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]
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