By on November 1, 2010

Given that European luxury brands have generally had their way with Detroit-based competitors in the US market, it should come as no surprise that Cadillac has failed to make any appreciable headway in the European market. The brand has been launched and re-launched in Europe four times in the last twelve years, according to Autocar, and its latest relaunch was supposed to boost sales to 20,000 per year by 2010. Despite that ambitious goal, Cadillac has fallen flat with European buyers, having moved about 1,300 units this year. As a result, the latest re-launch of Cadillac has been accompanied by dramatically scaled-back expectations: 2,500 units per year within the next “several” years (Cadillac expects the new ATS to make up about 1,500 units of this volume). Only limited numbers of CTS sedans and wagons will be converted to right-hand drive for the UK, and diesel engines for the CTS range are on hold. But even with a more modest approach to Europe, Cadillac is widely expected to keep struggling in Europe. After all, Lexus spent some $2.8b attacking the European luxury market, but sales which peaked at 60k in 2007 have retreated to a mere 30k units. As Cadillac gets stuck into its fourth re-launch, analyst Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer is not optimistic

The brand Cadillac has no fascination for Europeans and no customer base. Why should I go from Audi, BMW, Volvo or Mercedes to Cadillac? Lexus has shown us how much investment is needed to do that… My forecast is, they (Cadillac) will not be in the market in Europe by 2020. Some people might buy one in the U.S. and export it to Europe. That’s it
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23 Comments on “Cadillac Reboots European Ambitions… Again....”

  • avatar

    I think that — assuming GM’s upward (mostly, sorta) trajectory continues — the company might at some point muster the will and the funds for an all-out Lexus-like effort to establish Cadillac in Europe. But knowing what we know about their product plan, it won’t make any sense to even think about such an effort for several years yet. And yeah, they need diesels before they can hope to be taken seriously there. Meanwhile, China beckons.

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      Well, Lexus with their all-out effort managed to sell 125 cars in Germany in September. One hundred and twenty five. And they do have two diesels for the IS.

  • avatar

    So Cadillac builds nothing but crap for thirty years, works really, really, really hard to build the “fastest performance sedan in the world” and suddenly they are  king of the autobahn?  They have zero brand equity in this arena and sell as a US novelty at best.

    • 0 avatar


      The “New Standard of the World” tagline is ridiculously optomistic, it’s insulting to our intelligence. Cadillac hasn’t been remotely close to a “Standard” of anything for 3 decades when they were the “Standard” in gaudiness, excess and over the top pimp mobiles back in the 70’s. Now they call themselves “King” as if we all have forgetten the MANY missteps and disasters that have all but destroyed whatever shred of respect Caddy had left since then.

      Same with Buick “New class of World class”. Yeah, maybe that class is the Yoga class or Clogging class at the retirment homes. Otherwise. No.

      As far as Europe goes, the last attempt was nothing more than a rebadged SAAB with a Wreath and Crest on it and it tanked. Who seriously believes after 4 attempts, the Europeans are ready to take this joke seriously again? Who cars if the V is a monster on the Ring. It’s got the poise and refinement of a tractor, is obnoxiously loud and has been beaten with an ugly stick.


  • avatar
    John Horner

    Cadillac has nothing really special to offer the European market that isn’t being done as well, or better, by the home teams. Cadillac will fail in Europe for the same reasons that Nissan and Toyota have failed in the US full sized pickup truck market.

  • avatar

    It’s not enough to have competitive iron.  The people who buy luxury cars are primarily buying snob appeal (whether they admit this or not).  Cadillac has limited snob appeal in both Europe and the US.  The “player” who shows up to work in a new BMW/Mercedes/Audi-anything makes no apologies.  The Cadillac CTS driver, meanwhile, must make endless rationalizations for his choice.  The Escalade is exempt from this because it is big and ridiculous, perfectly aligned with the honed perception of Cadillacs for the last 100 years.  Cadillac will never escape the shadow of a time gone by.

  • avatar

    Agree with the about comments – I have travelled to Europe for business a lot over the last 15 years.  When you see a Cadilliac its almost like you want to ask them “What happened, did you get a great deal on the Cadillac, is that why you bought one?”

    My buddy is an All American guy – he buys American cars.  He has a Suburban, a Pontiac.  He was looking for a good road car for his sales career, travelling in WA and OR.  He looked at several cars, incuding Cadillac.  He choose a used 2008 BMW 528 in great condition.  He said he couldn’t afford the long term costs of owning the Caddy as compared to the BMW – quite telling but true.  I did the same thing also.

  • avatar

    I can’t imagine a Cadillac trying to displace BMW, Mercedes, etc., in Europe—those cars are actually well built with enduring quality.  The Cadillac has that classic ‘looks good from a block away,’ quality.  Light weight everywhere, cheap plastic interior, and other than the sheet metal design, nothing to recommend it as a power, high quality car.  It looks welded together from slabs of thin steel, and sure, might go around the track for a  few thousand miles, but then, everything will degrade.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Cadillac essentially is a ONE CAR BRAND, the CTS. The CTS is a good, but not great, car. Cadillac needs a large RWD sedan competitor. Everyone knows this except GM.
    Once again, clueless.

  • avatar

    And of course we have the definition of repetition and insanity that is so popular right now. This is clearly someone’s ego issue, not a logical choice by GM.

    Even if Cadillac was equal to the krauts, which it isn’t by a long shot, they’d still have a hell of a time selling them in Europe due to hurricane-strength headwinds of nationalism/provicialism.

  • avatar

    They’d be better off concentrating on making Cadillac a success in China. Although it’s my understanding that the Chinese don’t like the Cadillac design language with all the angles and creases, rather they prefer the softer, rounded shapes that Buick uses.

    • 0 avatar

      +1.  Europe’s a tough nut to crack, while China is in expansion mode.  With their unique styling, one would think Caddy would have a shot at establishing a presence their.

  • avatar

    From a European perspective, Cadillac is a novelty car maker. Old people still remember the classic tall sedans, but the cars made after ’55 are more looked upon as baroque examples of a car industry gone mad. And it gets a lot worse up until the 70’s, when (as we see it) they stopped making them. As easy as that. Some nice restored 50’s and 60’s cars are still respected as an artwork and driven on sunny summer weekends, and some younger people have started appreciating the late 60’s and 70’s cars, but only on 19″ (or bigger) wheels, preferably with airbag suspension. Other than that , they are only bought by people who only buy american cars. And they usually have more than one car. (like an old Caprice or a modern Voyager (most are built in Europe though…) I don’t think the cars Cadillac was once respected for  and that Europeans once liked (a cheaper more flashy,Rolls Royce type of car),are in the planned future of GM in any way, but I can garantee you, no-one will consider a Cadillac as an alternative to a Mercedes or BMW. Ever.

  • avatar

    Maybe their thinking is kind of like the mentality of the military service academies scheduling games against the powerhouse football schools:  “You guys are supposed to be good, but no one will believe it until you beat the champ. In the meantime you can learn something by trying.”
    Once in a while the Air Force Academy beats Notre Dame (actually four years in a row), and maybe it’ll happen again.
    My European friends love the old Caddies with their Mae West bumpers and spaceship fins, and not in an entirely ironic way; they recognize and value the fun of driving big Yank tank down a wide-open road. But they buy Mercedes.

  • avatar

    I think that Cadillac, like any other american manufacturer should make more ‘American’ cars, if they are ever going to sell well in Europe (and maybe even back home in the US) GM will never understand how proper cars are made , so there’s no point in trying to compete on the same level as Mercedes and BMW. The last Cadillacs that were popular over here (still didn’t sell to good though) were a cheaper more flashy alternative to Rolls Royce, and roomy and bulletproof, but I think most people who remember those cars are dead, or soon will be…

  • avatar

    “It’s got the poise and refinement of a tractor, is obnoxiously loud and has been beaten with an ugly stick.’
    “Yeah, maybe that class is the Yoga class or Clogging class at the retirment homes.”
     “The “New Standard of the World” tagline is ridiculously optomistic, it’s insulting to our intelligence.”

    And exactly what “intelligence” is that?

  • avatar

    “but I can garantee you, no-one will consider a Cadillac as an alternative to a Mercedes or BMW. Ever.”But of course! Perish the thought! The hallowed problem free Mercedes and BMW are above all others. LOL

    • 0 avatar

      I just don’t think they fight on the same grounds. Most Mercedes and BMW buyers actually buy quite cheap models. Imagine a Cadillac with the best suspension and best build quality GM can (or honestly can’t) offer, but with cloth seats , decent materials in the interior, little extra equipment ,and a 2 litre 140hp engine and a manual transmission, and you will have a good contender for the volume part of the BMW/Mercedes marked.
      I think Cadillac should go their own way and make something that does not compete directly against the germans, but rather create or, re-create it’s own niche. Most german cars aren’t problem free at all, but they have a high level of ‘perceived’ quality. When you sit down in them and touch the interior panels, they feel like they will last, unlike most american cars since, well, the mid 50’s?

  • avatar

    “The brand has been launched and re-launched in Europe four times in the last twelve years, according to Autocar, and its latest relaunch was supposed to boost sales to 20,000 per year by 2010.”

    I believe the real decline of Cadillac set in when it started chasing volume.  No luxury car manufacturer can afford to do something that a ground-level value brand like Chevy can do with no sweat.

    Cadillac should just do the following and be better off for it:

    – Pull out of Europe and become an America-only commodity.  If someone from Europe or China wants one, they’ll just have to import one.
    – Cut back on the volume.  If GM wants a high-volume luxury car maker, they have Buick.  The relative scarcity of the Caddy will go a long way towards building it’s exclusiveness.
    – Up the quality.  It’ll go a long way towards building it’s exclusiveness.
    – Build a RWD flagship, for crying out loud.
    – Give a one-finger salute to the CAFE regs, as Porsche and others have done.  With Cadillac’s new low volume, they’ll be able to afford the fines.

  • avatar

    “The only thing you can do is try, try and try again with Cadillac in Europe” GM CEO Dan Akerson said on the 2011 Geneva Auto Show. GM spent multi-millions in positioning Cadillac (does anybody have any idea how much?) as an alternative to the German premium brands. What if it had spent the money on Saab instead?

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