corvettes as Cadillacs.
And I drive a DTS every day.
But I don’t count any more. I bought the car because it was a hell of a deal, big, fast, handled better than anything its size had a right to do, and could accommodate Tom McCahill’s ghost in the trunk, with room to spare.
That’s why I bought the first one to. The one I drive today is my fourth. It has over 150,000 miles on it.
I probably ought to replace the radiator hoses one of these days.
Presumably, the CTS is – again – aimed at that younger crowd of buyers who are a “growth market.”
I guess I’m not part of that.
I don’t have an iPhone, so I really don’t care that Audi will now interface it with the on-board navigation. I’m also not stupid. Garmin gives you better nav, you can move it from one car to another, and it doesn’t cost anything near what the built-in systems cost.
Maybe, I’m really not that dumb.
But I am for Flint:
In conclusion, he says: “It is not too late for Cadillac. Now all it has to do is maintain some traction until it has its new vehicles ready for the U.S. market.”
Was that an echo?
Was that not virtually word for word what Flint wrote in that same column a year before the first CTS was introduced. (Hint: yes, I looked it up.)
Flint is an articulate and knowledgeable columnist.
But his inability to come to terms with reality is distressing.
Flint’s column goes through a litany of Cadillac failures. The SRX which “has been a weak seller.” The XLR – which sold 1,165 cars in the last seven months. The Escalade: “It is reasonable to believe the market will shift away from such fuel thirsty trucks.”
So, Jerry - explain what “new vehicles” for the U.S. market it is that will be the Cadillac salvation.
The DTS successor: 2010 or 2011. The Escalade just got redone. There is a rumor that the SRX will downsize, but that’s not on the close horizon either.
So what’s going to carry Cadillac through?
Flint includes in his column a chart comparing Cadillac sales to those of Lexus for every year since 2001. There is not a single year in which Cadillac has outsold Lexus, or really even come close. Last year, Lexus outsold Cadillac by almost 100,000 vehicles: 322,434 to 227,014.
Flint is just dead wrong.
The CTS will not sell to the buyer of a Mercedes or BMW. Those people don’t want a Cadillac. They have enough trouble considering an Audi.
To compete with those brands, you do not let them define your market. You do not try to create a car that is almost like one of theirs, only different.
You go to your core strengths.
Flint called the DTS/deVille buyer the core of Cadillac buyers.
Of course it is. Has been since World War II.
And there is nothing wrong with those people.
I’m one of them.
I don’t want a Mercedes.
I want a Cadillac.
Mr. Flint says that it’s important for Cadillac to build a car that’s equivalent to the E Class: “stylish, powerful, roomy, and smooth riding.”
They used to call that a deVille, and they sold every one they could build.
I doubt that Cadillac can build a better Mercedes.
But Flint is exactly as wrong as Bob Lutz and Cadillac management when he says that’s what they should do.
What they should do is build the best deVille they can conjur.
It was Cadillac, after all, that introduced the high-compression V-8.
And there is only one E Class model that can take me at a stoplight in my DTS.
And that’s the one that is in the bottom ten in resale value.