Cadillac may use upscale malls to give its Catera more exposure.
Cadillac's idea is similar to a marketing approach used by Plymouth: Don't wait for customers to come to dealerships; bring vehicles to them in a non-threatening environment.
Cadillac tested the concept at Atlanta's Lennox Square Mall for five weeks in January and February. Three Cateras were displayed, and vehicle specialists trained by Cadillac were on hand to answer questions.
Browsers also could use kiosks to get the car's price ($30,635, including destination charge) and specifications. Consumers could not buy at the mall but could get a list of dealers in their vicinity.
Now, the brand team seeks funding for more mall displays.
'This is a strategy we'd like to pursue for 1998, and we have told the marketing folks this,' said Karen Sehee Licari, assistant brand manager for Catera. 'We're trying to reach a new audience, so we're going to have to use non-traditional ways.'
The Catera may be the most important product in the Cadillac lineup. Instead of relying on sport-utilities and trucks to lure baby boomers into Cadillac showrooms, the division is pinning its hopes on the entry-level Catera.
'Catera may be one of the most important models in the Cadillac lineup for bringing in new customers,' said General Manager John Smith. 'We'd be last if we got into the sport-utility business, and that's not what this division is all about. Catera is much more important than a sport-utility.'
Licari said Cadillac did not track Catera sales from the test. But the data showed that 28 percent of the visitors had considered purchasing a Catera before they saw the mall display, and 76 percent said they would consider a Catera after they saw the display.
'The goal is to get people to test drive the vehicles,' Licari said, adding that 73 percent of the visitors said they would test-drive the car. About 70,000 people visited the display.
SEARCH FOR WOMEN
One disappointment was that 73 percent of the visitors were men. The general mall population, according to mall officials, is 54 percent men and 46 percent women.
Cadillac wants to sell at least 50 percent of its Cateras to women.
'So we may have to come up with a way to get women there,' Licari said.
No new malls have been selected, but possible cities would be San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia, according to Licari. New displays could be up as soon as November.
The Catera team also is working on its advertising strategy for the 1998 model year. Martin Walsh, Cadillac marketing services manager, said the budget will remain the same, but the use of the duck as an icon may be de-emphasized. The Catera advertising budget is estimated at $40 million.
'Sometimes celebrities or other things can be bigger than the product,' Walsh said. 'So we're researching it.'