Cadillac generated a minor firestorm this week by announcing plans to move its headquarters from Detroit to New York in 2015. But that's about the third-most important thing going on with Cadillac right now.
The CT6 will be a rolling buffet of GM's latest technologies.
For starters, Cadillac also confirmed the name of its new rear-wheel-drive flagship sedan this week. It will be called CT6, and that signals a new nomenclature strategy for Cadillac, which will be slowly phased in as models are redesigned or replaced.
The CT6 will be The Car for Cadillac. It goes into production late next year, and executives have been touting it as the brand's new flagship for months. If Cadillac is to be a legitimate luxury brand, it needs to have a true competitor to face off against the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series and others.
The value of the CT6 cannot be understated. It will be a rolling buffet of General Motors' latest technologies, including its semi-autonomous drive feature, Super Cruise. GM has said it will use Cadillac as its platform to debut new technologies, something in which the brand has deep roots. While it's not expected to generate huge sales volume, Cadillac hopes the CT6 will create a buzz and get consumers into its showrooms. They might not buy a CT6, but maybe they'll test drive an ATS, or so the thinking goes.
Speaking of sales, Cadillac is doing well in many markets around the world, but its sales are down 4.7 percent this year in the United States. That's a problem. It's hard to aspire to be The Standard of the World, when you're not winning in your home market.
It's hard to aspire to be The Standard of the World, when you're not winning in your home market.
Enter Jim Bunnell. Lost amid the flurry of news this week, Cadillac appointed a new US sales vice president, and Bunnell will be charged with jumpstarting the brand in its largest market. It's perplexing to industry observers why Cadillac's sales are declining, yet its product range has won awards and has been generally well-received.
"The brand perception of what these products align to has been lagging," said Mark Reuss, GM's executive vice president of product development, purchasing and supply chain.
Obviously, GM hopes sending Cadillac to New York will help the brand connect more closely with coastal customers. Cadillac is becoming a "separate business unit" under the leadership of new president Johan de Nysschen. The headquarters in the trendy Soho neighborhood will be home to about 50 marketing and sales staff, though the majority of the brand's employees will remain in Michigan. With such a small headcount, it's fair to question how much of a headquarters this really is. Relocation almost seems like a distraction for Cadillac.
A New York address might help revive the brand. It probably won't hurt, but it's not nearly as important as building compelling cars or bolstering sales in the United States.
Other News and Views
Ferrari 458 Speciale A revealed
Anytime a new Ferrari debuts, it's a good week – or in this case, a "Speciale" week. The "A" stands for Aperta, which means "open" in Italian, and this is the convertible sibling to the 458 Speciale. The spider uses an aluminum roof that can open or close in 14 seconds, and the V8 engine packs 597 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, enabling a sprint to 62 miles per hour in just three seconds. Enthusiasts should also take note of this color scheme. When the Speciale A is revealed in the flesh at the Paris Motor Show, it will wear yellow body paint with a Blue Nart and Bianco Avus stripe that runs the length of the car.
Lotus vows US return in 2016
Cadillac wasn't the only brand spurring controversy this week with multiple bursts of news. Lotus first announced plans to lay off a quarter of its work force, or up to 325 jobs. Then news came that Lotus wouldn't be able to sell cars in the US market for the 2015 model year after the expiration of its smart airbag exemption. Finally, Lotus responded that it will return with 2016 models – with complaint airbags – and plans to expand its network of 45 dealerships in the United States. Lotus won't vanish entirely for a year either, as during the interlude, its dealers will sell race-spec models. Though Lotus is the definition of a niche player in America, it appears to have a pulse, and a plan, for moving forward.
Tony Stewart won't face criminal charges
A grand jury didn't find enough evidence for Tony Stewart to face criminal charges in the on-track death of Kevin Ward, Jr., who reportedly had enough marijuana in his system to impair his judgment. According to a statement from the Ontario County (New York) district attorney, jurors found "no basis" to charge Stewart. The NASCAR star hit and killed Ward in a crash during in a dirt track race in August. Ward had left his car and was on the track gesturing at Stewart when the collision occurred.