Cadillac Packing Its Bags, Heading Back to Detroit

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
cadillac packing its bags heading back to detroit

It tried to make it in the big city but, after a few years on its own in New York, the Cadillac brand is headed home to mom and pop.

Cadillac President Steve Carlisle, who took over from Johan de Nysschen in April, confirmed the return in a Wall Street Journal interview. The brand’s abandonment of its high-class SoHo office space ends a strange and tumultuous period in Cadillac history.

Carlisle says the move aims to place executives in close proximity to General Motors’ design and engineering hub in Warren, Michigan. There’s a product offensive underway, the first vehicle of which is the just-launched AT4 compact crossover. Two sedans and another crossover will follow in short order.

“We have a huge number of launches ahead of us,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to think about how we take inefficiencies out of the communication process between the Cadillac team and the GM partners.”

We’d be curious to hear what Carlisle and other Cadillac brass say off the record. The decision to move Cadillac’s HQ away from GM and into the tony center of America’s largest, wealthiest, and most culturally diverse city shocked many, including native Detroiters and Cadillac purists, but there rationale provided wasn’t threadbare. Cadillac had a modern, upscale image to cultivate, and a stigma to shed. It also wanted to distance itself from GM brass.

de Nysschen, known for his hard-headed approach, hoped that distancing the brand from the automaker would help its product in two ways: GM wouldn’t interfere so much, and Cadillac employees would could gain insight into the luxury market (and buyers) by leaving the Midwest behind. Talent would join customers in gravitating towards to the brand.

Product was slow to come, which isn’t New York’s fault. In the meantime, Cadillac sales slipped, dragged down by the increasingly slow-selling ATS and CTS models, despite the XT5 being a hit. During this foray into the city, observers questioned the utility (and optics) of Cadillac House, situated on the ground floor of the brand’s Soho offices. To many, the Cadillac brand oozes America, all of America, which is something that can’t be captured by displaying a car model in a rotating gallery and café. The brand stood to gain, but also to lose.

The Book by Cadillac subscription service, formed during the NYC jaunt, remains a work in progress, and its former head — “Dare Greatly” marketing guru Melody Lee — resigned in early August.

Despite the brand’s impending return to Detroit, Cadillac House will remain open, Carlisle said, providing influential New Yorkers with exposure to the brand’s vehicles and heritage. We’re likely to see a different backdrop in marketing materials, however.

As for Cadillac’s HQ, the suburban life awaits. Carlisle said the brand has secured space near the Warren development hub.

[Images: General Motors]

Join the conversation
2 of 84 comments
  • Buickman Buickman on Sep 28, 2018

    products are fine, it is the marketing, absolutely horrible marketing that has drove all GM brands down and is keeping them down. at GM the results don't change, only the excuses.

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Oct 04, 2018

    I'm not sure I have a real opinion on whether it made sense for Cadillac to have its HQ in NYC. I can grasp the notion of wanting to have the vibe of a particular place as an inspiration and for setting one's perceptual lenses. And I can certainly understand wanting to have your local management set apart from the corporate office to reduce groupthink. But "improving communication with GM partners"? It's 2018, everyone has Skype, Webex, and bluetooth. Many if not most of these partners are on the other side of the planet, not the other side of of the complex or even the other side of town. Shifting one timezone won't make it appreciably easier to collaborate. Why don't they just admit they were spending a lot of money on an office that wasn't giving their mojo a boost and they wanted to redirect that elsewhere?

  • Art Vandelay Best? PCH from Ventura to somewhere near Lompoc. Most Famous? Route Irish
  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.
  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
  • ToolGuy 2019 had better comments than 2023 😉
  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down.