As Cadillac’s market share continues to wilt, it’s worth considering what Cadillac once was – and could be again.
If, that is, it could take off the Me Too blinders it has been wearing for the past 30-plus years and resumed building . . . Cadillacs.
Not BMWs with Cadillac badges.
Batteries are about as sexy as Depends – and Depends at least work.
Cadillac was successful – once upon a time – because Cadillacs were not BMWs. Or Audis or Benzes or any other such foreign thing. They were American things. Boldly – even belligerently so.
It wasn’t so much about finesse as it was about a very particular style – obstreperous, insolent. Not merely the opposite of politically correct but the hairy thing which stomps with both feet on political correctness.
You know – what America used to be and which Cadillac once embodied.
The other thing was size.
The idea of a small Cadillac is as silly as the idea of a fuel-efficient drag racer. It’s contrary to the point.
It’s worth noting – especially because Cadillac seems not to have noticed it – that the most successful (and one of the very few successful at all) new Cadillacs is huge – a Leviathan of the roads with no real peer and also the only one that offends exactly the right people. Which is a turn-on for the people who like (or used to like) Cadillacs.
It is the Escalade, the only new Cadillac that resembles the Cadillacs of the glory days – and the thing is a truck, basically. It is massive and intimidating and powerful and unapologetically consumptive of every resource within reach.
It comes with the biggest V8 GM makes, which used to be the standard for every Cadillac. Liners like the Fleetwood and Eldorado – great names; great American names – came with 8 liter engines, unsurpassed in displacement by anything else that wasn’t a locomotive.
The Escalade also has the most room inside – not merely of any GM vehicle, but period.
There is nothing else as titanic – exactly the right word. The thing is awesome, in the original way that word was meant. That is to say, it inspires awe.
Today’s Cadillac cars are about other things. The things every other luxury brand already specializes in – most particularly, “sportiness.”
There is nothing wrong with being “sporty” – but the trend has gotten out of hand because (like tattoos) everyone has one – and that detracts from the difference of having one.
People bought BMWs because they were sporty – and Cadillacs were something else. Two different kinds of buyers, with different preferences. Contra that, people bought Cadillacs because they weren’t sporty BMWs, nor trying to be.
Those buyers had a different preference.
They wanted to make an impression. To be the car that stood out from the herd, not only in terms of physical size but also physical presence. In their heyday, when a Cadillac rolled up to the curb, it was like seeing Hulk Hogan at the airport. You couldn’t help looking, even if you didn’t particularly like the look.
The point was, people looked. Everyone looked.
Todays Caddys – the Escalade excepted – blend in, the afterthought angles and tail-light designs which try to conjure the ghosts of Cadillacs past notwithstanding. You lift the hood and are greeted by the same turbo fours and V6s found in Chevys and Buicks, tweaked perhaps but (echoing Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle) they are no 472s and 511s – the Cadillac specific (and Cadillac huge) V8s you commanded when you held the keys to a Brougham de Elegance.
These were American Bentleys – only better because they were American. Uproariously, defiantly in-your-face American. The car to intimidate a Bentley in.
What Cadillac succeeded in doing by trying to be another BMW was to alienate its core buyer demographic while failing to attract the one it sought – which continued to prefer (like Coke) the real thing.
This isn’t a slam of Cadillac. It is a reminder that Coke isn’t Pepsi – and Coke buyers don’t want Pepsi (just as Pepsi buyers don’t want Coke).
Cadillac has been trying to be the New Coke of luxury cars by downsizing its cars and Me-Tooing the sportiness of other cars. This has been a huge mistake. No matter how quick a V series Cadillac may be relative to a BMW M or Benz AMG, it will never be a BMW M or a Benz AMG and ought to give up trying because by trying be those cars, it becomes just another one of those kinds of cars.
A Cadillac ought to be unlike all other cars. It ought not to care that other cars are quicker – because they are not Cadillacs and never will be, no matter how fast they lap the Nurburgring or get from zero to 60.
A Cadillac ought to own the curb.
Klieg lights should flash – or seem to be flashing. A movie star just stepped onto the red carpet.
Owning a Cadillac ought to make you feel like one.
They don’t anymore, because they are just another car – with a different badge and not much else. Adding batteries will only make matters worse because it will make them even more homogenous.
Fours ought to be out of the question. They are as un-Cadillac as having a Diet Coke with a ribeye steak.
Even V6s are questionable.
Fuel economy? What Cadillac that ever sold well gave a tinker’s damn about that? Do people buy Escalades because of their fuel efficiency – or their demure “carbon footprint”?
These are not verities of political correctness, of course – and thus eschewed by Cadillac’s current management as well as the woman who runs the company, who is surely triggered by the very thought of Don Draper and his de Ville.
But that was Cadillac’s glorious – and successful – past.
And could be its successful again future.
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