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ehaase

Another Jerry Flint Column to Outrage Everyone

113 posts in this topic

ehaase    18

I think he's right.

http://www.thecarconnection.com/Auto_News/...192.A10986.html

Back in my army days they used to tell us, "Take the high ground." It's better to be on top of the hill shooting down than on the bottom, climbing up.

I found this was true in the luxury car business, too. To succeed you had to take the high ground. Sell the higher-priced luxury car with the advanced technology, not the lower-priced one. Don't be worried about costing more. Glory in it.

Our Cadillac forgot this lesson long ago, went for volume, lost the high ground to Mercedes and Lexus and BMW, and really is no longer a luxury nameplate. It's what Buick used to be.

I recall long ago, a General Motors executive told me of his talking to a union leader at a now-shuttered Cadillac plant. The union man told the GM executive something like, "I hope you haven't raised the price much. I want to be able to afford another one."

The GM man told me he was thinking: "You SOB. You shouldn't be able to buy one in the first place."

Cadillac went for volume rather than exclusiveness. Now they pay the price.

Look at the new Lexus LS460 or the Mercedes CLS. They push past $70,000. Cadillac isn't there except with some of the "V" models, limited-volume cars to compete with the AMG and the S and the R and all the other special initial hot cars.

It's said but true. We all wrote about a Cadillac renaissance, but it's over. Look what's happened in the luxury field below. These figures count cars and SUVs.Lincoln is included as a laugh because Ford treats it like a joke.

2006-E 2005 2004 %

Cadillac 230,000 235,002 234,217 -2%

Lexus 325,000 302,895 287,927 +13%

BMW 275,000 266,200 260,079 +6%

Mercedes 245,000 224,269 221,366 +11%

Lincoln 118,000 123,207 139,016 -15%

BMW excludes MINI.

The estimates for this year may be off since the fourth quarter is an unknown and there are lots of new luxury models coming out. But the direction is clear. The foreign luxury brands are growing and Cadillac, at best, is standing still.

You could say that half of those Lexus models are "trucks," compared to only 35 percent of the Cadillacs. Or that more than 40 percent of BWW sales are the 3-Series while only a quarter of Cadillac sales are the CTS. But I'll stick to my guns. Its badge is getting a smaller share of the luxury badge group, and today's big money doesn't consider Cadillac in the luxury class - with one big exception - Escalade SUVs.

What's wrong with Cadillac?

For the most part Cadillac designs are boring compared to competitors. The Escalade is a huge exception, an "over the top" look that should have pointed the way, shown that Cadillac designs must be head-turning to win back customers. The CTS with its sharp edges was successful, too. But new models are designed to please - what? Even bankers want Lexuses nowadays. General Motors bureaucrats even eliminated Cadillac's own styling studio for a while, if you can image that. Pinching pennies and throwing away dollars. There was one exciting Cadillac design: the Sixteen show car. Of course, they aren't building it.

The Escalade and CTS were successful. But that's all. The SRX SUV sells around 20,000 a year; the STS rear-drive sedan is dropping toward 25,000. That's failure to me. The DTS, the renamed DeVille, sells around 65,000 a year, near the DeVille level. The Escalades are new this year and are holding their own. A new CTS is coming but it will be doing fine to match the success of today's model.

Cadillac failed to build a serious rear-drive large car. They did well by making the CTS rear-drive, but that's not a large car. Cadillac has two larger car models, the front-drive DTS and the rear-drive STS, which actually isn't so large. What they need is to do a great rear-drive car with take-your-breath-away looks. One model, not two. But GM isn't willing to invest. The fact is Cadillac never recovered from the GM decision to go front-drive, a mistake they have yet to correct.

I don't blame Cadillac's managers. They've done the best they can. GM's top management just hasn't been willing to create a real division, giving its leaders enough money and power to compete with Lexus and Mercedes and BMW. They went part of the way, but not nearly far enough. We still have Cadillacs using four-speed automatic transmissions.

What's sad is that Cadillac did have some momentum with the Escalade and CTS. But the moment is over and the division seems to be slipping farther behind the leaders as that chart shows. The luxury market continues to grow, but alas, our Cadillac isn't getting any of that growth.

Like John Greenleaf Whittier wrote:

For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: "It might have been."

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Flybrian    0

Yeah. I just read that myself. I agree on the large RWD sedan aspect. DTS needs a successor now, not 2010. Though as is often the case, some of his points are valid, others aren't. Mercedes' massive growth comes at the cost of exclusivity as the brand is whored out to every ugly du-jour crossover or SUV. Lexus is riding off the backs of SUVs while their cars stagnate in the market. BMW milks the low-end with cheap low-mile leases to stupid MBA grads for all its worth.

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regfootball    234

its just typical American business culture. Give people less of what they want over time by trying to cut corners and screw people out of real goodness. Then glitz it over with marketing and hope people don't notice.

Sometimes if we had fewer losers with MBA's running companies and more people who care about product, we'd be better off.

Cadillac HAS been slow with new models and could be in real danger again soon. The new CTS coming out soon by all looks like it has lost the edgy look of the original and even though it will be a better car, it looks like it will just blend in and will not attract younger buyers either.

oh well. Its not like Lincoln is doing ANYTHING so in comparison, Cadillac still has some cred.

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Northstar    11

How can he say that the next CTS is not going to outsell the current one? Everything we've seen and heard suggests it's going to revolutionize everything in terms of design, it will have a kick-ass interior, excellent powertrains, and an improved suspension. How does that equal "doing fine to match the success of today's model"?

Reg, how has the new CTS lost its edgy look? The only thing we've seen without camo is the 60 minutes shot, and it still looks plenty edgy in that.

As for the other models, yes, Cadillac needs to get their act together on the STS and DTS.

I really think the Cadillac renaissance is just starting now. Sure, we had some turn around models, but look at the other vehicles GM was turning out then and how bad most of them were. Now, look at the non-Cadillacs GM is turning out today, and that tells you something about how good the new Cadillacs will be.

In the end, yes, Cadillac slowed down, but it's not like their product cycles have become abnormally long or anything. It just so happens they had everything redesigned/new at once that a gap in new product was bound to happen.

Finally, I don't think ragging on the SRX is acceptable. Yes, it didn't sell well, but it's won countless awards and comparos, so it's not like it's a bad product. It just didn't do well for whatever reason.

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toyoguy    0

Lexus is riding off the backs of SUVs while their cars stagnate in the market.

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That's not true, Lexus SUV's sales are declining.

BMW milks the low-end with cheap low-mile leases to stupid MBA grads for all its worth.

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BMW does have good lease rates, but that also is partly because of high residual values.

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pow    106

Given that GM invested like $2.99 into Cadillac, their current line-up isn't a bad effort.

They have more serious issues (like mainstream cars) to contend with first. Build the Camry-beater first before the S-class beater.

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regfootball    234

Given that GM invested like $2.99 into Cadillac, their current line-up isn't a bad effort.

They have more serious issues (like mainstream cars) to contend with first. Build the Camry-beater first before the S-class beater.

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yes, i would agree to that

Reg, how has the new CTS lost its edgy look? The only thing we've seen without camo is the 60 minutes shot, and it still looks plenty edgy in that.

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hate to say it, but the new CTS looks a bit too sleek and soft, almost like it is trying to be a Lexus or something. It still has the same face, but what is appealing about the current gen cts (the slab sidedness and upright stance and boxy lines and crisp shapes and creases) seems toned down in favor of a more coke bottle like sides, a long and low look, and softened creases that could easily be found on a Lexus or any other luxocar. The worst thing is the possibility of those razor thin upright taillights and moving the license plate down to the bumper. What is so kick ass about the CTS now is the wide euro taillights, the tall blunt rear stance, sharp creases, short front overhang, brash character lines on the side, and the plate on the top of the decklid.

Honestly from all I've seen, the new CTS looks too much like its trying to be more what a cheesy Lexus buyer would buy. Soft and flabby.

and the current SRX can be ragged on because its a bit small, its too narrow visually, it doesn't look all that sporty (looks like a wagon more than anything) and it had a cheesy interior. So despite its great performance, it has lots of things buyers would call flaws, stuff the autorags don't pick up on.

Edited by regfootball

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pow    106

Given that GM invested like $2.99 into Cadillac, their current line-up isn't a bad effort.

They have more serious issues (like mainstream cars) to contend with first. Build the Camry-beater first before the S-class beater.

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Ooops, I forgot about the STS. Taste and common sense cost nothing, yet they screwed up the styling and rear seat. Why do I have to slouch and tilt my head in the back of so many GM sedans?

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balthazar    1,876

I like how Cadillac 'went for volume' yet mercedes has 9 SUVs and a minivan and a low $20K hatchback and tripled warranty costs and a fender-interchange program with mazda and yet it isn't ever on the pointy end of Flintstone's stick over the fire.

BTW- did jerry omit clarification that the "now-shuttered Cadillac plant"

was Clark Ave, 'shuttered' because Cadillac had built a brand new, thoroughly modern plant (Hamtamck) in 1985?..... giddy to leave the inference that it was "shuttered" to 'prove' his 'point' that Cadillac is in a 'decline'?

Someone warm jerry's milk, it's wa-aaay past his bedtime. Oh yea, and he's an ass-clown.

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Intrepidation    846

It's a bummer the SRX is such a slow seller, it seems to win every comparison it's put in, and the new one's interior looks quite nice. The STS sells so badly it seems, I hardly seem them. I agree that Caddy needs a larger RWD sdean, they also need a coupe...and if teh CTS is getting bigger, then they need a new smaller car under it. And most of all, they need to stop being cheap about materials and anything else. It's a luxury brand...don't cheap out on anything. If it costs more, charge more...people will buy it.

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Flybrian    0

There's nothing cheap about the materials in a CTS. They just don't ooze wood and leather luxury. Its not a Flying Spur, so I can accept that. I don't see why so many can't.

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sciguy_0504    0

The materials may not be cheap but the design, IMO, is. The CTS interior is outclassed by all of its competitors, I think. The next-gen is a way different story.

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ZL-1    160

The materials may not be cheap but the design, IMO, is.  The CTS interior is outclassed by all of its competitors, I think.  The next-gen is a way different story.

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I agree regarding the interior design. Tower PC isn't a nice inspiration, IMO...

Now for my 2 cents:

I believe that if one considers the STS and the SRX, Flint isn't very far off the mark. SRX appears to be an excellent vehicle that was hurt by pricing and by sharing an interior with the CTS at launch (thus sharing the complaints re that interior). From what I've been reading in these boards, the STS is a s-l-o-w seller and some might even call it a dud.

It's the new CTS and the next generation STS and SRX (I almost forgot the BRX) that will tell us if Cadillac has what it takes to climb closer to the luxury car references in image and pricing power.

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ZL-1    160

The materials may not be cheap but the design, IMO, is.  The CTS interior is outclassed by all of its competitors, I think.  The next-gen is a way different story.

207705[/snapback]

I agree regarding the interior design. Tower PC isn't a nice inspiration, IMO...

Now for my 2 cents:

I believe that if one considers the STS and the SRX, Flint isn't very far off the mark. SRX appears to be an excellent vehicle that was hurt by pricing and by sharing an interior with the CTS at launch (thus sharing the complaints re that interior). From what I've been reading in these boards, the STS is a s-l-o-w seller and some might even call it a dud.

It's the new CTS and the next generation STS and SRX (I almost forgot the BRX) that will tell us if Cadillac has what it takes to climb closer to the luxury car references in image and pricing power.

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Cadillacfan    0

His whole argument is flawed. Contrary to what many people(including Flinty-boy) think, GM isn't swimming in money at the moment. It hasn't been for some time now and vehicles that are built by GM are much more expensive then their Japanese and European counterparts due to healthcare costs and other various union dues. How many times must that point be crammed into the minds of these people?!?!?

He lacks common sense too. You don't just build a $100,000 sedan and put it to market when all you've been building for the past two decades were rebadged FWD sedans that share a lot with it's cheaper sister brands.

VW tried that approach with the Phaeton and failed miserably in the North American market. The main issue was that people here still think of VW as a german auto company that specializes in making fun, small, and affordable cars, not large, luxurious sedans that are priced to compete with the likes of Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi. $70,000 for a VW? Hell no. It may be a nice car, but people here buy luxury cars based on brand name and not the car itself. That's why you see people have to own BMWs or Mercedes no matter how bad/cheap the car might be.

Cadillac should build up it's volume vehicles by making them luxurious and sporty and then build an ultra-lux vehicle when the time is ready.

I do agree that the interiors are lacking but I bring up the money issue yet again. GM devoted a lot of money into the Cadillac brand and most of it was focused on exterior design and it's all-new RWD platform. Now that there is a set brand identity in place and performance is key to the future, Cadillac design teams can focus on improving the interiors and making them, at least, competitive to other cars in the Luxury segment.

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The O.C.    2

Yeah. I just read that myself. I agree on the large RWD sedan aspect. DTS needs a successor now, not 2010. Though as is often the case, some of his points are valid, others aren't. Mercedes' massive growth comes at the cost of exclusivity as the brand is whored out to every ugly du-jour crossover or SUV. Lexus is riding off the backs of SUVs while their cars stagnate in the market. BMW milks the low-end with cheap low-mile leases to stupid MBA grads for all its worth.

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But like Flint said, it doesn't matter about Mercedes' crossovers or SUVs......or Lexus' SUVs.....or BMW's "cheap low mile leases"....

THEY are getting the job done.....increasing sales, growing marketshare.....

I think this article is absolutely spot-on and I can't fault any of Jerry's comments or concerns.

Can anyone argue that Escalade and CTS lead the way for Cadillac? Of course not....BUT....

.......can anyone argue that the current STS and SRX have been mediocre at BEST?

Can anyone argue that DTS has no place in the supposed-new Cadillac lineup?

Can anyone argue that Cadillac needed a 7-series/S-class competitor a LONG time ago?

Out in CA, Escalades and CTSs get respect.....and many times you see young guys and gals driving them.

Everything else in the Cadillac lineup? Almost exclusively blue-hairs.

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The O.C.    2

There's nothing cheap about the materials in a CTS. They just don't ooze wood and leather luxury. Its not a Flying Spur, so I can accept that. I don't see why so many can't.

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Well, I have to disagree.

While I LOVE my car, and love the actual STYLING of the interior......the materials ARE pretty piss-poor.

Controls, knobs, switchgear are all really nice. It's the damn plastics that cover every seeming part of the interior dash, console, door panels, etc. That pimple-dimple $h!.

Every time I get in OCCarNut's '07 A4 3.2 Quattro, I get pissed at GM for the shabby interior materials on my CTS. Even the wood on the center stack is fake.....and looks it.....while the real wood on the wheel, shifter, and door pulls looks so much nicer.....it totally clashes with the center stack wood.

That being said, i guess I can at least say that it IS a unique look and feel from the actual design. I'd rather have the CTS interior DESIGN but the Audi's MATERIALS.

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The O.C.    2

I do agree that the interiors are lacking but I bring up the money issue yet again.  GM devoted a lot of money into the Cadillac brand and most of it was focused on exterior design and it's all-new RWD platform. 

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Actually you are incorrect.......money WASN'T the issue with the interior design.

Lutz has publically stated that the CTS interior IS expensive and the materials used ARE costly.

The problem is that the execution of the materials is lacking. The dimple-pimple $h! LOOKS cheap.....but it's not.....it's actually expensive.

Somebody signed off on that interior that most-assuredly has no clue as to what denotes a high-quality look and feel to an interior. Did they even study the competition? One would think NOT.....

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Flybrian    0

Well, you just contridicted yourself there. I'll conceded the CTS doesn't look luxurious in the traditional sense, but again, the material quality is there and I for one like the high-tech stealth look

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The O.C.    2

Well, you just contridicted yourself there. I'll conceded the CTS doesn't look luxurious in the traditional sense, but again, the material quality is there and I for one like the high-tech stealth look

207777[/snapback]

Not really.....

They still look and feel cheap......

But I have to stress.....I give it a pass because I really do like the DESIGN and STYLE of the interior.....and fit-and-finish looks to be superb.

I just don't like the plastics.....and the nasty fake wood on the center stack.

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turbo200    6

Liking the looks of the interior on any car is purely subjective and semantics. get over it. Affirming that the materials are of the highest quality nature is not subjective; they may have been costly to use, but whoever approved using these costly rough feeling materials was smoking crack.

Flint is spot on with the first half, I don't have time to get into the second half of the article. The trendiest carmakers, the ones that get the most respect and adulation, the ones that end up selling more bottom-feeder cars based on reputation alone, are the ones that produce the most glorious upline cars. S-Class has been beating STS in sales for God's sake! That is a most glorious machine. CLS is one of the most beautiful sedans/coupes/whatever on the road period! ML SUV is still gorgeous and desirable. The next CL coupe is incredible. MB has attacked the upper region price points moreso than anybody in recent times, and their profit margins will show for it. Their reputation, as if it needed to get any better, is at its highest. Everybody in LA thinks that when you've arrived you buy a MB, well not everybody, just lemmings. Not only is this the thinking, but, gasp, they are actually making some of the most stylish designs on the road. Those bastards!

Where does this leave Cadillac? In the metaphorical dust. They may not seem too far behind to fans of this board, but they are. Luckily, they have created a lot of good will with the current look. NG CTS should build on that....BUT they need to REACT MORE QUICKLY with more cars, coupes, convertibles, sedans! To take advantage and build the brand's value MORE. They just don't get it apparently. MB is doing huge volume, and despite what everyone here may say about them, they are laughing all the way to the banks. And thier image keeps going up up up. Same is true of BMW, only they've stuck to more traditional routes.

Am I saying MB is perfect or free of mistakes? HEll no. Am I saying the R-Class is a work of art? Hell no. But by improving on every line SUBSTANTIALLY and building more niches, carving out more clientele, they are promising themselves a lengthy storied run at the top.

Cadillac is far far far behind. They are even behind Acura now. At least in terms of quality product that is helping to build perception. And the Escalade is getting too soft for me again. I like it, but I don't think it will be the massive hit it once was. It's not too late for Sixteen!

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Cadillacfan    0

Actually you are incorrect.......money WASN'T the issue with the interior design.

Lutz has publically stated that the CTS interior IS expensive and the materials used ARE costly.

The problem is that the execution of the materials is lacking.  The dimple-pimple $h! LOOKS cheap.....but it's not.....it's actually expensive.

Somebody signed off on that interior that most-assuredly has no clue as to what denotes a high-quality look and feel to an interior.  Did they even study the competition?  One would think NOT.....

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I'm sure if they had more money devoted to the interior, the design would've been well thought-out and attractive because the current one looks like a rush job that contains a mish-mash of ideas along with an expensive radio/hvac unit. It seemed as though it was the very last thing developed and they used the money left after they designed the exterior. It's typical of US automakers to not pay attention fully to interior design and quality. With Lutz, the money has shifted to where it counts and now that they already have a platform and styling to start off with, it makes the interior a much easier task then before.

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CARBIZ    1

I think you would all have to agree that from where Cadillac was 5 years ago, it has come along way. As usual, however, so has everyone else.

Still, I think that if you compare the leaps GM has made recently with respect to vehicles like the Aura and the upcoming Enclave, it bodes well for future Cadillacs. It does make me wonder a little bit about development money being spread too thin (think Equinox/Torrent!), but if MB keeps building crap, the sheeple will come around. Eventually.

It is all a cycle. Everyone's gotta have a MB or Bimmer. That, too, will change.

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