Cadillac: Back where it belongs, not out of the woods

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Cadillac made a change at the top this year, selecting Steve Carlisle as president.

Make no mistake, he has a very tough road ahead of him. But the first step for Carlisle and his marketing boss, Deborah Wahl, was the right one — re-establishing their offices in Detroit.

I’m sure Carlisle knows he will need to spend a lot of time with Mark Reuss and the General Motors design and engineering staff in Warren, Mich. Cadillac belongs in Detroit, and certainly Carlisle understands that.

He also understands that the success and survival of Cadillac depends on those two important ingredients — design and engineering — something his predecessors did not seem to understand.

Marketing is important, but right now, Cadillac is operating without a full arsenal. The reality is that it will take quite a while before Carlisle can have any impact on what is in the showroom.

Regardless of overall trends, my guess is that Cadillac buyers, like most luxury-vehicle owners, will still want sedans in addition to a large choice of SUVs.

Still, it is going to take years before Cadillac has a product portfolio that will generate traffic all by itself. Meanwhile, the brand bosses will have to do the best they can with a less-than-stellar lineup.

It does not seem so long ago that Cadillac was the standard of the world. It now must fight to get back in the game against competitors from Germany and Asia, not to mention what appears to be a resurgence at Lincoln.

Cadillac has a strong dealer organization that deserves a product lineup that is competitive with the best in the world. As always, it is obvious that product is king.

In such a competitive marketplace, Cadillac must not only offer vehicles customers want but predict their future desires — not the easiest challenge.

Climbing back is a long and very tough road for the new head of Cadillac, and the road begins in Detroit.

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