How Warren Buffett landed a new Cadillac (and not a Subaru)

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, last week. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Warren Buffett, who has made himself and others enormously wealthy by investing in some of America’s biggest brands, from Coca-Cola to Wells Fargo to Goldman Sachs, wants you to know he is not about to go with Japanese wheels, no matter how practical.

Despite a heavily circulated photograph showing Buffett sitting in the passenger seat of a Subaru Outback, the famed billionaire investor remains loyal to the Detroit 3 and Cadillac.

Buffett decided to upgrade from his 2006 Cadillac DTS with a new Caddy after a May visit with General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Forbes reported today, countering media reports last week suggesting he is now motoring around in a Subaru crossover.

Barra traveled to Omaha, Neb., to meet with Buffett, a major GM investor, amid a recall crisis that some shareholders feared would undermine the automaker’s momentum.

In May, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway disclosed it had reduced its stake in GM during the first quarter by 25 percent to 30 million shares.

After Barra convinced Buffett of the merits of the latest generation of Cadillacs while the two drove to lunch together, he sent his daughter, Susie, to Huber Cadillac in Omaha to purchase a new car.

Buffett gave rave reviews to the CEO navigating GM’s recall crisis, telling Forbes that “she’s the person to do it.”

Buffett, who headed Salomon Bros. through a U.S. Treasury bond scandal in the early 1990s, also had some advice for Barra.

“When you have a problem, get it right, get it fast, get it out and get it over,” he told Barra during the visit, the magazine reported.

Buffett’s daughter went to the dealership on May 15, telling saleswoman Madison Willers that she was shopping for a man she had been buying cars for for years. She initially inquired about a base model CTS -- the sporty sedan Barra had suggested -- but Willers steered her toward the XTS after Buffett’s daughter said he just “needed something to get from point A to point B.”

When Buffett’s daughter returned to the dealership to go over purchase agreements, she revealed to Willers that the car was for Buffett -- whom Willers had waited on several times in her former job as a waitress at a local restaurant.

Warren Buffett's new ride: A Cadillac XTS.

Willers personally delivered the champagne-colored base model XTS to Berkshire Hathaway, along with a Cadillac baseball hat, which she said Buffett was more excited about than the new car.

“You never know who’s going to walk through the door,” Willers said of the transaction.

Buffett wrote Barra a letter praising Willers and Brett Huber, the dealership’s owner. Barra responded with a handwritten note, saying the store had embodied the company’s mantra of the importance of the customer. Barra told Buffett she also looked forward to riding in his new XTS.

The transaction dispels new reports last week that Buffett had turned his back on the American auto industry -- he has also favored Ford Motor Co. models -- after he was photographed by a CNBC producer in a red Subaru Outback in Sun Valley, Idaho, on July 8.

Automotive blog autoevolution published the photo with an accompanying post, stating that Buffett was “driving a competitor’s new model.” CNBC even tweeted the report.

Subaru added to the hype, linking to the blog post in a tweet, with the message, “We love this story of how even the Oracle of Omaha is driving a Subaru!”

However, Buffett told Forbes he was not deserting U.S. brands but merely waiting in a courtesy car while attending a conference while his daughter picked up their room keys and credentials.

“I’ve never driven a Subaru in my life,” Buffett told the magazine.

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