Cadillac's art-and-science design look -- the sharp, angular lines and creased edges that have marked the brand for the past decade -- is a turnoff in China, say analysts and Cadillac marketers in the country. And that is leading to a change in the brand's design direction.
Kevin Chen, Cadillac's sales and marketing chief in China, told Reuters that General Motors is toning down the edgy look. He said research found that some Chinese buyers passed up Cadillac because its design was too futuristic and bold.
"If you ask our customers what's the motivation for choosing Cadillac, they would say design," he said. "If you ask Audi buyers why they don't choose Cadillac, they'd say it's too bold."
Part of the reason may be cultural. The preference for smoother, curvier cars stems from Zhongyong, a Confucian concept that stresses harmony, said Fu Liming, who teaches transportation design at Jilin University in northeast China.
"In cars, the Zhongyong concept translates into unified lines and curves," Fu said. "Cadillac's design isn't soft, its angles and arcs aren't smooth enough."
And Cadillac needs to hear what Chinese buyers are saying. GM CEO Dan Akerson wants Cadillac sales in China to reach U.S. levels by 2015 or 2016.
LMC Automotive says GM will sell more than 35,000 Cadillacs in China this year, up from about 30,000 in 2011. LMC predicts those sales will climb to just more than 75,000 in 2018, still less than half last of year's U.S. total of more than 152,000.