Blog: Dave LeggettTailfins and vertical tail-lamps

Dave Leggett | 7 August 2008

Cadillac doesn't do tailfins these days, but there are some intriguing exterior design idents like vertical tail-lamps and the very distinctive grille and face. I found myself liking the look and feel of the CTS earlier today when I drove it. There's a nice job inside, too. The car's not bad at all though the ride was a bit choppy in the 3.6L compared with the 2.7L (they have different suspension set-ups - but while the 2.7L gives a firmer ride, the 3.6L engine is better at moving what is a fairly heavy lump of metal).

Anyway, the car's basically a good job. But that's half the story. The much-needed diesel is still a year away. And how many potential customers are out there in Britain for Cadillac and a high-end car like the CTS? When I spoke to Jonathan Nash, he acknowledged that timing isn't ideal, what with the credit crunch and all. But GM seems keen to press on and get the product out there. How long will it take for people who 'want something that isn't German' to put Cadillac in the mix for consideration? It won't be an overnight job, but you have to start with the right product. Planned sales volumes look low, but CTS could go much higher if the VM Motori diesel engine is a hit and people's perception of Cadillac starts to align with a product that is more sophisticated than many would expect. 

But a growing economy would help, with the sort of people classed as 'high achievers' keen on making statements with their vehicle purchase choice feeling a bit more confident than they do today. And there's also the small matter of distribution in Britain. I believe Pendragon - the current distributor of Cadillacs in the UK (via a handful of Stratstone outlets) - is on the brink of going under.

The CTS planning numbers for UK are small, and that's a double-edged sword. The modest numbers may be achievable, but while Cadillac is positioned as such a marginal player a wider acceptance and understanding of the brand might prove a little elusive (there's not much word-of-mouth recommendation for example, and the perception of the brand values may remain confused). And a return on the engineering investment on RHD for a car like the CTS (okay, not just the UK market, I know - there are other RHD markets out there) might be a long time coming.

Separately, an interesting thought popped up over lunch. Are Americans going to shift out of SUVs and into sports wagons/estates? There is an image issue to overcome generally (soccer moms), but John Manoogian suggested that the combination of some utility and lower gas bills might cause many SUV owners to replace them with modern estate cars.

UK: Cadillac launches CTS in UK amid market gloom


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