General Motors is trying to remake its flagging Cadillac brand with a new chief who will oversee growing the luxury brand around the world.
Bob Ferguson, formerly GM’s vice president of global public policy, will become vice president, global Cadillac. It’s a new position GM has created. Ferguson will report directly to GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, and he knows he has his work cut out for him.
“We have to play in a meaningful way in the luxury market,” said Ferguson. “You look at VW with Audi or Toyota with Lexus and you see that a luxury brand can drive huge profits for an automaker. I’m excited about the opportunity. Cadillac is in a good place for growth.”
Ferguson said that growth will be both in the U.S. (Cadillac’s largest market) and globally, where the company is rapidly expanding the luxury brand. (Read More: GM Has High Hopes for New, Smaller Cadillac.)
Improving Cadillac U.S. Sales
This is the latest attempt by General Motors to rebuild a Cadillac brand that once dominated the luxury car market. But since the late '90s Cadillac has seen its sales and share of the luxury market slowly erode. (Read More: What the Wealthy Are Driving.)
This year, Cadillac sales are down 8.6 percent while auto sales overall are up 14.5 percent, according to the research firm Autodata. Ferguson, who joined General Motors in 2010, knows GM has failed in the past to remake Cadillac.
“This time we really mean it. You have to have outstanding product and you have to back. There absolutely will be a great financial commitment to the Cadillac brand,” Ferguson said.
Among the possibilities in the future for Cadillac:
• An all new flagship sedan. “If the opportunity to wow customers is there, we’ll do it,” Ferguson said.
• A two-seat Cadillac sports car. “I’m intrigued by that idea,” he said.
• Appealing more to female customers. “We have to do better there,” Ferguson admitted.
• A completely refreshed line-up by 2016.
General Motors has already outlined a plan to triple Cadillac sales in China, where the automaker is battling Volkswagen for top sales in the world’s largest auto market. (Read More: General Motors Has Big Plans for Cadillac in China.)
But Ferguson said Cadillac will be looking to grow quickly in other markets around the world including Russia, Mexico and Brazil.
An analysis by IHS Global Insight of worldwide auto sales in 2011 shows Cadillac ranked #52 among all brands and is way behind its luxury competitors.
No Targets, Plenty of Optimism
Ferguson knows Cadillac is a long way from regaining its luster. Just 103,512 have sold here in the U.S. this year. The new ATS is just hitting showrooms and it’s still early in the life cycle for the new XTS model.
For now, Ferguson’s not setting any public targets for growing sales or market share. “I want to sit down over the next week to ten days and see where we are. I want to grow the brand. Cadillac is in a good place for growth.”
—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau
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