DETROIT -- It's been a long time since Cadillac has been the subject of a love song.
Not since Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" or Bruce Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac" has a ballad for a luxury car brand generated as much traction as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's ode to Cadillac, "White Walls."
The artists performed it last year on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. The video has been viewed about 16.6 million times on YouTube.
"I want to be free. I want to just live, inside my Cadillac," rapper Macklemore begins the video before standing in front of an American flag and spelling out the brand's name.
The video flashes images of Cadillacs -- from tailfin-era cars to the recent SRX sport-utility vehicle -- as the lyric tells of buying an old Cadillac and smiling like he won the lottery.
Cadillac's moment in the pop-culture spotlight brings the brand a cultural currency to go alongside last year's 48 percent increase in car sales.
General Motors sought to extend that run with this week's Detroit auto show introduction of the 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe.
The sporty two-door car features the brand's simplified crest, shorn of the longtime laurel wreath. It is one of three new Cadillacs reaching U.S. showrooms this year that Bob Ferguson, the brand's leader, said should help boost sales in the U.S. by more than 10 percent this year.
Macklemore's song joins Lorde's "Royals" and Carrie Underwood's "Two Black Cadillacs" as new songs featuring the American brand.
"You turn on the radio, whether its country or pop, Cadillac is mentioned frequently," Ferguson said Tuesday in an interview at the auto show. "It helps the brand."
GM said it didn't pay for Cadillac to be associated with the songs.
"It's the sort of thing that Cadillac really couldn't have bought," Eric Noble, president of industry consultant Car Lab, said of the new exposure. "It keeps awareness for the brand high with youth culture and with pop culture, and if Cadillac is going to be successful going forward, they have to have that."
The attention underscores GM's effort to rebuild Cadillac after losing its way with such duds as the Cimarron compact car in the 1980s, which Time magazine dubbed one of the worst cars ever made. The downside of the buzz is that it falls beyond GM's control.
"Cadillac wants people to stop thinking their cars are boulevard cruisers with floaty suspensions and vague steering," said Dave Sullivan, an industry analyst with AutoPacific.
New CEO Mary Barra takes the reins today from retiring Dan Akerson, who has talked about rebuilding Cadillac into a global power that can take on Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz and targeting 1 million sales in the next 10 years, or five times as many as in 2012.
GM is betting that higher-margin Cadillacs, including the new ATS coupe, will help offset a decline in highly profitable pickup sales that may come with tougher U.S. government emissions and fuel-efficiency regulations.
Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, is a 30-year-old Seattle musician whose track "Thrift Shop," about buying second-hand clothes and eschewing commercialism, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 last year. "White Walls" is from the same album.