GENEVA – Uwe Ellinghaus, installed last year as the global marketing chief for Cadillac, says as the brand’s product portfolio grows an unsatisfactory nomenclature must improve and a new approach to naming its vehicles likely will emerge soon.
“There is no doubt, with an expanded product portfolio, we need to revise our entire nomenclature and get to something that is not just copying what the competition is doing,” Ellinghaus tells WardsAuto at the Geneva auto show.
When Cadillac set out to remake itself early in the previous decade with the first-generation CTS sports sedan, it chose to begin an alphanumeric naming strategy to emulate BMW and Mercedes.
BMW uses numbers and Mercedes employs letters, to convey the vehicle size and pricing. The smaller the number or letter, the smaller and less expensive the model, their strategies imply.
But after the first-generation CTS in 2002, the brand launched the SRX 5-passenger CUV. In 2012, Cadillac added the XTS large sedan and ATS compact sports sedan. This year, the ELR electric luxury coupe comes to market. The Escalade, easily the brand’s most recognizable vehicle, arguably carries the only tangible name.
At this time, Ellinghaus admits, “we have no option. We fully acknowledge this has to improve.”
That’s because even more models are coming for the brand, the fastest-growing luxury name in the U.S. and one that is expanding aggressively into China and breaking into Europe with small steps.
“We may lose customers who do not know where the car fits,” he says. “I am on the case, without indicating any direction yet. But we are aware this is currently (both) a weakness of Cadillac and an opportunity.”
Ellinghaus also says Cadillac’s re-introduction to Europe after two previous unsuccessful attempts will be slow and the marketing plan unique. He forecasts sales volumes in the range of 2,000 units for the next couple of years and says there’s no intention of chasing volume leaders Daimler, BMW and Audi.
Last year, Cadillac sold 1,725 vehicles in Europe, according to WardsAuto data, compared with 1.01 million by Daimler and 857,883 from BMW.
Instead, Ellinghaus says, the General Motors brand will market itself as a highly exclusive nameplate and an alternative to the status quo. Without a small diesel engine, its powertrain already competes with the highest-performing offerings from the Germans. Cadillac styling has more soul, too, he adds.
The plan for Cadillac in Europe does not include a rush to build brick-and-mortar stores, either. The brand has 40 dealerships in the region and 140 service centers, and any future sales points would be pop-up stores or test-drive centers, Ellinghaus says.