Cadillac plans new branding campaign to go with new products

It'll unveil its 'master brand' in early 2019

Cadillac's new leader says the GM luxury brand now has "thousands of people" working on its behalf back at its soon-to-be new headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Warren, with a new branding campaign under development and plans to fix longstanding quality issues.

Cadillac President Steve Carlisle granted an interview with the Detroit Free Press in which he said he'll unveil a new strategy to redefine the luxury brand, which he's calling a "master brand," in the first quarter of 2019. "Cadillac has its own values — boldness, optimism, innovation, sophistication — that will reflect in the master brand," Carlisle told the outlet. The challenge is "how to bring those to life."

He added that Caddy won't be defining itself simply as a viable option to gold-standard Germany luxury cars. "We're targeting customers versus competitors. Cadillac has to have its own persona and not be defined by where other brands are and are not. It has to have its own definition and that's what we're reflecting in our master brand."

Carlisle, who was promoted to lead Cadillac in April, put his first stamp on Cadillac last month when the brand announced it will move its headquarters back to Warren, Mich., across the street from GM's massive Tech Center, after more than three years in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood. He said its Cadillac House showroom, a ground-floor space used to display models and stage events with partners, will remain open "for the time being" and that the brand will use what it learned well outside of its Detroit auto-industry bubble to move the brand forward.

He'll have his work cut out for him. Cadillac plans to launch a new or redesigned vehicle every six months for the next three years, and Carlisle said he wants the brand to be GM's technology leader, the first to deploy self-driving and electric-vehicle technology of GM's stable of brands. Yet the brand just ranked second-from-last in Consumer Reports' new reliability survey for 2018. Jon Linkov, deputy auto editor for CR, said the brand suffered for widespread complaints about its Cadillac User Experience infotainment system, with owners reporting frequent crashes, frozen screens and problems with voice control. "Most of (the complaints) really ran through the CUE system being a major culprit for Cadillacs," Linkov said.

Through September, Cadillac's year-to-date sales had dipped a half a percentage point from the first nine months of 2017 to 113,240 units. Sales of the XTS sedan rose 15.9 percent to 12,664, while the full-size Escalade SUV rose 8.3 percent to 27,299. The CTS, meanwhile, saw sales fall 10.6 percent to 7,270. Cadillac's overall third-quarter sales were off 10.7 percent from the prior-year period.

Cadillac is phasing out the ATS Sedan after this year, though the coupe remains for now. It recently launched the XT4 as just its second entrant, after the larger XT5, in the all-important luxury crossover segment.

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