Uh-oh: Susan Docherty, dispatched from China to Europe to teach the Eurotrash the proper appreciation and respect for Chevrolet and Cadillac, has come up with a strategy that assures the destruction of Cadillac outside of the U.S. Cadillac’s global aspirations hinge on its success in Europe, Docherty told WardsAuto. Again: To be successful in China, Cadillac must first be successful in Europe. No blond jokes please, show some respect.
“If a luxury brand is successful in Europe, whether that brand is Chanel or Prada, or Mercedes or BMW, people in parts of Asia look to see what Europeans validate as true luxury,” Docherty told Wards. “So we have to get Cadillac rocking and rolling in Europe to get it going in China.”
Auto execs in Europe think this is hilarious. Everybody knows that Europe is overflowing with premium brands (the Euros avoid the word luxury, they think it’s gauche). They also know that to establish a new one, you need lots of time and lots of money, both of which GM does not have in abundance. Just ask Infiniti or Lexus how they are doing. Audi took about 30 years and a Ferdinand Piech to become relevant in the field, and it had the heritage that is so important in the EU.
In the parts of Europe that count, Cadillac is associated with Elvis, and it is given as much chance for a return. The European buyer of a premium car is conservative and married tighter to his brand than to his wife.
If Cadillac’s success in China hinges on Europe, then Cadillac is doomed. Last year, Cadillac delivered 2,274 vehicles in Western and Central Europe, “including Russia,” as WardsAuto snidely reports. The Chinese won’t be impressed with Russian tastes and want to know how Cadillac is doing in Paris, Berlin and Rome. There, the brand isn’t even on the radar of the European manufacturers association ACEA. It says that GM imported all of 299 cars from the U.S. to Europe in 2012, across all brands.
What’s less, now may be a very inopportune time to launch any car brand in basket case Europe, especially a luxury brand. Doherty is not concerned: Europe is “still a hell of a big market. I say to my team that ‘14 million people are going to be out there buying a car. We just need to get our fair share.’”
Frau Docherty has another grand idea: She wants to integrate Opel with GM’s other brands in Europe and “eliminate duplicate work in areas such as back-office administrative functions and front-office areas such as aftersales,” as WardsAuto reports. “It’s worth millions,” Docherty said. Good idea, but it does not work that way. One of the secrets of Volkswagen’s very successful brand separation is that the company wittingly has work duplicated across all twelve brands. It costs billions, but it gives them that own true identity.
P.S.: Most of all, the Chinese aren’t stupid. They will tell you: “Cadillac? We’ve been there. Even their taxis are Benzes. That’s why we want Audi and BMW.”