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June 28, 2016

Cadillac House: Rewriting Brand Making

1__dtr__cadillac_houseThe Cadillac House just opened to the public in New York City's fashionable Tribeca neighborhood. You can't buy a car there; Cadillac House is not a dealership. So what is it?

In truth, it depends on what you want it to be. For Cadillac, it is possibly the most aggressive, expensive attempt in its history to change the brand image back into something it stood for in the first half of the 20th century; the standard of the world.

2__dtr__cadillac_house___2Headquarters for Cadillac have been moved to New York, on the building's upper floors, while the first Cadillac House is at street level. It features a luxurious iteration of the local, family-owned coffee shop "Joe," as well as a sumptuous lounge, a workspace, an art gallery, and a retail lab supported by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Super modern and beautifully designed, Cadillac House's 12,000 square feet is carved into several areas. As you enter, you are presented with the runway -- where Cadillacs will reside much of the time. When not showing off cars, SUVs, and crossovers, the runway will be used for fashion shows and other events. Behind the runway is a lab that tests new automotive technologies.

Huge glass doors roll up when Cadillac House receives the public. Space is open to the street, inviting in curious passersby, art lovers, freelancers looking for space to work, and coffee seekers. Art installations, curated by Visionaire Magazine, promise to be interactive, experiential, immersive, and multi-sensory, and will change every three months in order to be a continuous draw.

So is this a car company trying to be artsy? "Everyone is aware of Cadillac," said Andrew Lipman, Cadillac spokesperson. "Awareness is not the problem. But the brand lacks relevance to people's lives. Cadillac House is a way to bring people in and to make us relevant and part of a creative neighborhood. We don't want what we are doing to be confused with a sponsorship arrangement that puts a name on an interior. We're creating organic interactions with creative people. We want what we are doing to be meaningful and credible with these communities."

Importantly, the desired Cadillac customer is young and successful. They will choose brands that enhance their image. By moving away from Detroit and landing in New York City's fashionable Tribeca, Cadillac is making a bid to be considered by young people in the fashion and art world. Once this population is seen in the brand, Cadillac hopes it will join the consideration lists of those in the market for a luxury crossover or sedan. And fortunately, younger generations don't harbor impressions of the old Cadillac and its problematic history.

3__dtr__cadillac_house__seating_areaLuxury markets are brutally demanding. Rightly so. Those who are spending upwards of $50,000 on their vehicles are very select. Cadillac is keeping up with competitors like BMW, Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti in sales numbers. Last year the company sold about 275,000 vehicles around the world, an increase of 7.5 percent over 2014. The U.S. and China are its biggest markets, followed by Canada and the Middle East. It's picking up awards like top honors in AutoPacific's 2015 vehicle satisfaction survey among 42,000 consumers. It has improved quality, engineering, and design. But, all of those steps toward winning back customers aren't enough.

Admittedly, Cadillac is light on the right offerings. Its next product onslaught will not arrive until 2018 to 2020. That's a long time to wait, but there is good news. The new CT6 and the XT5 have been well received, and the CTS-V Series was sold out for the year by the end of the first quarter. Still, Cadillac is missing a small crossover, which is a volume seller today. And the competition is drowning in relevant vehicles.

In the meantime, Cadillac is paying fanatical attention to detail at Cadillac House. The door handles are wrapped in leather, the worktable in the lounge area is handcrafted out of a single piece of wood, and a design culled from the Cadillac crest is repeated throughout the space. In other words, the branding is in full swing. What we have seen of the attention to detail in the new product is reflected in the space on Hudson Street. It will be an interesting and fun destination for New Yorkers and visitors. Cadillac House is at 330 Hudson Street in New York City.


Kate McLeod-headshotby Kate McLeod for Motor Matters

Kate has written for magazines and newspapers for over 20 years. She has written for More,,, Houston Chronicle, Motion, Chief Executive, The New York Daily News, The New York Sun, and Her column, GirlDriver, USA is syndicated in seven newspapers in Upstate New York. Ms. McLeod is the author of Beetlemania, The Car That Captured the Hearts of Millions.

Kate holds an MFA from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and is also a playwright.   She is former First Vice President of the International Motor Press Association and a member of both The Authors and Dramatists Guilds.

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