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Is Cadillac's Image Dying and Does Anyone Care?

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  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I'm not sure I agree with that. Ok, I know I don't.

    A nice 1994 W124 E500 is a classic Mercedes that any Mercedes fan would love to own. Besides just because someone pulls up in a 1990 560SEL doesn't mean it is there only/everyday car. Especially if it has that preserved look about. I know more than a few people that have older W124 and W126 cars but they have a newer model Benz in their garage too. Nothing wrong with an mid-90's R129 SL either.

    M
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I saw some posts that touched on this earlier. Why did Cadillac fall so far and the Germans didn't.

    There are several huge differences betwen the two falling offs. I'll take Mercedes case vs Cadillac's.

    Cadillac at their worst built cars that were poorly built, numb to drive, outdated technically and severly underpowered, especially in 80's. Mercedes recent troubles have been in the areas of reliablity and in some cases build, but MB acted on their problems much faster. Go to a MB showroom now and you won't find any shoddy build cars anymore, the same can be said for almost all current Cadillacs too, but they still don't have the fit and finish of a German luxury car.

    Mercedes at no time had any cars that were so underpowered relative to their competition. Cadillac actually thought they could tackle the 238hp 560SL with a 140hp Allante. Who in the world puts a V8 on the market with 140hp? By the time they got the Nortstar in the car (1993) the market had dismissed the car. When the 1990 500SL came along with a modern DOHC, 32V V8 with 322hp the Allante was beyond obliterated. Mercedes' cars generally don't ever suffer such an total and utter outclassing from their competitors. Cadillacs during a certain period weren't even remotely competitive with the German imports any any area beside offering more space.

    Mercedes learned much faster from the 1998 M-Class, 2000 S-Class and 2001 C-Class that going cheap on the interiors won't cut it and that relaibility is key. Not to say they've fixed the reliability part because as long as these cars are still within the survey window and on sale (C-Class) they're still going to show some problem for MB's overall score.

    The biggest mistakes Cadillac made relative to say MB or BMW was slapping their name on a product that clearly wasn't up to their standards, like the Cimmaron. Then having wheezing, underpowered V8s, and totally lifeless handling and roadworthness. Not everyone wants a BMW, but my goodness it should take more than a fingertip to steer the car down the road.

    Then there is the issue of overpromising and undelievering. Cadillac and GM in general has this problem big time. Cadillac spent years and years trying to get a FWD STS to outhandle a German car when the entire class RWD.

    M
  • I agree

    One of the wholesalers I work with has a SL from every bodystyle going back to the 1970s and when the weather is good he drives then for work. Sure he drives his 2005 SL500 most of the time but during the late spring and through early fall you will see him in the older ones.

    I wouldn't call him unsucessful at all since he is worth a a couple of million easy.
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,738
    One way to get around the whole image thing is to just drive a classic.

    It says that you could be driving whatever you want, but you chose to drive something that was unique and has some class and history.(well, unless it's a Mustang or something everyone owns)

    A 1960 or 70s Mercedes is a perfect example - classy and yet ever so slightly understated as well, since it has no "bling" factor.
  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    What if they drove a nice fintail?

    Well, you know there is a point where the car is an obvious classic, not your daily, only car you have car. Somewhere around 20 years, a well kept up anything can connote that you're a car guy. And that's a good image.....

    A fintail in the south is fine - this time of year ;)
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Yep I'm inclined to believe (just going by the folks I know who do it) that people with older Mercedes (that are well kept mind you) aren't trying to pose or anything like that. Also, we know they have some type of money to keep something like say a 1990 560SEL or 1986 560SL in mint condition!

    The posers can't keep a car like that long and keep it up. I don't have that kind of money which is why it only goes back to 2003 (read: warranty) for me and a Mercedes. That dream of a 1994 E500 would be nice, but it isn't doable for me right now. Sure I could find one and buy it, but could I really afford it?

    M
  • nvbankernvbanker Posts: 7,285
    One of the wholesalers I work with has a SL from every bodystyle going back to the 1970s and when the weather is good he drives then for work. Sure he drives his 2005 SL500 most of the time but during the late spring and through early fall you will see him in the older ones.

    I wouldn't call him unsucessful at all since he is worth a a couple of million easy.


    And NOBODY here implied that he would be. Classics have great curb value - way different than a 1980 300D that looks tired and worn out.
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,989
    What engine was in that beauty ? :shades:

    Rocky
  • tlongtlong CaliforniaPosts: 4,754
    What did the German's do right that GM did wrong to keep a customer base? How did they keep their image as "the car to have" while Caddy was reduced to "the car to avoid?"

    Well, one of my theories is that even though the reliability has been poor for a lot of German makes in the last decade, they are still desirable cars.

    I had a 1998 Audi A4. Its reliability over about 90K miles was neither excellent nor lousy - just OK. But I loved that car. It was beautiful inside. The engine was smooth as glass. The leather was soft. The clutch takeup, the feel of the manual transmission - everything about the car was smooth as silk. It handled like it was on rails. I now own an Acura TL and while it is bigger and more practical in many ways, it STILL is not nearly as nice as the Audi. Yet is is more reliable!

    I think the reason the German cars have kept customers is because even when the reliability failed people, the cars are so nice to drive and sit in, they are so refined, that many people are willing to put up with those drawbacks. The cars have soul.

    Even VW, who has had a lot of problems with reliability (and a really lousy service network) has cars that are really nice to drive and sit in. And their resale is better than you would expect given their poor reliability.

    That is why so many people harp on the rough engines and poor interiors of many of the domestic makes. Bring those qualities up to par, make the cars very desirable. Reliability is not the only (perhaps not even the most important) issue. Cars that feel cheap aren't going to keep customers.
  • trimastertrimaster Posts: 163
    Merc,

    I agree with your assesment. But I know you know...lol

    I was hoping one of the Caddy Enthusiasts would answer first... ;)
  • chevy598chevy598 Posts: 162
    I am a Caddy fan, and I agree with your assessment 95%. Yes, German cars offer advanced technology and refined ride, but are less reliable. The "bells & whistles" make German cars desirable even if reliability is below par.

    Lets not forget the Germans have lost some of their customer base to Lexus. In 1989 Mercedes & BMW pretty much owned the Luxury segment, and now their fighting for second place.

    Lexus's success has just as much to do with reliability as refinement.

    If Cadillac continues to have strong reliability eventualy it will pay off. The 2008 CTS, 2007 SRX, and Escalade are examples of strong designs that are on par with the competition. If Cadillac continues with strong designs & better than average reliability anything is possible.

    How many 1985 Lexus's are on the road today? How many 2006 Lexus's will their be on the road in 2025? The Times change. Their once was only 2 luxury players, and now there's 3.
  • dhamiltondhamilton Posts: 873
    I think Lexus reliability is only part of the equation. The other half being service. Service at a whole other level than anyone else short of maybe Rolls Royce. [and that may be debatable]

    They've won so many people over by fixing problems in such a professional manner, and without pain to the customer as much as possible. [from what I hear and see]
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,752
    Not a Mini. But more importantly, the car sells because it's a decent little car:

    Yeah I wonder how well it will sell and how good people would say the car was if the only difference was that Ford or GM was behind it?

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,752
    The reality of the situation is that if Benz or BMW trip and fall and start making poorer cars and then start recovering its ok. They have the reputation and are improving themselves and are still good cars. But if Cadillac does the same thing they are pieces of junk and will never recover and are doomed to fail.

    Its a simple double standard.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,752
    People are willing to pay a premium for those "few things."

    yes they are and in many of those cases the only thing is a name. If they want to do that go for it.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,752
    SNOB APPEAL: This is the old "rich people are stupid" theory,

    No its not that, its the "middle class people who spend more than they can afford to put forth an image are stupid thing". Its the idiot making $35K/Yr that buys a 3 series on a 72 month note and gets a second job to help make the payments just so that they can be seen in a BMW and say they own one.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,752
    After I interview a potential employee for a job, I watch out the window to see what they drove in. If the guy is 42, and is driving a 10 year old Cavalier all beat up, I know he's never been successful in his life, so why would he be good for my company?

    Sam Walton drove around in an old beat up pickup truck. I know someone driving around in a 12 year old escort thats pretty well beaten up who could probably buy your company for cash. I had a job many decades ago where the owner of the company drove a beat up station wagon yet he owed nothing (either in business or personal life) and he had more than enough cash to buy half the inventory at your local BMW dealer.

    Tell me would you want one of them working for you or would you want that 42 year old in that brand new 3 series BMW who has 75K in credit card debt has 3 mortgages on their house and are living paycheck to paycheck?

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • How many 1985 Lexus's are on the road today? How many 2006 Lexus's will their be on the road in 2025? The Times change. Their once was only 2 luxury players, and now there's 3.

    I assume you meant to say 1989 not 1985 for lexus as Lexus did not exist in 1985.
  • chevy598chevy598 Posts: 162
    No, I meant 1985.

    In 1985 BMW & Mercedes owned near 100% of the luxury import segment. Now BMW & Mercedes have 65% of the luxury import segment.

    It took Lexus only 18 years to take away over 35% of the Germans market, and their just getting started.

    How much more damage will Lexus do to the Germans 18 years from now?
  • chevy598chevy598 Posts: 162
    IMHO the majority of people driving a Lexus would not even consider an American car.
    I've met more than one Lexus owner who was previously a BMW or Mercedes owner.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Ford and GM would have to be capable of building something like the Mini, first.
  • pch101pch101 Posts: 582
    Ford and GM would have to be capable of building something like the Mini, first.

    You've hit the nail on the head. Most of us know that Ford and GM can't, whereas BMW has earned enough of our trust by building fun products that handle well that we know that they are capable of building a fun, small car with cachet. We recognize them for that talent and reward them with our business.

    The irony of those who attack branding is that the father of branding is none other than Sloan, who invented the tiered branding concept and made the most of it. Once upon time, a Cadillac did carry brand value, and it sent the message as being both better than a Chevy and worth the extra money.

    Brands are useful to consumers, because it tells them what to expect and reduces the risk of your purchase. Brands develop reputations, and if the products with that brand are both good and predictable, then the brand will be strong and the companies will benefit.

    GM's problem is that it took its brand equity and diluted it to the point of absurdity that the only difference between a Chevy and a Cadillac is that the Caddy had a few more tacky options and a lot higher price tag. Consumers learned after being burned enough that the Cadillac badge was a warning label, and they sought better alternatives.

    A BMW is not just a Chevy with a higher price tag. The Beemer drives, looks and feels different, and sits in an entirely different class, one that warrants a higher price tag. If GM wants to keep up with or surpass the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Lexus in this class, then it needs to repair its damaged brands so that they are viewed as a positive, rather than a negative, and that will only happen with better products and service. No company has ever prospered by pointing fingers at its potential customers.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,791
    Remember, you are talking about US market only. In the rest of the world, Lexus is still pretty much invisible, save for the Euro stepford wives who have jumped on the RX bandwagon.

    Elsewhere, the Germans still rule. You can go to a high dollar part of London, Paris, Berlin, etc and walk around for hours, and not see a one. Go to a similar location in NA, and you'll see them everywhere.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,791
    Sounds like literally a couple of anecdotal exceptions.

    Oh, and most posers lease, not finance for 72 months.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,791
    Boo hoo.

    Neither MB or BMW have fallen as hard or as long as Caddy fell, for one.

    Maybe things will change when the technically grained dashboards are dead.
  • pch101pch101 Posts: 582
    Elsewhere, the Germans still rule. You can go to a high dollar part of London, Paris, Berlin, etc and walk around for hours, and not see a one.

    That's true, but to be fair, in part it's because of the business environment in Europe. Two key differences --

    -Europeans have tariffs on imports that often make Japanese cars more expensive than the European "domestics". That certainly would have harmed Lexus, which positioned itself in part as a value-priced alternative to Mercedes and BMW in the US market.

    -Distribution is more constrained abroad. In the US, the Supreme Court banned the practice of manufacturers being able to force their dealers to carry only their brand and to cancel their contracts if they began to sell rival products. In Europe, this practice remained legal, so it has been more difficult for the likes of Lexus to expand their dealership networks within Europe.

    I'm confident that if European markets had been more open to imports and if distribution was more readily available that Lexus et. al. would be further along. Give them time, and they'll make headaway soon enough, despite the obstacles.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    The Allante's engine was not the base 4100 that Cadillac was using in the sedans, but had a tuned intake manifold and 170 horsepower. While I will agree that the Allante's power was probably a bit short of what it needed to really compete with the Mercedes SLs, FWD probably was the biggest problem in terms of handling.

    Since you seem to have no clue as to what Cadillac's horsepower rating was, are your numbers for Mercedes accurate?
  • No you missed what I was saying. There are no 1985 Lexus models on the road today because the first lexus models were launched in fall of 1989 as 1990 models.
  • gsemikegsemike Long Island, NYPosts: 1,770
    It is so irrelevant when people post "if the Mini was a GM or Ford you wouldn't like it". That's just dumb. If it was a GM or Ford, it wouldn't be a Mini anymore. That's like telling a Metalicca fan that if Rascal Flatts sang Enter Sandman, you wouldn't like that.

    GM took more than one shot at a me-too Mini concept car and nothing hit the mark. That Nomad concept was ready to go but nobody liked it.

    One of the things that makes the Mini what it is is that it is small and tossable. GM is still not able to build anything light. If they made the Mini, it would weigh 500 pounds more and be not that fun.

    Who has the new C&D with the mid-size comparo? The vaunted Aura is the heaviest car by about 200 pounds and has the smallest back seat. That is lame.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,791
    But it's not like the Lexus is more expensive than the competition there. Even with import restrictions, they are not at a price disadvantage. With everything else the same, but reliability higher, they should still sell, right? I think the Euro consumer is a little more traditional/brand loyal when it comes to highline cars, and probably values the driving experience more, too. I know the LS in particular has been seen across the pond as a very American-style car, and I am not being nice when I say that.

    Is that dealership mess really an issue for a make that almost always has standalone locations? Toyota is made of money...it can open all the standalone shops it wants.

    I know these cars have been marketed for over a decade in the UK, and still haven't exactly made a big impact in the market.
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