Cadillac Exec: "No Petrolheads Need Apply"
It is not our intention to pile on poor Cadillac after our recent discussion, but comments made last week by the automaker’s marketing manager Ewe Ellinghaus must be noted. Speaking to Advertising Age, he repeated the new company mantra about the carmaker becoming a “the first luxury brand that happens to make cars,” and then added:
“When I recruit new people, I don’t need petrolheads. We have more than enough petrolheads and we will still. I need people with experiences in other industries, but with luxury brands.”
We must assume that Ellinghaus, most recently with Montblanc pens and formerly with BMW, was using the European term equivalent to what we call a “car guy” or “car gal.” If so, Cadillac’s future is as bleak as the B&B thinks it is, and not just because of products.
Ford Motor Company has a true car guy on the rise by the name of Henry Ford III. The great-great grandson of the company’s founder actually spent a summer at Galpin Ford in Los Angeles selling cars to better understand the retail side of the business. We doubt you will ever see de Nysschen or Melody Lee, their “Director of Brand and Reputation Strategy” talking to Cadillac shoppers on a showroom floor, let alone ever setting foot in one of their retailers. Speaking of dealers, Cadillac needs a major overhaul of their dealer body, one that is lagging behind other luxury brands in customer handling. Whoever will be in charge of dealer relations needs to be a major car person, not Amber from Tiffany’s.
One issue not discussed by our commentariat in our last Caddy story was the impending move of their sales and marketing team from Detroit to Manhattan. One good thing about being in New York is the chance to hire managers away from the US headquarters of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Subaru in northern New Jersey. (Oh, wait, they are not hiring petrolheads.) Separating themselves geographically from the rest of GM might be a good idea, but they went the wrong direction: they should have gone west to car-crazy Los Angeles. Lee recently said that people in New York City are a “little bit ahead of everyone else,” another insult to GM’s Michigan workforce. That may be, but people in Los Angeles are ten steps ahead when it comes to knowing great cars.
At least Ford was visionary enough to open an Orange County, CA office in 1999 as headquarters for its former “Premier Auto Group” brands, Range Rover, Volvo, Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Lincoln. Cadillac should have done the same. Ford was thus smack in the middle of the market where import luxury brands sell upwards of 20% of their cars and where Mercedes-Benz sells 50% of its AMG hot rods. Automotive trends start in Los Angeles, not New York.
Ford’s former LA luxury brand building; Cadillac should have moved to SoCal rather than SoHo
Ford execs could walk downstairs on a Saturday morning and meet hundreds of knowledgeable car folks at the premiere “Cars and Coffee” gathering in the country. When the Caddy crew walks out of their Soho high-rise, what car folks will they be able to meet and greet other than limo and taxi drivers?
Cadillac has massive product issues and their sales are tanking this year. Industry insiders wonder how long de Nysschen and his crew will last at Caddy. We think his next move should be to Acura so he can say he worked for the trifecta of Muddled Brand Image, Nutty Nomenclature Automakers: Infiniti, Cadillac and Acura. At least he will be in Southern California, surrounded by petrolheads.
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- Art Vandelay I’d grab one of these if I’d spent my working life at GM for sure!
- Analoggrotto The factory is delayed due to an investigation of a peter puffery ring lead by VoGhost, Tassos, EBFlex a Chevrolet Volt.
- FreedMike Looking forward to the protests at the factory accusing Toyota of excessive woke-ism. First, EVs...next, grooming. Lord help us all.
- MrIcky I remember when Gladiators came out and everyone was shocked at how expensive they were. Now all the off road specials have caught up or passed it financially. I like this truck a lot, but I'd still take my Rubicon over this. I'd take this over the Ranger Raptor or Tacoma TRD though. When I found out the increase in track for the new TRD was just wheel offset-I knew they were just phoning it in. Why spend so much R&D on those stupid seats when you could have r&d'd longer arms or a front locker.
- Alan Hmm, I see a bit of politicking here. What qualifications do you need to run GM or Ford? I'd bet GM or Ford isn't run by experienced people. Anyone at that level in an organisation doesn't need to be a safety whip, you need to have the ability to organise those around you to deliver the required results.
I rather like the current Cadillac lineup. They're all a bit off, but not bad. They all seem to need a better CUE infotainment systems and better 4-cylinder engines. The line really does need a flagship and the upcoming CT6 sounds promising, even if it has a stupid name. However, the latest news from Cadillac sounds disturbingly similar to the last days of Oldsmobile, where they hired a bunch of market geniuses from Procter and Gamble. Although the marketing team could be called successful in that the average Oldsmobile buyer became the kind of upper-middle class consumer they sought, they lost the admittedly shrinking number of brand-loyal buyers, and there just were not enough of the new demographic they sought to make up the difference. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself.
Caddy has already made its market niche - luxury based on 20th century engineering for 10 or 15 grand less than the Germans. It actually may make more sense to try to peddle this package in the Big Apple than anywhere else. They sure won't get very far with the gearheads.