Cadillac’s return to Michigan was no surprise
The appointment of Carlisle, a longtime GM executive, was part of an effort to bring Cadillac back into the fold after executives soured on the idea of allowing the brand to operate somewhat independently ahead of a big product push. Photo credit: MICHAEL WAYLAND
DETROIT — The writing was on the wall for Cadillac’s return to Michigan as soon as General Motors executives ousted Johan de Nysschen in exchange for Steve Carlisle.
It’s not because the New York move was de Nysschen’s idea. It wasn’t. That decision was made before he came to GM in August 2014.
It’s because the earth under Cadillac was already shifting before the personnel change. The appointment of Carlisle, a longtime GM executive, was part of an effort to bring Cadillac back into the fold after executives soured on the idea of allowing the brand to operate somewhat independently ahead of a big product push. And so is the move to Michigan.
While the New York move didn’t solve Cadillac’s problems, it didn’t cause them either. The seeds of the brand’s current fate were sown years before when executives, some of whom are still leading the company, decided to prioritize Cadillac’s car portfolio over crossovers.
Did the move to New York hurt the situation? Depends on who you ask. I’d argue it helped get Cadillac in front of nontraditional customers and attract new talent. And it allowed employees, for better or worse, to think differently away from the GM mothership.
Some of that different thinking resulted in the New York-centric “Dare Greatly” ad campaign that has been lambasted by dealers and some critics. Other ideas spawned new programs such as the Book by Cadillac subscription program and innovative marketing programs within Cadillac House.
The biggest surprise in GM’s latest decision was that the new headquarters will be in a former ad agency building in suburban Warren, not in the city of Detroit, which has become a fashionable address for auto companies.
The next big questions Carlisle and GM product chief Mark Reuss, whose portfolio now includes Cadillac, must address are what to do with Cadillac House, which the company has leased until 2025 and reportedly spent $12.7 million to renovate, and how to handle other Cadillac-specific programs such as Project Pinnacle.