The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cadillac gathers speed

Detroit, Sept. 7 (AFP): General Motors Corp, which has spent the year touting the comeback of the Cadillac, now thinks it has the figures to prove it.

Nearly 1,29,000 units were sold in the first eight months of 2002, up 19 per cent over August of last year, the automaker said this week.

And though it continues to trail its nearest rival, DaimlerChrysler’s Mercedes, by about 7,000 units, the Cadillac is closing the gap, prompting GM’s marketing team to crow about “the re-emergence of...America’s premier, prestige brand.”

The Cadillac rightly billed itself as “the standard of the world” in its early years, at the forefront of design and technology with the development of the first electric starter, electric running lamps, and the first independent front-wheel suspension.

But a succession of poorly executed products, downsized vehicles that were virtually identical to other, less costly GM brands, and the oil crisis of the 1970s, hampered the caddy’s ability to connect with consumers.

A revitalised General Motors has committed itself to the Cadillac, injecting $ 4.5 billion into the line and supporting a fleet of products that are radically different in style from their predecessors.

“If a company like ours can’t even get its flagship straight, how is it going to get its other divisions fixed'” GM vice-chairman and “car czar” Bob Lutz said recently.

Cadillac’s renaissance was fuelled by the massive escalade sport-utility vehicle, which has become a hot property with Los Angeles sport and showbiz types, and the angular CTS sedan, styled along the lines of stealth aircraft.

The new Cadillac XLR, a flashy two-seat Roadster showcased at Pebble Beach’s Concours d’elegance last month, hopes to build on that.

Designed to “look like it was sliced from a single bullet of steel,” and the brand's most controversial styling statement since the era of the big-finned ’59 Eldorado, the XLR hopes to compete with the Mercedes SL500 Roadster.

No easy challenge—but Cadillac general manager, Mark Laneve hopes a new emphasis on quality and interior refinement will help.

And with a final price tag likely to be around $ 70,000, XLR may benefit most from its price advantage over the $ 86,655 Mercedes.

Cadillac is debating other strategic moves, including whether to move into the crowded “entry-luxury” segment but the growing sentiment “isn’t to do $ 20,000 Cadillacs,” says Laneve.

“The answer is to cover the big segments that we’re in and then do $ 100,000 Cadillacs.”

Ultimately, he adds, Cadillac’s biggest test will be to move ahead with its long-delayed plan to become a true XLR hopes to compete with the Mercedes SL500 Roadster.

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