General Motors has bestowed some of their finest engineering ever on Cadillac sedans, and yet sales continue to tank. Jack Baruth says that’s the whole problem:
Cadillac has been handed over to people who think you can engineer your way to excellence in the luxury-car market. You can’t. It has to be done with marketing.
And don’t you dare bring up Lexus as a counter-example. The original LS400 was a master class in cost-no-object engineering but nobody bought it for that reason. They bought it because it looked just like an S-Class, it based at $35,000 instead of $58,000, and the marketing emphasized that. Period, point blank. I want you to think back to the last time you saw the actual MSRP of a D-class luxury sedan in a television ad and I guarantee you it will be that first-gen LS400. The price was the whole point. The Infiniti Q45 was a better car to drive in day-to-day use — I know, I had access to both of them when they were brand new — and it didn’t sell worth a damn because the marketing was garbage. Instead of a picture of the car and the sticker price, they had rocks and trees. People already had rocks and trees. What they wanted was a discount S-Class.
Don Draper, line one, please:
So here’s my suggestion. Bring back the Mad Men. Find the most despicable, non-progressive, manipulative ad agency money can buy. Get the people who did the Lexus bows and tell them that the gloves are off. Starting tomorrow, everything will be done with marketing foremost in mind. No more Nürburgring times, no more class-leading lateral g. We’re gonna take the fight to Lexus with cars that are absurdly desirable. Cars that flaunt your prosperity to your neighbors. The Escalade is gonna be the bare minimum when it comes to excess displays of wealth. Buying a Cadillac should feel like putting on a red-velvet top hat and punching your boss in the face. It should be irrationally exuberant.
And it will have to be priced accordingly. A ’57 Eldorado Brougham with everything standard, including a set of matched tumblers (!), sold for the princely sum of $13,074, or about 4.9 Chevrolets. Inflation demands six-figure pricing today. And fercrissake, don’t do something stupid like call it “CT9.”