PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - By year end Cadillac will introduce a plan to remodel its dealerships in North America.
About the same time, Cadillac expects to have a new strategy to boost its retail distribution system in Europe.
Cadillac's goal in both projects is to prepare for four new vehicles it will begin introducing in fall 2001: the redesigned Catera and Seville sedans, a new sport-utility based on the platform that will be shared by the new Catera and Seville, and the Evoq roadster.
Cadillac wants to use those vehicles and a rejuvenated image to make a comeback in the luxury market. It also wants to take its annual European sales as high as 30,000 units in 2004 from about 1,300 in 1998.
Mark Hennessy had not made a big capital investment in his Cadillac-Jaguar dealership in Atlanta since he added Jaguar during the early 1980s. He says Cadillac never gave him a reason to.
'As a dealer I didn't have any faith they'd come out with new product,' he said.
But after he talked with Cadillac General Manager John Smith a year ago about Cadillac's future lineup, all of which will take styling cues from the Evoq concept roadster introduced in January, Hennessy changed his mind. He soon began building a stand-alone Cadillac dealership.
Smith does not expect all of Cadillac's 1,600 dealers to break ground for new stores. But he does expect them eventually to adopt parts of a new dealership remodeling plan. The plan is being developed by Cadillac in conjunction with a committee of dealers, including Hennessy, and several retail and design consultants, including architectural firms Booziotis & Co. in Dallas and Hillier Group in Washington.
Cadillac and its dealers will find ways to implement the plan inside existing dealerships, Smith said during a Cadillac press event here on Aug. 29. Cadillac will introduce the plan by year end and will have pilot dealerships based on that plan by the end of 2000.
Smith is not ready to say how much the renovations will cost dealers or whether General Motors and Cadillac will kick in capital for the dealership changes. He said Cadillac is studying how BMW and Mercedes-Benz have encouraged their dealers to renovate in recent years.
Cadillac is looking outside the auto industry for ideas for its new dealerships. It is studying companies with high customer satisfaction, such as retailer Neiman Marcus Group Inc. and Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.
Smith also wants to jump-start Cadillac's sales in Europe and Japan, and by the fall of 2003, he believes he will have the lineup to do that.
At that point, Cadillac should have three vehicles based on GM's new rear-wheel-drive Sigma platform: the Catera, Seville and what Cadillac is calling a luxury activity vehicle. Cadillac also will have the Evoq, which will be based on the next generation rear-wheel-drive Corvette platform.
Rwd is important to the Euro-pean market. Smith said those vehicles also will come with other features attractive to the European market such as manual transmissions, right-hand drive and diesel engines.
But before it can increase sales, Cadillac must establish a better dealership network in Europe. Smith said Cadillac is working with GM Europe and Saab, of which GM owns half, on the new distribution system. Smith said the final plan should be completed during the next 90 days and will complement Cadillac's new retail strategy in the United States.
The Seville is sold at about 200 Cadillac-Chevrolet dealerships in Europe.