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Cadillac, Saab link in Europe

Cadillac will begin selling through Saab dealerships in Europe's top 100 markets in a bid to double its sales there.

Cadillac General Manager Mark LaNeve said last week at the Frankfurt show that a joint Cadillac-Saab team will oversee the dual stores as well as marketing and brand management. Cadillac also will seek dealers in smaller European markets.

Saab also could be sold in some U.S. Cadillac stores, he said, as long as sales areas were distinct. But a Saab executive said the effort would be minimal because Saab already has an established U.S. dealer network.

Cadillac, which sells fewer than 1,500 cars annually in Europe, wants to gain acceptance as a valid choice for premium European car shoppers.

"We're sold here like an oddity, not really like a mainstream car," LaNeve said.

Cadillac's new rear-wheel-drive,

V-6 CTS sedan, unveiled here last week, was tested at Germany's fabled Nurburgring race course to try to bring it closer to European automotive tastes. Cadillac also added a manual transmission as an option.

LaNeve said Cadillac also plans:

n High-performance variants of the CTS and other Cadillac models.

n Diesel engines as options in several models.

n Right-hand drive for the United Kingdom.

With the low volume levels anticipated, LaNeve said marketing will focus mostly on print and outdoor advertising, along with joint participation in Saab's "Saab Unlimited" marketing strategy. The latter emphasizes one-to-one customer contact at events.

Cadillac will use U.S.-developed advertising materials adapted for Europe.

The two brands will not co-develop products, in part because Cadillac is moving to rear-wheel drive, while Saab is staying with front-wheel drive.

"This is a common approach to marketing and brand management, but it is not a commingling of brand identity," LaNeve said.

And, he added, even if sales stay relatively low, Cadillac could gain some credibility at home by selling more cars in the home of Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

You can reach Dave Guilford at dguilford@crain.com

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