It Turns Out Cadillac Dealers Still Want a Few Cars Kicking Around

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
it turns out cadillac dealers still want a few cars kicking around

Imagine a traditional luxury car buyer — yes, some still exist — walks into his or her local Cadillac dealer to check out the radically refreshed 2018 XTS. Naturally, the old XTS is hanging out in the parking lot, quietly serving as potential trade-in. After entering the dealer, a salesperson ushers our buyer over to a virtual reality machine to check out the many glories (and options) that await in the new model.

On the way to that machine, the buyer passes zero Cadillacs. There’s not a CTS or CT6 or hot-selling XT5 in sight. An unlikely scenario? Perhaps. A little weird? Certainly to a repeat (read: aged) buyer. It seems small Cadillac dealers definitely felt that way, as low-volume sales locales soundly rejected head office’s plan to do away with traditional showrooms and physical cars.

As a result, Cadillac has given the ominous-sounding Project Pinnacle a makeover.

According to Automotive News, the sales plan enacted on April 1st (after dealer backlash prompted a four-month delay) has pivoted away from scrapping cars at small dealerships.

Under Project Pinnacle, dealers are grouped into four tiers. Each tier requires a certain amount of customer service-related investment by the dealership in exchange for the possibility of greater bonuses. Those dealers lower on the ladder can choose to climb another rung (through extra investment), while fourth-tier dealers were given the option of dropping to a fifth level, where a virtual reality experience would replace the traditional car-buying exercise. No showroom, no on-site inventory. Just a fancy way of looking at a car, exploring trims and colors, and a real, honest-to-God car shipped in from elsewhere.

Dropping to the fifth tier also involved a $10,000 expenditure. Small dealers, the vast majority of whom did not spring for a buyout from Cadillac last year, weren’t keen on the idea. Currently, the only VR machine in a U.S. Cadillac dealer exists in tony Greenwich, Connecticut, at a large dealer operation.

“We decided to focus on our larger dealers with respect to VR so it will become a permanent element of our new facility image for the dealers who decide to go through the voluntary facility upgrade,” said Cadillac spokesman Andrew Lipman in an email to Automotive News.

To be clear, the fifth tier is now officially off the table.

Project Pinnacle was originally scheduled to take effect on October 1st of last year, though dealer squabbling forced Cadillac to make changes to its grand plan. The automaker identified 400 low-volume dealers for a buyout, but owners rebelled after the offers proved too low. Less than 20 of the 400 dealers went for the buyout.

Some dealers accused Cadillac — and its president, Johan de Nysschen — of being heavy-handed with the project’s rollout. One owner said the offer to sign on to Project Pinnacle was akin to a “Soviet election.” Later, some saw the virtual reality option as yet another way to ditch dealers that didn’t go for the buyout.

In response to the criticism, Cadillac gave its dealers more time to understand what the project required of them, while making a few tweaks to the reward structure. Now, dealers are eligible for partial bonuses even if sales tallies fall short of Cadillac’s goals.

In the U.S. in 2017, sales of Cadillac vehicles are down nearly 5 percent, year-to-date.

[Image: General Motors]

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3 of 18 comments
  • Buickman Buickman on Oct 17, 2017

    Buzz Lightshare from Infiniti & Beyond and his Project Pinhead are abject failures. make great product, give dealers margin, and get the hell out of our way.

  • Speed3 Speed3 on Oct 17, 2017

    GM needs to give it up and acknowledge that it doesn't not have the resources or talent to right this ship. Cadillac will never become an alternative to Mercedes, BMW, or Acura. Spin off Cadillac and sell it to JLR or Hyundai. I bet they could do much better with the brand.

    • 1BigOptimus 1BigOptimus on Oct 18, 2017

      Wow, that's harsh. I don't know if I'm buying the VR idea to that extent but selling off Cadillac to Hyundai? Come on. Do you know how long Cadillac has been around. Cadillac is a pioneer of alot of today's car technologies like the electric starter for instance. Yeah somewhere in the middle they got side tracked with making land yachts about 20 years ago but today they still make great products. The ATS is super fun to drive. Have you driven one? The interiors may not be to everyone's taste which is subjective, but it is high quality with real aluminum, magnesium, and leather and suede throughout the interior. A 550i I used to have, the rubberized coating on the plastics was peeling off. The point is no car company is perfect and Cadillac is in a growing stage that is moving in a positive direction. Just my opinion. I respect yours as well.

  • Lou_BC "They are the worst kind of partisan - the kind that loves their team more than they want to know the truth."Ummm...yeah....Kinda like birtherism, 2020 election stolen, vast voter fraud, he can have top secret documents at Mar-lago, he's a savvy business man, and hundreds more.
  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.