Afterthoughts: Cadillac ATS & The Perception Game
Editor/Reporter - CheersandGears.com
February 24, 2012
A few weeks ago, Cadillac debuted their ad for the 2012 Super Bowl. The ad features the new ATS sedan and some footage of it undergoing testing at the Nurburgring. The ad ends with this line,
“So if anyone tells you that Cadillac can’t beat the world’s best, just tell them to go to green hell and see for themselves.”
The ad also calls out one of the ‘world’s best’, the BMW 3-Series.
A bit audacious to call out the best selling compact luxury car in your ads. But on paper, the ATS makes a good case; three different engine choices (2.5L, 2.0T, 3.6L DI V6), two transmissions, a low curb weight, the list goes on. But there is one item that isn’t talked about. One item that the ‘world’s best’ (i.e. the Germans) have that Cadillac doesn’t; perception.
Ask someone what they think about the German automakers and the response is pretty high. The person thinks of the Germans as building high quality vehicles, fun to drive, and great experience to buy and own. Ask for their thoughts on Cadillac and it’s a complete 180. The person thinks of Cadillac as building so-so quality vehicles, a floaty ride that would grandparents love, and a meager experience to buy and own.
GM has been hard at work trying to change the perception and position Cadillac as a world beater since 2003, when the CTS, SRX, and XLR were introduced. Cadillac has gone more drastic with their designs, worked on improving the quality of their vehicles, tuned the driving dynamics, introduced a performance sub-brand, made the dealer experience better, and so on.
But GM has been at this for only a bit. The Germans have been working on this for a long time. Look at the history of the German luxury compact sedan class; the BMW 3-Series has 33 years, while the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class both have 18 years. The ATS is coming right of the gate and its predecessor, the CTS stands at 9 years.
GM is on the right track with Cadillac of rebuilding and positioning, but now isn’t the time to start calling out your competitors in ads. The ATS might look good on paper and in the ads, but will it mean people will go out and try the Cadillac? Possibly, but only in a minuscule amount.
Right now, Cadillac is on its third step of rebuilding/repositioning with the new ATS, upcoming XTS, and redesigned CTS in the works. What Cadillac should be do is stop talking about the completion. Instead start talking about what makes a Cadillac a Cadillac. Talk about CUE, Magnetic Ride Control, the 2.0L Turbo, the engineering that went into it, so on and so forth. But also, keep working on those improvements.
And before you know it, you can say we can take on the world’s best, and no one would bat an eye at it.
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