By on November 30, 2010

The designer of Cadillac’s recent ULC city car concept seems to think so. Niki Smart tells Autocar

The time is ripe for Cadillac to make this car. We need a bigger spread of models, particularly for Europe. The Mini’s success is proof of people’s open-mindedness.

Whether or not Cadillac needs a subcompact car in its lineup, Smart’s point that the MINI is proof of consumers’ “open-mindedness” is worth examining. Specifically because MINI was launched as a unique brand, its success is more of a testament to the brand’s slick marketing than any consumer “open-mindedness.” After all, BMW made certain to launch the MINI as a MINI before bringing out a BMW version of its front-drive chassis… and when it does bring out a BMW-branded version, it can probably expect a certain amount of pushback from hard-core fans of the brand.

And that strategy comes from a brand that has no lack of brand equity, especially in the European market where a city car would be sold. Cadillac, on the other hand, has enjoyed little of BMW’s marketing mojo, especially in the European market (and American consumers have their own share of Cadillac=big prejudices). Cadillac should probably take Smart’s enthusiasm for his own concept with a grain of salt before discussing any future production plans.

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43 Comments on “Does Cadillac Need A MINI-Fighter?...”


  • avatar
    Contrarian

    The Mini had a rich and nostalgic history to help it get [re]launched.

    A miro-Caddy? Not.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Caddy launched the Catera as the Caddy that Zigs, and they broadened their market base, culminating in the current LSA-powered CTS-V.

      I see no obvious reason why, after Aston regrilled the Toyota iQ as a Cygnet, Caddy can’t do a better job with a ground-up MINI-fighting hatch like this.

      It’s a sexy little thing, and I like it. Caddy should sell it, because they can.

    • 0 avatar

      The Caddy that Zigged was a stopgap for the current CTS, BTW.  Cadillac should put it’s focus on building a proper RWD flagship sedan before attempting something like this.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    No.  Mini poses no threat to Cadillac.  And it’s only a Mini-fighter if it’s priced accordingly, in which case it becomes a Chevy.

  • avatar
    That guy

    I say no.  There is very little evidence that Americans will buy a luxury subcompact.  I could see a business case for these cars in Europe, but Cadillacs have never been successful there.  Cadillac needs to focus on getting the ATS and a proper flagship out the door.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      There is nothing about Caddy which says it cannot do *both*. Or more.

      Caddy could have a Cien-like mid-engine sports car, a V12-powered ubersedan, *and* a MINI-killing city car.

      Caddy should adapt or they will die.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla-

      Caddy should adapt or they will die.

      If the world can no longer support a traditional Cadillac lineup, then they should die.
       
      It’s better to burn out than to fade away.
       

  • avatar
    ash78

    No two brands could be further apart, IMO. None.
     
    Even Bentley or Aston could try to get away with this a little more easily (the latter is trying), given that they at least have the excuse of being home-market European marques who might be able to sell small cars there.
     
    Caddy, as one of the few quintessential American brands, has no business in this segment.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    If GM makes a small car with Cadillac styling cues so as to maintain consistent brand themes, they might end up with a goofy tiny toddler-with-big-head caricature like the concept car in the photo.

  • avatar
    M 1

    GM is falling into the same old trap that has plagued them in the past — letting others define their market segments. “BMW has what? Well, we have to have one, too!” There isn’t a Cadillac driver in the world who pines for a Mini, and it seems unlikely that the kind of person who buys a Mini would have any interest in a Caddy.
     
    Ultimately, I bet it’s another hopeful strategy to cope with CAFE nonsense.
     

  • avatar
    forraymond

    I would happily drive this car.  It has an upscale look and probably a quiet ride.  The size would be prefect for MANY Americans who currently drive SUV’s and CUV’s.  Most of those run empty 90% of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      What makes you think that people will all of a sudden decide that an upscale subcompact will replace their CUVs or SUVs?  While true that most are empty a majority of the time, a subcompact will fail to do what they need to do those 5 or 10 times a month, gas savings will be unnoticed* (or they will drive more because it is cheap), and they’ll realize that they preferred the bigger vehicle that didn’t require them to borrow a vehicle for a simple shopping trip with the kids.

      My wife drives a MINI.  She does like that it is small and agile but the MINI “brand” has as much to do with why she likes the car as anything else.  She loves the look of the car, the ridiculous interior, and the way the car is so different than anything else out there.  If MINI didn’t exist, she would not consider a Caddy subcompact at all.  She’d move up to a larger hatch of some sort (GTI, Prius, 328i sport wagon are all cars she likes).  She doesn’t like the Art and Science design language on the bigger Cad models… why would she like it on a tin can version?  Caddy won’t take MINI-intenders because they are Caddy.

      * CUVs today, particularly smaller ones, are returning high 20s in MPG.  Math doesn’t favor going from a 27mpg CRV to a 35mpg Caddy subcompact.

  • avatar
    dwford

    No automaker WANTS to produce these tiny luxury cars – only absurd gov’t regulations force the issue. In an era where even subcompacts have heated leather, how do you make a luxury branded version?

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Cadillac does not need a mini-fighter.

    Cadillac is suggesting it needs a cheaper car it can sell to poorer people (i.e. “us”) mired in a depression that may run for Japan-style decades. In this projection, at least, GM is being realistic. And note the simple sheetmetal…

    Competition will come from other premium brands putting out their own downmarket autos.

  • avatar

    A Caddy is a big luxurious car. That thing looks like an AMC Gremlin and a Smart went for a roll in the hay.
    Hey, why don’t they just put some nice leather seats in a Cruze and put Cadillac badges on it?

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    This is the first Cadillac I would consider buying. It looks great.
     
    Mercedes makes everything from Smart cars and 3rd world taxis to large trucks and buses. Why can’t Cadillac? If this is successful GM could simplify their lineup and eventually discontinue the Chevy brand:-)

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      You’ve proven the point I made above. You’re not a Cadillac customer, and there isn’t any good reason they should waste time and money trying to attract you — GM has plenty of other downmarket options. The rest of us who like Cadillac (ok, I actually only like them through about 1953, and then again for the CTS-V) certainly aren’t out there clamoring for a BMW Mini with a 120-inch wheelbase and an interior capable of accomodating adult-sized humans.
       
      GM’s on-going error is to totally ignore the whole reason they have multiple brands in the first place.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Caddy needs a world class BIGGER car, not a smaller one. The profit margins on all those Long wheelbase S’, 7s, A8s and LS’ has got to be ten times what Caddy could reasonably hope for on a Mini fighter. And people want their Caddies big. I mean, something has gone off the tracks when Hyundai (and Porsche) build S class fighters, while Caddy builds wannabe Minis!
     
    The CTS-V wagon will almost certainly be cool, though; but a half price Ghost competitor with a big, loping pushrod 8 and plushness cranked to 11 would in many ways be even cooler.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    I love gull-wing doors. :D

  • avatar
    340-4

    No.
     
    GM needs a Mini fighter? More like a Fiat 500 fighter.
     
    Buick Skylark? Chevrolet Corvair (yes, Corvair – it’s not too soon, let’s get over it)?
     
    Sure.
     
    But not a Cadillac.

    • 0 avatar
      65corvair

      I’ll go for the Corvair!  I think it’s time to quit using old names and just make great cars.  Caddy really needs a BMW 3 series fighter.  That’s all the smaller they should go.

  • avatar
    tced2

    No, Cadillac should not be in this range.  They need an elite (large) sedan with top features, comfort, and quality.
    The Mini is a “Mini” not a “BMW Mini”. – even though BMW owns Mini.  BMW was smart enough to not get their name involved in the mini-auto business.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    While I personally like the concept, I don’t think it going to happen.  Until the Countryman, Mini had one factory supplying cars to entire world, including the US market.  US demand for a premium subby isn’t enough to sustain a factory, and I doubt Caddy has the distribution channels to move this world-wide. If they base it on an existing platform they risk a Cimarron fiasco.  Then there’s the dilute-the-brand issue, which is why Minis aren’t called BMWs.
     
     

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    GM if they make this should probably market this as a Buick if anything. Buick has done the smaller car thing before with a degree of success (I think). If they go Buick and it fails here they can probably get a ton of Chinese sales since their market is growing so much and Buick is big in China and not everybody in China would need a large car since they’re only allowed to have one child anyway. This would probably be built there anyway or it would be a Daewoo in all but name.

    Is this a completely dumb idea?

    EDIT: I know Daewoo is Korean, but I think you get the point.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      What, the Reatta? I can’t think of another small Buick, and the Reatta probably wasn’t any more or less successful than, say, Caddy’s own XLR. If GM really feels this is necessary they could just stick the Chevrolet name on it. Chevy has done the small car thing to an enormously greater degree. Or Saturn, since people will accept seriously downmarket crap with the Saturn name on it.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I don’t have any sales numbers to back this up, perhaps Herr Niedermeyer could help out, but the Skyhawk and the 2 door Regal along with maybe the Skylark. I’m also not that old and so don’t have a living memory of how popular some of these cars were and maybe the sizes are lost on me. I’m sure some of this is coming straight out of thin air, but my point is that if they sell this as a Buick and it flops it wouldn’t be that difficult to sell this to the up-and-coming Chinese who want to break into the market. I don’t mean really tiny, but something less than midsize.

      I have a personal bias against the Skyhawk, but I have reasons other than the success (or lack thereof) of the car itself.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    In the US, No.
    In the rest of the world (including Canada), maybe.

    Mercedes-Benz A-Class
    Mini (BMW)
    Audi A1
    Alfa Romeo MiTo

    I bet Lexus is even thinking about something smaller than the upcoming CT.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    As one of the few of the so-called B&B who actually owns a large Cadillac, I feel the need to comment. Would I buy this car? Possibly. Here’s my reasoning: Gas is going to get more expensive. That’s a fact. I drive about 300 miles each week so the price of gas is a consideration. My wife and I really like the Mini. Attributing its success to marketing is, in my opinion, cynical. Car purchases tend to be emotional. The Mini has style in ways that no Honda or Toyota (or even Lexus) product has managed in a long time. The biggest issues I have with the Mini are the creature comforts. I’ve gotten very attached to the heated/cooled seats, heated steering wheel and other high-end features in my STS. If a small Cadillac can be made with style, good driving dynamics and these features, I would very seriously consider it. If gas were to stay the same, this would not be the case, but I believe that those who ignore fuel mileage are being very foolish. Curiously, the new Lincoln hybrid would be a good alternative were it not so bland.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    Yes, I think Cadillac does need a mini-fighter.  American manufacturers have surrendered the premium small-car market to European and Japanese manufacturers, which is one reason why I hadn’t considered American nameplates worth reading about until recently.  I like small cars, and I’m neither poor nor a teenager, so Ford / GM / Chrysler had nothing that was even close to what I was looking for.
     
    I presume that the reason American makers did this to make it easier to upsell buyers into bigger / more expensive / more profitable cars.  But, now that the world is changing, I’m starting to see some signs of hope — the new Focus, Cruze, and Fiat 500 all look interesting, though I’m holding out for something that doesn’t require gasoline.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Stupid, ridiculous, arbitrary fuel economy rules get you garbage like this.
     
    I think it is as simple as that.  Thank the government.  As usual…

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      What, are you trying to force me to carry an extra ton of metal that I don’t need around town and go to the extra effort required to park a large vehicle every day?
       
      Just because you like big cars doesn’t mean everybody does.   Unfortunately, I can’t scale down any smaller than a 4-door compact at the moment, since we have to have seats for everyone in the family — and I can’t justify an extra tiny car because I walk/bike/bus to work.  But I’d love to be able to drive around in a snazzy sub-sub-compact.

  • avatar


    The Fiat patent fraud. About the Fiat hybrids: the technology double clutch with electric motor between has been stolen by a patent that Fiat Company has never wanted to purchase, but only shamelessly to copy. This hybrid solution will be the basic technology with Chrysler’s electric and hybrid car program. Please give a look in my blog where the “vitality” and boldness of the Fiat planners it appears in all of evidence: http://dualsymbioticelectromechanicalengine.blogspot.com/
    If the industries can afford unpunished to copy the ideas and defending it need very expensive trial, to which target need the patents? How to defend the rights of private inventors? How our young people can find intellectual courage if the economic potentates crush the rights of the single ones? Whoever is about to ask for a patent or wants to propose a proper patent to a big firm I suggest to give a look to my experience with the Fiat, to get able to operate with better adroitness. Thanks and good time to everybody. Ulisse Di Bartolomei

  • avatar

    GM still doesn’t get it. John

  • avatar
    bunkie

    No. But keep the really clever and original jokes coming.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    That was a response to GSlippy’s question “did you ever own a Cimmaron”.

  • avatar
    ajla

    There would be no need for these super small Cadillacs if GM owned a brand with decent European consumer equity that was known for its quirky, high-personality vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Opel?
       
      I was rather annoyed to visit the UK a few years ago see all of the nice efficient little European diesel cars from US companies.  Why do we sell the good stuff overseas, and not sell it at home?
       
      We rented a Vauxhall Zafira club car, which was a nice little GM MPV that would be perfect for what I’m doing now (young family).  Nice small engine, manual shift, no frills, simple basic transportation — but it would probably eat the Envoy’s lunch.  On the Ford side, I had my eye on a diesel-powered Euro-focus — that looked like a sweet little car, and i saw a dozen of them each day.
       
      Another GM brand that would work well in the US is Holden.  Yes, some Holden models are sold under American nameplates, but many are not — especially the Utes, which seem to be a little different than the usual GM badge-engineering fare.  Since the compact pickup market is being abandoned here, I bet Aussie Utes would sell like hotcakes — I’d even consider one for the utility-vehicle slot in my driveway.
       
      Anyway, my point is that GM and Ford seem to have what you’re asking for, and all they need to do is to ask the guys in the European division to e-mail the plans over, put in an North-America-spec drivetrain, and smash a few prototypes to make sure the bumpers are up to US-specs .  Ford seems to have made some substantive steps toward having a single worldwide lineup, but I haven’t seen anything from GM yet.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I was actually thinking about Saab.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’d forgotten about Saab!  That’s a great point!

  • avatar
    plyrr72

    ULGH!!! Somebody KILL IT before it runs under the refrigerator!!!

    Is it resistant to DDT?  This car looks like it should be smashed with a rolled up newspaper.

    If Cadillac needs a MINI fighter, they better not do it with that thing.  And I thought the Sebring was ugly.
     


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