Readers of our departed EIC’s chronicles will no doubt understand that building a luxury brand is a gradual, concentrated effort that won’t bear fruit for many years. Over at Audi, it took Herr Schmitt and Herr Piech the better part of two decades to morph Audi from an oddball line of tarted up Volkswagens into a global luxury player, and that journey was not without its own mishaps.
Audi wasn’t the only one to trudge down that road either. Bob Lutz’s latest book recalls the genesis of the BMW naming convention (naming their cars the 3, 5 and 7-Series), arguably the start of their rise from, well, an oddball line of Bavarian built cars into one of the auto industry’s blue-chip luxury car makers.
So who is Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac’s new marketing chief (an ex-BMW man) to think that building Cadillac into a global luxury brand will take about 10 years? Cadillac’s main markets right now are America and China, with the two countries accounting for about 90 percent of sales. Even so, Cadillac is badly outgunned in America, with Mercedes-Benz and BMW (and Lexus as well) each doing roughly one-and-a-half times the volume that Cadillac does in its home market. In China, supposedly Cadillac’s second most important market, Audi is outselling Cadillac by roughly 10 to 1. In Europe, Cadillac is a non-entity, selling just 2,274 cars in 2012.
The idea that Cadillac will be a global player in the luxury car world in as little as 10 years is at worst a fantasy, at best a demonstration of profound ignorance. As a former BMW marketing exec, Ellinghaus should know that Cadillac lacks key products (like a small crossover, a proper flagship and diesel engines) needed to compete in the all important European market, and that competitors like Lexus have yet to crack the “global” part of the equation despite arguably having a higher profile in the luxury world.
The best summation of the entire situation comes from TTAC commenter edgett
This is American marketing at its worst. The idea that the content of the product is overcome, or recreated, at the hand of “branding” is how they got into this in the first place. What if the brand identity for Cadillac became “The Standard of the World”, and they spent all of their “branding” money on creating a product which epitomized that identity?