Back in February, the 91st Oscars ceremony included a Cadillac presence that was not only visible but downright tangible. And while I’m no awards show enthusiast, it was a clever play by GM Cadillac’s marketing team to recapture the aspirational esteem with which we hold celebrity, and gift to the entertainment elite. But who else but Cadillac would be such a comfortable elite with Hollywood mainstays, while still remaining relatable to the American car buying consumer? And thus sparked a surge of interest, with too many people to count jumping onto their phones, tablets, and laptops googling “Cadillac Dealer Near Me” with the aim of shopping (or window-shopping) the 2019 lineup.
Sponsoring the Oscars, Cadillac was debuting an all-new integrated marketing campaign which they’ve titled “Rise,” focusing on what is being referred to as the automaker’s “now complete” SUV lineup. This campaign consisted of (four) brand new television spots to be aired during the awards, a pre-show red carpet presence and interactive social media components, all keying in on certain elements integral to the campaign. The most significant: depicting of the iconic Cadillac crest, with its horizontal blue lines (representative of “valor”) transformed into an ascending staircase intended to symbolize the brand’s “upward determination and drive to succeed.” Get it? Rise?
But even a trending hashtag like #keeprising and celebrity support from the likes of Childish Gambino and Yalitza Aparicio aren’t enough to convey Cadillac’s intent to the wider (non-awards show) audience. For that, two primary things are needed. The first and universally agreeable need is to reaffirm their lineup as the gold standard of luxury domestic automobiles, expanding their waning notoriety in that regard. The second (and more subjective) is to embrace any perceived distinction from the reputation woes of Cadillac’s parent company, General Motors. Bottom-line, a large percentage of casual car buyers are ignorant of the relationship between the two, and Cadillac might be all the better off for it. And while we won’t go too far into the latter, let’s explore Cadillac’s 2019 lineup and see if they really do have the right lineup in place to justify the onslaught of Google search results.
Crossovers and SUVs
At the core of the “Rising” campaign rests Cadillac’s crossover and SUV offerings. Representing the fastest growing segment for almost every automaker, it’s easy to see why Cadillac has chosen this particular basket to place their eggs in.
Kicking things off is the XT4, described by Cadillac as “the crossover made for a generation of crossovers.” And while that particular claim (in the mind of this writer) is a steaming pile of nonsensical garbage made for a generation of nonsensical garbage, the XT4 represents a confident (yet accessible) combination of performance, luxury, and technology. Offering 237 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque and a 30 mpg highway rating, it’s a confident performer.
Next up comes the XT5, celebrated for its more streamlined appearance. I happen to like the aggressive angles of the XT4 better, but what do I know about refinement? Seating five, the XT5 offers a luxurious cabin experience rife with visionary material choices, tailored for comfort, and exactly what one might look for in a Cadillac. And we’d be lying if we said we weren’t impressed by the 310 hp rating earned by the 3.6-liter V6, or its 271 lb-ft torque rating.
Now, the spacious three-row XT6 casts a more considerable shadow but offers enhanced comfort as the rationale while slipping in some of the best detail work we’ve seen in a mid-range domestic luxury ride. Exploring the options in terms of cabin accents might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but Cadillac does it better than most and might change your mind. Matching the performance numbers of the XT5, there are no surprises under the hood, but that’s not what the step up was about anyway.
And atop the lineup stands the “original icon of arrival” the Escalade. While the target demographic of the Escalade has expanded well outside for the financial and cultural elite, it’s hard to argue the validity of their tagline. If you can spend $75,000+ on a vehicle, you’ve made a statement (for better or worse). But the accolades earned by the Escalade have never been swayed by cultural significance, and five consecutive years as a Consumer Guide Best Buy, and JD Power & Associates pick for Best Resale Value and Initial Quality is worth celebrating.
Whether you opt for the base Escalade or the ESV, any ability to seat up to eight passengers (with cargo space to spare, to the tune of 120 cubic feet) caters to a very specific kind of consumer. One likely to appreciate the bigger, the badder, the more opulent. And any person-carrier with a 420 hp V8 and up to 8300 LBS of towing capacity is likely to tick the boxes of such a buyer. This combined with the most perfect realization of Cadillac luxury lends the Escalade its well-deserved sense of eliteness and exclusivity.
That said, some of the offerings are stronger than others, but “Rise” feels like a really aggressive campaign for a lineup that hasn’t made any bold or noteworthy strides coming into 2019. While I have no doubt that sales will continue to follow an upward trend, one can’t help but feel that Cadillac might still be playing it too safe to make such in-your-face claims.
GM at Arm’s Length
As mentioned above, there is a segment of our population who live blind to the affiliation between certain automakers, Cadillac and parent company GM among them. But anyone with even a passing familiarity with news headlines is likely to be aware of GM’s recent operational woes, including the culling of their respective lineups, controversial plan shut-downs, employee layoffs, and overall fiscal woes. From coverage of protesting employees to litigation being pursued by UAW (United Auto Workers), GM has been unable to escape the crosshairs of scrutiny for the better part of a year. And while Chevy and GMC might be more universally recognized as falling under the General Motors banner, Cadillac enjoys a mild sense of anonymity in the eyes of our wider cultural mindset.
This will inevitably work in their favor, as long as the brand decision makers continue to downplay any correlation. It only serves to benefit GM as a whole, since the fat margins they enjoy from the truck segment could be compromised by bad press and backlash. Growth experienced by Cadillac could play a pivotal role in off-setting that hit.
It remains to see if Cadillac will rise, or if they’re simply getting a rise out of us, but their presence does feel more pertinent than it has in quite some time. Truth be told, they face a unique challenge with (i) so many influencers opting for import luxury offerings, and (ii) the ever-blurring of class lines, with economy automakers proving successful at implementing their own luxury features. By keying in on celebrity, it’s uncertain whether their campaign will catch the eye of a new, younger Gen-Z demographic and revitalize the brand—or if it plays more like a transparent grasping at straws. Like we said, time will tell, but you have to give Cadillac points to effort.