NEW YORK–will refine its marketing approach for Cadillac after its recent product injection and may expand the luxury brand’s Escalade nameplate with additional variants, a top executive says.
“We’re going to really work hard to find ways to market Cadillac so that we drive consideration beyond what it is today. It is too low,” Global Cadillac Vice President Bob Ferguson tells WardsAuto.
“We’ve got a great brand but I think we can do a lot better,” he says after introducing the redesigned ’15 Cadillac Escalade here.
Cadillac sales last year fell 1.7% to 149,782 units from 152,389 as the brand brought new products to market and phased others out. So far this year, sales are up 28.9% to 133,414, as fresh additions such as the ATS compact sports sedan and XTS large sedan gain momentum.
The new Escalade shown here comes next year and Ferguson expects an additional sales bounce from the big SUV, which he thinks can post double digit gains.
The brand also will launch the ELR extended-range electric vehicle in 2014, which like the Escalade and the new CTS arriving at dealers this fall raises Cadillac to new heights of luxury. Ferguson suggests having so many new and dramatically more competitive luxury products demands an equally fresh marketing approach.
“In many ways I think the product is stronger than the brand,” he says, stopping short of offering specific marketing details.
Ferguson in June told WardsAuto in an interview that Cadillac advertising would take on a storytelling approach and the brand that month formed a new advertising consortium called Rogue.
The ELR, in particular, will need a refined strategy, he says. The ELR will be a niche vehicle and compete against theModel S all-electric vehicle that has become a media darling.
GM reportedly has formed a team to studyand how the Silicon Valley automaker markets its vehicles. Tesla uses boutique shops in swanky shopping districts to display its car, works social-media networks and sells vehicles online directly to buyers, bypassing the traditional dealer-franchise system.
“With the ELR, we should take a bit of a different approach,” Ferguson says. “We’ve been a mass-market company and the ELR will take some more prescriptive marketing, reaching individual consumers. I don’t think we’ll sell a lot of ELRs through mass advertising.”
The Tesla-like strategy would edge GM out of its swim lane, although the automaker has taken a one-on-one approach to marketing the Chevrolet Volt that uses the same technology.
“We’ll have to nurture that and cultivate that and that’s a different style of marketing for Cadillac,” he says.
Unlike 10-year-old Tesla, however, GM is wedded to longstanding state-level laws prohibiting it from selling vehicles directly to customers. Ferguson likes ideas such as boutique shops and says GM has examined the approach, but prefers to leverage its big dealer network. He also says he feels an obligation to Cadillac dealers for sticking with the brand during a product dearth over several years as it changed over its portfolio.
“They have been patient with us as we’ve had limited products for their showrooms,” says Ferguson, who showed the brand’s dealer council the new Escalade ahead of its glitzy premiere Monday night. “They are really enthusiastic. I love the partnership, and we’re going to build on that.”
Ferguson also says GM will examine expanding the Escalade nameplate beyond a single body-on-frame SUV. A large CUV similar to the Buick Enclave would be on option, he says, and it would use the Escalade nameplate much like GMC brands its upscale offerings as Denali.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out. The Escalade brand is so strong, why would we limit it to one vehicle?” he says. “There is a lot of equity in Escalade and I’d like to explore the notion of other vehicles carrying that name, but we’ve made no decisions.”
Ferguson also would like a different flagship for Cadillac than the Escalade. At the Pebble Beach Concours d ’Elegance earlier this year, the brand showed the Elmiraj large luxury coupe and executives said it could be built in the future.
“This has been a de facto flagship for Cadillac but it should not be the Cadillac flagship,” he says of the Escalade, which at upwards of $80,000 for premium models brings in big profits for Cadillac to fuel development of other vehicles. “We have other notions in mind in that regard.”
However, the introduction here left no doubt the Escalade currently occupies that role. The buildup to the unveiling lasted for weeks and flooded social media. GM hired a renowned photographer, Autumn de Wilde, to document its development, and a pair of edgy artists performed at the event. It was held at one of Manhattan’s trendiest venues and billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump watched the reveal from the front row.
“I think it’s beautiful,” Trump said afterward. “I want one, immediately. I want a lot of them for my hotels.”