Cadillac CTS price got 11th-hour trim

LAGUNA MIGUEL, Calif. — Cadillac officials knocked several thousand dollars off the base price of the 2003 CTS sport sedan in a last-minute move to get in line with key entry-luxury competitors.

But they had to overcome opposition from Ron Zarrella, president of GM North America, and then win approval from Vice Chairman John Devine to cut pricing from tentative figures discussed earlier this year by Cadillac executives.

The move reflects Cadillac’s intense need for a successful launch of the CTS, the first car to show the division’s new angular design theme shown on the Evoq concept car.

Cadillac said Tuesday, Oct. 30, that the CTS base price will be $29,990, including destination charges. CTS brand manager Jay Spenchian said at a press event here that a well-equipped CTS will list for $35,500 and a fully loaded version will have a sticker of $40,400. Sales begin in January.

During the summer, division General Manager Mark LaNeve said the CTS — a crucial vehicle in Cadillac’s efforts to re-establish credibility with younger buyers — would have a base price in the low $30,000s, with well-equipped models going for about $38,000.

The new base puts CTS below rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz C240 at $31,195 and the Lexus ES 300 at $32,080. The BMW 325 is lower, at $27,745, but Spenchian said that because the models have different levels of standard equipment, a popularly equipped BMW 325 would list slightly higher than the comparable CTS. All prices include destination charges.

Pricing will be an important element of the marketing plan, Spenchian said. Earlier price estimates reflected a “worst-case scenario,” he said. A company source said marketing officials pushed for the lower price, believing it was necessary to compete in the segment, but had to take their case to Devine and Zarrella for approval to cut the price.

Zarrella said he “initially fought them on it,” but was persuaded that the sub-$30,000 base price was symbolically important in the entry-luxury segment, even if most transactions wind up significantly above that level.

Spenchian said Cadillac will break national advertising with Super Bowl TV commercials, followed by heavy TV and print advertising. Ads will feature music from an “iconic” major musical name appealing to the target 35- to 49-year-old professionals, he said. The campaign will resemble Cadillac’s recent “Moments” ad, but with a punchier performance feel, a company source said.

You can reach Dave Guilford at dguilford@crain.com

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