There's been a lot of moaning about Cadillac in the news these days and Cadillac's boss took to his Facebook page to address the haters. Here's his defensive screed.
The Cadillac-related groans are all about how they're decamping from Detroit to Manhattan and that they're sticking another lance in the heart of good names for dull CT_ alphanumerics. At the heart of the issue is new head honcho Johan de Nysschen, who has presided over two luxury car brands in the past, both of which moved their headquarters and both of which stuck to uniform alphanumeric model names.
The Facebook rant comes to us from Bertel Schmitt of the Daily Kanban. Bertel appears to be one of de Nysschen's 291 FB followers and got access to the whole announcement. This is as much of it as Bertel posted.
"This past week we announced a new flagship car to be built in Detroit. No reaction. Announced a product offensive which will give Cadillac coverage of 95% of premium market segment . Slight twitch of the left eyebrow of the industry media. Announce new nomenclature system, to denote hierarchy and accommodate expanded future portfolio. Every armchair marketing expert has ten opinions to share. Fortunately, I do not determine strategy based on the unfiltered observations of people who do not have a 360 degree understanding of the problem. Announce that Cadillac is to be established as separate unit of General Motors, to be more autonomous and focus on the premium business. Emails from GM retires suggesting that is the dumbest idea since the Cimmaron. I quietly wonder if any of them had a hand in creating that masterful monument to product substance."
"To all the indignant souls out there- this has nothing to do with Detroit. And certainly has nothing to do with where I choose to live. It has everything to do with creating an awesome car company. We must develop corporate processes, policies, mindsets, behaviors, attitudes, which are right sized for Cadillac and which are immersed in focusing on and responding to what it takes to win in the premium segment. No distractions. No side shows. No cross- brand corporate considerations. No homogenized lowest common denominator approach. Just pure, unadulterated, CLASS. To create this change in approach, Cadillac must put distance between itself and the parent. Not because there is anything wrong at GM- the company is getting its act together like you won't believe – but because Cadillac needs to FOCUS. And if we don't move, nothing will change. Physical relocation forces a change to processes. Now, it's true, we could achieve that, by moving just about anywhere. But if you have to choose a place to set up an iconic global luxury brand, you could indeed do worse than New York. So, Detroit fans, I love your city, the success of Cadillac will be your success, the majority of our jobs remain in Detroit, and as we grow, these will increase too. But other than that – don't mess with me."
Let me break down the important points here.
- de Nysschen feels like nobody notices when he focuses on improving, expanding and differentiating product, but they freak out over symbolic changes
- de Nysschen gets emails from GM retirees telling him he's a disaster
- de Nysschen doesn't base his work on what all you dumbass bloggers say
- de Nysschen claims the HQ move has nothing to do with Detroit
- de Nysschen loves Detroit, he swears
- de Nysschen claims that the move is supposed to set up a mental distance with Detroit more than a physical one. The brand needs its own kind of thinking, and that won't happen with the rest of GM next door.
As Bertel Schmitt's post explains (I encourage you to read the whole thing right here), this is a strategy that worked extremely well for Audi through the 1990s. Move your HQ, establish your own set of processes no matter how expensive or redundant, and focus on differentiating your product and office from your parent.
However, as Schmitt explains, much of this approach actually came from VW super boss Ferdinand Piëch. He was the guy ordering Audi to duplicate its sales and parts channels at great cost. He was the one approving hugely expensive vanity projects and he deserves a great deal of credit for Audi's meteoric rise in the luxury world.
The plans and FB announcements we're seeing from de Nysschen appear to be surprisingly on-point for what should happen for Cadillac, though they are as GRUFF and OVERLY CAPITALIZED as you'd expect on Facebook. What's yet to be seen is if Mary Barra is willing to throw enough money into Cadillac for it all to work.