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Cadillac Has All-New Scapegoat For Poor Sales

Cadillac always has a reason for selling poorly. Like oxygen to breathe, it floats a new excuse every few months to explain the inexplicable. The inexplicable being why the buying public doesn’t scoop up Cadillacs like hot dogs at baseball games. It has tried many things and bobbed and weaved for a few decades to unload its vehicles into the world. It’s a sad situation because it’s a fairly simple reason, but very difficult to change. So just like the sun rising in the morning, Cadillac has an all-new scapegoat for its poor sales.

Cadillac has decades of baggage causing it to have poor sales

Used Cadillacs | Getty

First a bit of Cadillac history. For decades Cadillac was the “Standard of the World.” Neck and neck with Packard before WWII as the ne plus ultra, by the 1950s Cadillac was singularly swinging. They had it all and more. 

But by the late-1960s its song was becoming stale. Buyers wanted what Mercedes and then BMW had. Then the gas crunches of the 1970s found Cadillac compromising its cars for increased mileage. Quality went down, styling got weak, and Mercedes and BMW forged ahead. 

Cadillac’s bad reputation stuck

circa 1972: A middle-aged man looks at a new Cadillac sedan in a showroom, as a car salesman looks on, the early 1970s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Cadillac became a joke with a reputation for poor quality, stodgy design, crude technology, seeming no more than blue-hair floatmobiles. What no one could have anticipated is that this rep stuck. It has been impossible for Cadillac to shake it. 

It has corrected most of its ills many times over. Cadillac even moved its headquarters from Detroit to New York. Changed up advertising firms. Found hip new executives from outside of the company to sprinkle some magic. Nothing works. Sales continue to trend down. 

In what could be the final straw it moved its headquarters back to Detroit. It announced there would be a new Cadillac every six months through 2021. The announcement soon came that Cadillac would become the electric division of GM. Cadillac proclaimed this time it was happening again. 

Sales in 2019 eeked up by 1% which was a glimmer of light

Rusting Cadillacs | Getty

By the end of 2019 Cadillac sales had incrementally eeked up by 1%. That was major news for Cadillac. It saw this glimmer of light as the sign that all of the bobbing, weaving, dodging and gyrating was finally resulting in more sales. 

But sales across the auto spectrum throughout the world have been dashed by the corona pandemic. As Cadillac sees sales dwindle to almost nothing the coronavirus is its newest scapegoat. 

Its reinvention toward electrification has been thwarted. The new car quarterly sales came out yesterday for Q1 2020. Cadillac is down close to 16%. It could be a lot worse. For instance, Fiat is down in the US almost 50% from 2019. But Cadillac’s glimmer of good news has been dashed.

Cadillac is back to poor sales figures and 2020 only looks worse

A memorial to Cadillacs created by Texan businessman Stanley Marsh. Every time he buys a new Cadillac he part-buries his old one. (Photo by BIPS/Getty Images)

Whether there is or isn’t a pandemic the numbers don’t look good for Cadillac. The fairly new XT4 was down 26.5%. Sales for the XT5 dropped 32%. The strong-selling Escalade saw its numbers shrink 17.6%. The roll-out of the new Escalade revealed in February has been postponed. 

Cadillac also has less product to sell because it is dropping all car manufacturing for SUVs and crossovers. This was yet another move to “fix” Cadillac. So, now it has to do more with less. It had planned on revealing its futuristic Lyric SUV this month to show a path forward. That has been put on hold pending the coronavirus crisis. 
“GM made its commitment to relaunch the Cadillac brand, but the world has changed so much in the past month,” Jessica Caldwell who is the chief analyst at Edmunds.com told the Detroit Free Press. “The company is likely going to need to re-prioritize and pivot to the activities that will help them weather the storm.”