SHANGHAI -- General Motors is marketing its Cadillac brand to China's elite consumers with a futuristic TV commercial, even as vehicle sales have plunged in the country.
Sales surged by 76 percent in China last year over 2002. But they rose only 1.1 percent in July compared with the year-ago month.
Sales in China last dropped significantly in 2000. The market rebounded in just three months. GM believes this slump is temporary as well.
The automaker's new Cadillac campaign is aimed at Chinese entrepreneurs who can afford to pay $63,000 or more for one of the brand's vehicles. Its advertising tag line is "Dare to be first."
The campaign has two objectives, says Stuart Pierce, Cadillac brand director of Shanghai GM, a joint venture of GM and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.
"First, we want to make sure we differentiate Cadillac from the top German brands like Mercedes and BMW," Pierce says. "We want to position the brand as something different and very bold (for buyers) who want to make a statement and express self-confidence.
"The second objective is to present Cadillac as a top-tier luxury car," he adds.
Cadillac's new TV commercial in China praises the luxury vehicles' design and performance.
A 60-second TV commercial for the campaign features three Cadillac vehicles charging along a dry lake bed. They leave a giant dust cloud in their wake. A fighter jet swoops down to investigate the source of the dust storm. The pilot cannot find the cause and flies off.
The commercial ends with a voiceover: "Bold design, innovative technology, undetectably new."
The Leo Burnett advertising agency in Shanghai developed the campaign. GM considers China its most important market after the United States, says Donald Chan, managing director of the agency's Shanghai office.
Print and outdoor ads support the commercial. They appear in 11 Chinese cities where Cadillac initially is selling its sedans.
Cadillac has sold a limited number of vehicles in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai for several years. The automaker is taking orders for sedans assembled locally by Shanghai GM.
The joint venture will start production at year end. It is scheduled to begin delivery of Chinese-made Cadillacs in the first quarter of 2005.
Despite this year's decline in vehicle sales, Pierce says he is confident that China has long-term growth potential.
"If we could select a point and time to launch Cadillac in China, we could have found a better one," Pierce says. "But we're not overly concerned" about the sales slump, which he calls "a short-term adjustment in the market."
He says, "If I were launching a high-volume brand, I'd be more worried. But we're really focused on establishing our brand and dealer network correctly. We believe car sales will grow significantly over the next three to four years."
There are eight cars per 1,000 people in China, compared with 940 in the United States. China is expected to surpass Japan and become the world's second-largest market by 2011, with annual sales of 5 million vehicles.