By on June 27, 2014

Despite a flimsy dealer network, a lack of diesel engines and a poisonous brand, GM still hasn’t given up on the idea of making Cadillac a global luxury brand that can sell cars in Europe.

Speaking to AutoExpress, GM President Dan Amman expressed his desire to sell Cadillacs in Europe, despite its past failures. Amman also tacitly admitted that Cadillac would never be able to become a high volume brand or take on the German luxury brands – despite the fact that Cadillac has nakedly chased them in their home market of America

“But in the long term there is a role for Cadillac in Europe. Is it going to be a high-volume contender in the medium to long term future? Probably not. But is there a role for something other than the three German luxury brands? I think there is…We’ve got to figure out what it is, what our portfolio is, a different value proposition. But trying to out-German the Germans will not be the path to success. We have to have a different proposition.”

With a skeletal dealer network, unsuitable product for European tastes and road conditions (no diesel options is a complete non-starter) and an undesirable brand, it’s worth asking, why even bother?  Cadillac sold just 430 cars in Europe in 2012, with sales peaking at 3,000 cars in 2007. The brand has 40 dealers on the entire continent, and with diesels accounting for a reported 80 percent of premium car sales, this looks like nothing more than a vanity project, with GM wanting to sell Cadillacs in Europe just to bring the fight to the Germans on home turf – similar to VW’s folly in going after premium cars with the Phaeton, because Daimler dared to launch the compact Mercedes A-Class. And we know how that turned out.

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24 Comments on “Cadillac Won’t Give Up On The Dream Of European Success...”

  • avatar

    Cadillac is awesome. As a European I would love to cruise around in one. Diesel might account for most luxury sales, but true luxury is with a petrol V6 or larger.

    OK. Let’s say I’m Danish. THe only Cadillac dealer is near COpenhagen, so I might have to travel up to 5 hours to get to the dealership, unlike Audi, Merdeces and BMW whose dealerships are everywhere. I’m dedicated, so that is no problem.

    Now. This is the Danish Cadillac offerings in Denmark:

    The cheapest model is the CTS whose price translates into 178.250 USD!

    This is the base price for a competitor to the 3-series, A4 and C-class!

    Let’s do a quick comparison here.
    Base 3-series: 81.390 USD
    Base A4: 76.500 USD
    Base C-class: 89.506 USD

    Granted. This is only one market, and the base specs are not at all comparable, but this is the base price you have to pay to get the badge. Now it makes sense why Cadillac lacks so much behind in sales despite of competitive products, right?

    Lexus gave up the market when the base price for the latest IS would have started at 137000 USD. Lexus made the right decision. I love Cadillac for still trying.

    • 0 avatar

      Woah. I knew you had crazy car prices, but this is ludicrous. In the US a base A4 is 43k less, 3-series is 50k less, and C-class is 54k less. The ATS is a whopping 145k less.

      Not only that, but every single one of these cars consumes less fuel than the CTS. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would choose it over the domestics…

      • 0 avatar
        Johannes Dutch

        I think Scandinavia has the most extreme car prices (read: taxes on top of the factory prices) of the entire continent.

      • 0 avatar
        spreadsheet monkey

        Denmark is not representative of the whole of Europe, and has a relatively small new car market.

        In France, Germany and Britain, a base A4 or 3-series sells for about $40k.

        There’s no reason why the ATS couldn’t do well (or at least better than 430 units per year) if it was priced right and had a good diesel engine. There is no inherent dislike of American cars, and the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and PT Cruiser have all done OK in Europe in the past 10-15 years (although admittedly they were all “mainstream” rather than “premium”).

    • 0 avatar

      You must have really stupid tax policy. There is no reason at all for hybrid IS being so expensive – it has lower emmissions and better fuel economy than diesel competition.

      Speaking of Cadillac, in most EU countries diesel would suffice for making it class competitive. Also the brand is FAR from poisonous, its actually quite cool. The problem is, European premium car buyers are extremely conservative and they only buy German brands. Its not only Cadillac, Jaguar and Lexus are struggling as well, not to mention various Italian entries. They all offer or have offered diesel engines and they all have failed.

      • 0 avatar
        Johannes Dutch

        Speaking of Italy, Maserati is doing quite well these days with its two sedan models. Both available with the VM Motori (now fully owned by Fiat) 3.0 liter V6 diesel that could have been in a Cadillac. Instead it’s under the hood of Chryslers, Jeeps, Rams and Maseratis.

        • 0 avatar

          Yes, higher end of the luxury market is a bit more diverse, but the lower end is still dominated by german big three (e.g. D and E segment).

          • 0 avatar
            Johannes Dutch

            The Maserati Ghibli is an E-segment sedan. Sales numbers of course still far behind, but Maserati is “booming business” right now.

      • 0 avatar

        We do. Our tax system penalizes any hybrid components with a 180% tax because the car also carries a petrol engine. Pure electrics have 0% tax, while a car like the Volt (Ampera here) was with full 180% tax and thus unsellable since its price ended above that of the IS!

        The past two governments got my vote because they promised to revise this horrible tax system which hinders fuel efficient, environmentally saving and safety improving features, but they can seemingly run from any and all promises once they initiate their government.

        Luckily Europe will start penalizing the Danish government for not improving the fuel efficiency enough, starting from next year.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, but here’s the breakdown on that:

      Net price of car: €33,609
      25% VAT: €8,402
      Excise and other taxes: €65,300

      Why does a country that doesn’t produce cars have such enormous tariffs on importing them? (I’m assuming it’s primarily an import tariff, since it differs between German and US-origin cars.)

      • 0 avatar

        Actually the British produce more cars than France at the moment. One that is built there is the BMW mini

      • 0 avatar

        The insane taxes started because they wanted to keep money in the country. Now they remain because of a mix of:

        – You will screw over anyone who recently bought a car by changing taxes to a sensible level.
        – You don’t want to change a high and steady stream of tax revenues.
        – People should be encouraged more to use the horrible public transport system.
        – Any change in the system should be made to benefit cars with low emissions. This change would invariably benefit hybrid car makers which are not European at the expense of European car makers.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Is this an elaborate, expensive scheme to pay for some GM execs’ European vacations?

  • avatar

    Hubris. A common automotive manufacturer trait. Currently, the two best practitioners are Cadillac and Acura for blatantly missing the blindingly obvious.

    Apparently, Cadillac is so provincial in outlook it cannot come to terms with the notion that a snowball stands a better chance of not melting in hell than Cadillac has of selling any volume in Europe. Hell, sales in America are hardly stellar even with a decent dealer network. The Euro dealer network resembles Suzuki’s here, before they finally got the message and moved along. Classy.

    Acura cannot figure out that their styling is dumb and their option packages are completely inflexible. They started a task force to figure out the obvious which I predicted would avoid the obvious and concentrate on things that simply do not matter like wasting money on racing. This the task force has accomplished, thereby allowing high-up Honda executives to wriggle off the hook for being stupid and thus not being forced to commit ritual suicide.

    It doesn’t take much to work out what’s wrong, and a waste of talent forcing staff to write up what they imagine management actually wants to excuse past decisions of no insight whatsoever. Typical.

    • 0 avatar

      The effort to transform Cadillac into a credible competitor against the likes of Audi and BMW is commendable, but misguided. Cadillac always has – and always will be – a purely American commodity. The only reason Europeans were drawn to Cadillacs in the first place was that they were once an unabashed and completely unapologetic representation of American luxury motoring.

      Cadillac only transformed itself into an ersatz American BMW to chase the dollars going to BMW and Audi. And because most of the “traditional American luxury” market is now content with pickup trucks like the Ford F-150 Platinum and GMC Sierra Denali. So why buy a Cadillac with all of the sensibilities of a BMW or Audi when you could just buy the real thing and get the badge cred, to boot?

      So Cadillac selling in volume to Europeans? Not even. Better for Caddy to disembark from the continent and let anyone who wants one import one from the States. That’ll immediately give the Cadillac brand some “forbidden fruit” cred, at the very least.

      Next, take Buick (currently slap-boxing with Acura and perhaps Lexus) and reassign the brand to BMW-fighting duties. This will open the door for Cadillac to finally move up to where it should have been all along: an American analogue to the likes of Rolls-Royce and Grosser-era Mercedes. Make that bold step with a production version of the Ciel and Elmiraj. Keep the Escalade as it is, but whip up a proper competitor to the Range Rover Sport and Evoque. Make sure every one gets a nice, throaty, no-compromise V8, and maybe throw in some hybrid tech just to keep CARB and CAFE at bay. Make sure the Ciel and Elmiraj have V12s, optional or no.

      Last but not least? Ditch the alphanumerics. They’re not needed anymore.

      No need for Cadillac to return to the Brougham era. In fact, that was a mistake. Cadillac should had kept its Mad Men-era cool instead of letting the chest taco meat grow out of its cheap white leisure suit.

      As for Acura, that’s what happens when a brand runs smack into corporate and cultural arrogance.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with:
        ‘The effort to transform Cadillac into a credible competitor against the likes of Audi and BMW is commendable, but misguided. Cadillac always has – and always will be – a purely American commodity. The only reason Europeans were drawn to Cadillacs in the first place was that they were once an unabashed and completely unapologetic representation of American luxury motoring.’
        .. but there’s no chance that Caddy could chase RR .. !?!

        Previous CTS is the best they did in the last decade(attractive oryginal A&S design: sedan and coupe .. no cabrio, though
        + good engines) .. and they should fallow this path..
        Escalade is a nice ‘one of a kind\'(full-size) ‘hash-mobile’ .. and XLR was quite brave design..

        Unfortunatelly new CTS looks gaudy and messy , the same with
        ‘blunt-looking’ ATS ..
        They should go global(not ‘global product’!) with niche ‘american’ Cadillac ..
        (it would be also nice, if Ford would put some money into Lincoln and bring it back to life ..)

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    Also note the 2007 sales peak referenced in the original article was achieved when the dollar was at its weakest against the pound ($2/£1) and the euro ($1.5/€1). At present, the dollar is roughly 20% stronger against both of those currencies. Has a big impact on export competitiveness.

  • avatar

    They haven’t even figured out how to sell them here very well, let alone throwing good money after bad in Europe.

  • avatar

    That’s an great song! Steve Perry is an awesome vocalist.

  • avatar

    If GM really accepted the reality of the car business in Europe, they wouldn’t be in the mess that they are in, in the first place. GM listens to nobody and continues to charge forward with ridiculous ideas of how ‘grand they are’. There is no real hope for them. Maybe someday they will be bought by good businessmen who can turn things around.

  • avatar

    Drop a Duramax in an Escalade and Europe (The Russian Mafia) will buy every single one.

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