By on November 20, 2019

If you read our coverage of Book by Cadillac, you’ll recall it was a minor financial disaster that had to be shut down in 2018. Cadillac was trying to develop a subscription model, following the lead of other premium manufacturers attempting to usher in a new age of consumerism, sans ownership. But the public didn’t take the bait.

We’ve had niggles about subscription-based sales models for years, whether it be for something hidden in your digital dashboard or affixed to an entire automobile. While they make sense for some services, we couldn’t make the numbers work for cars. It’s almost always the most expensive way to get into any given automobile. However, you do get a few nice perks as a consolation — things like insurance, registration, and maintenance — since you’re effectively renting the car. In the case of Cadillac, Book also allowed you to swap vehicles via a concierge service that would deliver the swapped vehicle pretty much anywhere you wanted — offering bottle water, umbrellas, and a positive attitude upon arrival.

Those extravagances may have been justifiable for those with money to burn, but the general populace wasn’t there to help General Motors shoulder the burden. The pilot program ended roughly a year ago. Yet GM’s chief marketing officer, Deborah Wahl, said Book would return in 2020, bigger and better than ever. 

Speaking Tuesday at the J.D. Power/NADA AutoConference amid the Los Angeles Auto Show, Wahl said Book will return in February, providing more flexibility and value to consumers. Her stated goal was staying ahead of consumer preferences, echoing the automaker’s broader aspirations. Subscriptions services and data-based business models have been at the forefront of the corporate minds at GM for years. Like many automakers, it’s also investing heavily in mobility projects.

“We do still see a lot of interest from consumers in finding different ownership models, but the right price, value, how we do that, how we bundle those services is what we’re working on,” Wahl said in an interview with Automotive News from earlier this year. “There’s really no one-size-fits-all solution for personal transportation.”

But this also smacks of GM shoving something it wants down our collective throat. Cadillac revised its subscription service numerous times, despite facing criticisms and presumed lack of customer interest. There was even a period, immediately after it was placed on hiatus, where Wahl suggested Book would return in 2019.

“Book 2.0 really works even more closely with our dealer network because we think there’s a lot of opportunity as you go forward,” she said last January. “We’re going to base it off the dealer network.”

Closer ties to dealerships are part of the new plan, as well, but pricing is unknown. Book initially charged customers a $1,800 monthly fee before making rolling changes. Too steep for many, but the service did encourage some people to finally check out a Cadillac. Wahl said about 70 percent of Book customers were new to the brand — which may give us a hint as to why it hasn’t completely abandoned it.

[Image: fotomak/Shutterstock]

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40 Comments on “Cadillac Subscriptions Return In 2020...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Cadillac subscription? SURE.

    Where do I sign up to borrow a late 60s DeVille?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The picture above is the color of my mother’s 72 Sedan Deville with matching interior and a white vinyl top. Actually a very nice looking car in that color.

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    Why…oh why…?

  • avatar

    when you can’t effectively market your product, try reinventing the wheel.

    waste of time and money.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I don’t see how the math can work, especially when customers buying cars normally are chronically optimistic about how much things like maintenance and insurance will cost them.

    With that said a service like this, depending on how it works, could substitute for multiple cars for quite a few people, and might be worth some money if you could save a car. If Chevy had one, for example and we could have a Bolt most of the time and switch it out for a Traverse for trips, that would save us a fair amount.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    This may make no sense for any automotive brand, but Cadillac?

    – Cadillac has vehicles that are rebadged Chevy & GMC ones, across the board, aka The Roger Smith v2.0 plan, at a 35% to 50% price premium to their Chevy/GMC siblings.

    – Cadillac is THE LEAST RELIABLE make of vehicle according to Consumer Reports latest comprehensive reliability survey (placing 30th out of 30 spots).

    – Cadillac and Guangzhou-Guadalajara Motors (GM) have some of the highest % of Chinese parts content of any vehicles sold in the U.S.

    – Cadillac has approx 1/3 the brand equity as a “premium” automaker as the likes of Audi or Lexus, 1/4 the brand equity as a “luxury” automaker as Mercedes Benz, 1/8 the brand equity as a “luxury” automaker as Rolls Royce (and arguably less the Genesis, now).

    – To put it mildly, Cadillac is not an aspirational brand by the longest of margins, and no one is going to pay the premiums associated with such a subscription service to be able to swap easily into the rolling dumpster fires that are Chinesium-Grade vehicles such as Cadillac.

    A Cadillac subscription program was a total bust under Melody “What I Wear To Work” CT-Lee, and it will be the same outcome under Deborah WaWa.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      DW

      WA WA is the worlds GREATEST gas stations.
      Great Cheap sandwiches, subs, soups and that 100 flavor coke machines. Better than Firehouse, Jimmy John Etc.

      GM is vulgar, evil govna.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      A subscription would make more sense if it included a full line of vehicles.

      Let’s say I subscribe to Toyota, and can drive any model they make by stopping by the dealer during my lunch break. Most days, I need a minivan — but, sometimes, I need a pickup truck (set up for towing) or would prefer a Prius V for a little while.

      That could actually work, assuming it costs less than owning a minivan and a beater truck.

      But Cadillac’s lineup is too narrow for this to work. They just have sedans and CUVs. They don’t have the range of different-vehicles-for-different-jobs that Toyota and Ford have.

      Personally, I’m only likely to play ball if most of those vehicles are EVs/PHEVs though. The care and feeding of engines isn’t something I find rewarding in cars or airplanes. That’s why I fly gliders and covet electric cars.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I don’t remember the GM rules exactly but I think you could only switch it up every so often and had to notify them in advance. Now if I could walk into X dealership every day, or even every week, and get a fresh “rental” of a different type held to a certain standard (i.e. washed, under X miles, brakes/tires over X amount) I would be very compelled for the right money.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        “The care and feeding of engines isn’t something I find rewarding in cars or airplanes. That’s why I fly gliders and covet electric cars.”

        Please tell me that you don’t fly the type of glider that is towed into the air by a piston-engined plane with no emissions controls so you can float around judging those below you while exhibiting the amount of self-awareness displayed by a goose marching her brood into traffic. Some people fly planes to get places, rather than for entertainment purposes. The energy that goes into building a glider is more wasteful than the energy used for any form of transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      Deadweight

      – 6 out of 7 Cadillacs surveyed look nothing like Chevys. The 7th is an Escalade.
      – J.D. Power proves Consumer Reports is unreliable. Plus their are problems with CRs data: (Only relying on subscriber surveys; Large numbers of models from Ford & Chevy mega brands go unrated; micro brands Mini, Genesis, Alfa Romeo have all their models rated. Models that sell in microscopic numbers: Subaru BRZ, Lexus RC, Kia Cadenza are Rated) All together tells me CRs Data is highly flawed.
      – The vast numbers of vehicles imported from Japan, Europe, Turkey, Thailand & India every year have close to 0% U.S. made parts. South Korea does a little better but only because a few GM models are made there.
      – The vast majority of luxury vehicle owners I talk to list Cadillac as one of the brands they would consider buying. In general European luxury vehicle owners consider the Asian brands inferior. Asian luxury vehicle owners don’t want to pay European maintenance and repair costs. Cadillac is usually the 4th or 5th brand they mention when asked what brands they would consider buying.
      -Book by Cadillac 1.0 had a large number of subscribers willing to pay the $1,800 a month for a hassle free vehicle, that they could change any time. The problems were: it cost a lot of money to run & vehicle depreciation. Going thru Cadillac dealerships should lower costs. The dealerships would also have the vehicles available for test drives when not in use.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m seriously amazed there are still any buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        I’d guess most Cadillac US retail buyers are employees. Other major purchasers include:

        – government
        – rental car companies
        – livery services

        The rest of us know better. Even VW acknowledged they had a perception problem and lengthened their warranty to at least give the impression they’re making better quality cars.

        Not GM. Hey look! Here’s our new Chevy Blazer for 45k.

    • 0 avatar
      randy in rocklin

      looks like done a lot of homework, much appreciated.

  • avatar
    ajla

    They should offer a $237/month package that excludes the CT6 and Escalade because that’s how much horsepower the HT2000 makes that powers everything else in the brand.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    I have zero experience in the car biz, but I spent quite a few years in a pretty large retail based organization (50 K + employees) and I watched several variations of the same fever behind the subscription sweep through our VPs. It’s a reach for the brass ring.

    Some VP at GM has done a hootchie kootchie dance for Mary Barra that’s convinced her that while the last guy who tried the subscription idea failed, this new guy understands “what the customer of tomorrow really wants!” and that he’s just the guy to give it to them.

    Here’s my experience – In my company there were more than a dozen of these guys vying for a shot at the CEO job. However to have a serious chance you needed something special to make you stand out from the other eggs in the carton. So there is a perpetual hunt for “The Next Big Thing©️“.

    The first one I recognized was in the late 90’s when Amazon wasn’t that big a deal but you could see it was going to happen -someday. So this guy made his bones on internet sales and became the Big Cheese: for about a year and a half before it came out that the big surge in internet sales hadn’t arrived yet so he’d been cooking his books. Oops.
    Then there was a guy who was convinced we could leverage our locations and name into a big win in the hotel business…seriously. He figured we could use our current employees as maids and desk clerks to keep personal costs down. Yeah. Another one had an idea for “Triple Play” which was combined TV, Internet, and Cell service in one package. This possibly had merit, except that we had no in-house capabilities and would have had to lease them and relabel. By the time he figured it out the market was saturated and there was no room for us. The variations go on and on, restaurants inside our stores, exclusive designer products, you name it. Some ideas are plausible, some insane. Well, when business is stagnant, the CEO starts casting around for something to make your stock options worth cashing. So, what’s a few million to give a new idea a shot?

    The were a few things that all these Dream Projects had in common -First, an aroma in the air of the times that hinted that everybody was going to do (your pet project here) and it was Lead or Get Left Behind. Second, a guy who -needed- this bad. Third was an ability by this desperate guy to do a great PowerPoint presentation about his Rumpelstiltskin-level ability to turn this chaff into gold. A good PowerPoint gets you a corner office, and a hand-picked staff under your complete control. Wow…. now all you have to do is best your staff till they make it happen, or you get exiled to the South American staff.

    I’m betting this guy has a lovely office in Uruguay in three years. The guy who pitched dumping ICE passenger cars for an all electric fleet is probably going to join him a couple years later.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      You’ve nailed it, Lokki. Happens at much lower levels in the corporate jungle gym as well. I wasted lots of company gold and man-hours building “the next best thing” projects for up-and-coming engineers and managers only to remove and demolish these “best things” 6 to 9 months later. We called these, “Hey! Look at Me!” projects.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        In the ’90s I worked for a publisher of law books that fought the technologies that would revolutionize their business tooth and nail. I was actually editing books being transferred to disks with internal links. We were creating what would become source material for online law libraries.

        When I’d studied law a few years earlier, the amount of time spent on researching case law was obscene, and billable. New technology made compiling case law as easy as doing research on the internet was before Google became Orwellian.

        The company had any number of legal editors with law degrees, meaning that they all knew how revolutionary this technology would become. What did we do, with our TQM “mission statement team” and constant all-hands and departmental meetings to create a sense of a dynamic work environment? We acted out a managerial fetish for the printed word. It was the model they knew, and the nature of common law is such that there would be a constant demand for new case law books.

        What happened to the company that punished people who wanted to leverage new technology to improve our customers’ lives and avoid competitive threats? Nothing. They’re still the industry standard. The establishment is the establishment, and it is no more accountable than Joe Biden or George Bush. Their Wikipedia page was written with an emphasis on how they drove technology to create searchable law libraries. That’s like saying Emperor Hirohito created peace between the US and Japan.

        Anyway, my point is that revolutionizing a giant established business does not need to be a shot in the dark. There is usually time to see if a new idea is viable before you do more than study it. Amazon may kill all retailers and establish an omnipotent monopoly, but ValueAmerica didn’t. There was plenty of time to improve retailing before Amazon achieved hegemony.

    • 0 avatar
      randy in rocklin

      I’ll borrow that “hootchie-kootchie dance” in my repertoire, that was hilarious

  • avatar
    RHD

    The first step to a “subscription” is to have cars that people actually want. Assuming people actually want to drive a Cadillac that’s had as many previous drivers as a mattress at the Holiday Inn… you then have to find enough of them that don’t ALREADY HAVE A CAR.
    In most first world countries, if you don’t have a car, it’s because you don’t even have enough money for a 200K mile salvage titled Hyundai from Craigslist, so you certainly couldn’t afford to subscribe to Cadillac.
    And the few people who have the income but don’t have a car would either borrow one, have the local Enterprise franchise deliver one to them or just take an Uber. So this is going to fly like the proverbial lead balloon.

    • 0 avatar
      Snooder

      Eh, i think there is a business case here.

      See, if you live in a place like NYC, the major hassle of car ownership is not the price of the car, it’s storage, insurance all that jazz. And you dont really NEED the car day to day, just for the occasional special thing.

      A subscription structured to eliminate those hassles for wealthy New Yorkers could work. The problem is that it’s a very niche play with little profit for a company as large as Cadillac, and frankly Cadillac doesnt have the brand cachet to be popular in that demo.

      Anyway, thinking about this more, if I had a few million dollars and HAD to make this work, I’d set up a lease arrangement where you lease the car month to month, we park somewhere cheap out of the city for you and when you want it, you schedule a drop off and we drive it out to you and pick it up afterward. Maybe even fill the tank and give it a wash, just as a courtesy. And we’ll charge the lease costs + parking with a bit extra. Meanwhile on the offdays when it’s not requested, we flog the thing as a rideshare vehicle or rent it out and double dip that way.

      • 0 avatar
        Fliggin_De_Fluge

        People said the same thing the first time they tried this.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Very cogent post.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Snooder, I’ve lived in Manhattan with moderate resources. The big money people don’t matter, as the city is already ordered to serve their needs. There are underground parking garages in midtown where a 5-series BMW fits in like a Mitsubishi Mirage in the Harris Teeter lot. The S-class is their Camry. It’s the ‘middle class’ people who make a few hundred thousand dollars a year who might listen to the pitch for a car subscription. These are the people who currently have cars in above-ground parking garages and in lots along the river.

        The people who a car subscription would appeal to have a lot in common with one another. When they’re young, they rent shares in Jersey Shore beach houses during the summer. When they’re thirty, they’ve moved on to sharing a bigger place in the Hamptons with a smaller number of friends. This means that getting your car out of an elevator parking garage on a summer Friday is a royal pain, as EVERYONE who has a car in the garage wants to get it out during the same three hour window.

        For car sharing to cost less than the cost of the car, the upkeep of the car, parking for the car, and insurance for the car; there need to be fewer cars than users. The problem is going to be the dozen or so times a year when every subscriber wants a car simultaneously and there are no rental units available to backstop the overage.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Lokki;
    you could be describing my company….but haven’t most, if not all publicly-held companies follow the same behavior?

    Publicly-held companies have a sincere and deep seated terror of not meeting the lofty financial results that the market demands.

    And they know that mature products or services, sold on mature markets, won’t help them meet those stratospheric goals.

    So they have to find the next big thing that will help them reach those goals in the foreseeable future.
    And the person who figures it out…..boy, he’ll be worth his/her weight in plutonium.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    How about requiring Cadillac dealers to provide Lexus like service in their service departments. That should be the first place to start and make all Cadillac s even if they are based on a Chevy platform worth the extra price and distinctive enough to earn respect. Also add that extra layer by adding strict quality control at the manufacturing level with the goal of zero defects–this is where Lincoln has failed having a more desirable product but poor quality control. Start with a 10 year/100k miles power train warranty and 5 year/50k miles bumper to bumper warranty with free loan vehicles and a concierge service available on all models regardless of trim level. If you are paying a premium price for a Cadillac give premium service and a premium product. This is nothing new or revolutionary but if you want to keep customer loyalty and build up your products sales this is what needs to be done. This will cost more but if Cadillac does this and they actually improve quality in the long run this will be a lot less expensive than closing down a failed brand and paying off the dealers for a dead brand.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      My understanding over the years has been if the QC process were to change it would involve UAW agreement to the changes because likely it will impact how personnel are used. Chances of that are slim to none, well without bribes anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      10 year warranties don’t matter in the luxury market, the Germans have proved that with their continued dominance over the Japanese. Cars will be kept 3 years, then traded, that’s just the way it is.

      For people desperately seeking status, the car has to be new, not warrantied.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      What you describe is secondary. Primary is designing, producing, and marketing a premium product that people actually want to buy/lease/subscribe.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Then it is hopeless to make a quality product with the UAW. If the quality process cannot be changed or improved then it would be better to move production to another country. Just good enough is not enough for a premium brand like Cadillac otherwise why not just buy a plain Chevy.

    • 0 avatar
      crtfour

      The problem with the American’s being “just good enough” is the Koreans. Look how quickly they’ve gone from crap to just good enough to mainstream vehicles that are reliable and well assembled.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Price has got to be right.

    $600/mo.

    GM might do this. They’ve had a history of losing money on every deal but making it up on volume.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    True just good enough is not going to cut it when Hyundai and Kia have improved to the level of being better.

  • avatar
    readallover

    The only way to make the numbers work is to use lease-return and CPO cars.Otherwise, the subscription price is just too high. The pricing philosophy that we-are-competing-against-BMW-thus-we-can-charge-the-same-price-as-BMW has never worked and it still won`t. Cutting prices increases demand and Caddy needs that badly. Plus, this helps alleviate the depreciation problem and, theoretically, should help increase used Cadillac prices.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Genesis (Hyundai’s Lexus) has vehicles that are waaay better in terms of assembly, quality of components/parts, quality of materials, engineering, durability, reliability, etc., than ANY vehicle Cadillac (now Chevillac, as almost all current production Cadillacs are really Chevrolets, ala Roger Smith v2.0, but only worse now).

    Cadillac is 2nd tier at best, under the most generous view possible. I strongly argue that it’s 3rd tier relative to its price point.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Genesis appears to be a better choice. I bet you can get a deal on a pre owned Genesis. Lexus is good but the pre owned prices are not a lot lower than buying new. My pick would be the Genesis much better value for the money.

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