Caddy in Europe? Heard it before -- it won't happen
Luca Ciferri is Automotive News' staff reporter in Turin, Italy.
It's kind of silly, really -- like taking your own beer to the Oktoberfest in Munich or asking for a loaf of Wonder Bread in a Paris bakery.
I have covered the European auto industry for more than 20 years, and I have lost track of how many times -- and in how many ways -- GM has said it finally has found the way to make Cadillac a success story here.
This week at the Geneva auto show, GM will try once more.
Last March, Cadillac's independent European importer, the Dutch dealership group Kroymans, went bankrupt. Now GM will attempt another comeback with a new Cadillac Europe organization based in Zurich, Switzerland.
I think it will be another mistake. Russians may like Caddies, but Europeans simply don't.
The brand has never been more than a niche player here, and a minor niche player at that. According to the market research firm Jato Dynamics, GM sold 3,029 Cadillacs in Europe in 2007, 2,701 in 2008 and only 1,218 last year. Since Kroymans bowed out, some Cadillacs, such as the CTS and the CTS-V sedans, have remained on sale in Europe.
In the last 30 years, annual Cadillac sales in Europe have never totaled more than about 5,000, according to a GM spokesman.
Cadillac has never had it easy in Europe, where it has had to face Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz on their home turf.
The idea of growing in Europe with a product especially designed and built here has not worked either. The uninspiring BLS sold just a fraction of what Cadillac had hoped for.
Cadillac has more allure in Russia. Last year GM sold 1,529 Cadillacs in that country, a 4 percent decline in an overall Russian market that went down 48 percent. For wealthy Russians, a Cadillac is a status symbol, but in Europe it is a different story.
You can reach Luca Ciferri at firstname.lastname@example.org.