The original concept for General Motors, was that customers would grow into the next segment, starting out by buying a Chevrolet and eventually growing into a Cadillac. The concept was as simple as the American Dream: a house with a white picket fence, and a dog. Between the 1950’s and 70’s consumers dreamt of one day owning a Cadillac. However, the American dream has changed, and with it the perception of Cadillac.

In the 1990’s Cadillac’s were still bought by those consumers who purchased them in the 1950’s, and soon Cadillac became the brand owned by parents and grandparents. Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Audi were defining the success of a younger generation.

In the 2000’s Cadillac started to understand the importance of marketing their brand to a new, younger consumer. Cadillac understood that it would not be able to change all its products, however, it needed to have one cutting edge luxury vehicle. The 2003 Cadillac CTS launched Cadillac back into a new demographic. The CTS was a ground-breaking product for Cadillac, built as a rear wheel drive vehicle and the first Cadillac to offer a manual transmission since 1988.

The Cadillac CTS was an instant success, well received by the public and was nominated for the 2002 North America car of the year. The success of the vehicle continued with mainstream commercialization in the 2003 movie The Matrix Reloaded in the movie’s famous chase scene.

In 2004, the launch of the CTS-V, a high performance sports car version of the CTS, showed the world what General Motors had planned for Cadillac. The CTS-V is still making strides with a 556 horsepower engine and is considered the world’s fastest production car. The CTS-V can go 0-60 in under 4 seconds, and is only half a second slower than a Ferrari Enzo. The performance of the Cadillac is even more impressive when considering that it has room for luggage and seats four. The CTS-V became such a hit that Cadillac introduced the engine into its CTS Coupe and CTS Wagon.

The CTS-V was able to launch Cadillac into a new demographic because of its edgy design, and because it is a vehicle other brands will try to match–the key to success for a luxury vehicle.

In terms of brand perception, the performance sedan has always been considered a market dominated by the German brands. The Mercedes AMG, the BMW M-series, and the Audi S vehicles all set the standard. However, the series of V products is making the German companies take notice of what General Motors is doing.

The brand perception of Cadillac changed with the CTS, and then was able to evolve in the way General Motors had planned over time. Most recently the redesigned SRX gave Generation X a SUV/CUV to buy, with the edgy aggressive lines that a younger demographic wants, while still having all the elegant luxury one would expect from a Cadillac.

Cadillac SRX

Cadillac SRX Source: (C) GM Corp.

Source:(C) GM Corp.

Cadillac will continue to position itself as the luxury brand for a younger demographic. At the 2011 LA Auto Show the company launched the Cadillac XTS, which will be its new flagship sedan.

Cadillac XTS

Cadillac XTS Source: (C) GM Corp.

Source:(C) GM Corp.

The XTS is the vehicle for those who want a larger luxury sedan, and will replace the DTS and STS. The XTS will start sales in 2012 and will likely market itself against the Audi A6, BMW 5-series, and the Mercedes E class. The Cadillac XTS focuses on the interior and consumer experience, with the customer user experience (CUE) being the focal point of the XTS.

The idea that image and status may become a thing of the past is far from the truth. The human desire to show status within a community seems to have been part of society forever. This status is what Cadillac seems to have captured once again. The family of CTS-V products, the SRX, and the XTS will help Cadillac continue moving its status within luxury brands forward. The desire to own a Cadillac is once again emerging, but ultimate success will come down to marketing Cadillac compared to BMW, Audi, and Mercedes, and not just an America equivalent.

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