Autos of Interest: Johan de Nysschen was recently appointed President over Cadillac. Even more recently, it was announced that the brand is moving its headquarters from Detroit to New York. Following that, was the announcement of the brand’s new codified naming convention. What are your thoughts on Cadillac’s unfolding strategy?

Ruzzin: Well, the designers will still be here. The management, especially sales management, and probably some of the people that have a lot to do with defining the content of the products will be in New York.

The environment you work in has an impact on what you’re doing. That’s why groups were sent to California to do Group California Design and some were sent to Europe to work for a short period of time—I did that myself. There is no doubt that that has an impact in what you do in your job. That’s part of the culture and it works.

In terms of what Cadillac is doing, the product is good. They just don’t know how to sell them. They don’t know how to sell these superior products. Because, you know, they are unbelievable values when you compare them to Mercedes, Audi and BMW. You know, Cadillac owned the production sedan speed records on the Nürburgring, in Germany? [Set in 2008 with a CTS V and since bested only by the Porsche Panamera.]

They have a lot of attributes that are really admirable but, apparently, they’ve come to the conclusion that the sales staff doesn’t know how to sell these things in the volumes that they should. So, I’m sure they will learn a lot by being there because New York, of course, is a big fashion design center for products of all kinds. Environment makes a difference.

They’ve also got the revised logo. Without the wreath they can make it larger. It’s much cleaner now, like a piece of contemporary sculpture, very subtle. Like what Chevy did with the bowtie—when you see the bowtie, you’re looking at it from the bottom. So, you’re looking up at Chevrolet. I think that’s just brilliant and Cadillac has done that to theirs also.

Cadillac is also coming out with a new big car and the ATS Coupe just came out. I’ve seen the Coupe in person and you’ll notice them a quarter-mile away. They look really good. It’s going to represent Cadillac very, very well and it’s putting them at the leading edge of a new coupe revolution. Coupes are cyclical, demand goes up and down. Now they’re at the bottom and Cadillac has arrived with a coupe.

While it is a “look at me” design, the bottom line is they’re going to be selling the ATS against Audi, Mercedes and BMW coupes, so they have to be on the same playing field. They can’t have a car that is so unusual or so dramatic that everyone may love it accept the people considering buying. They have to bring a kind of refinement to the character of the car and that’s what Cadillac has done.


Autos of Interest: A stark contrast to the mold-breaking second-generation CTS coupe, wouldn’t you say?

Ruzzin: Yeah, what a great product. That and the wagon are so outstanding when you see them on the road. Even though they probably didn’t sell as many as they’d hoped, they made an image for Cadillac. Those cars will be collectibles within 15 years, if they’re not already. There are people who want something very neat, very special to keep for ten years and they’re going to buy those cars.

The residual impact of doing those cars is going a long way for Cadillac.


Autos of Interest: It was reported recently that Cadillac’s efforts in Europe aren’t planned to be bolstered anytime soon. It would seem that the lack of right-hand-drive offerings could be a significant impediment to going mainstream in that region. Are you aware of any reasons why Cadillac doesn’t make the accommodation?

Ruzzin: It’s a matter of investment. They could make right hand drive cars if they wanted, that’s not a problem. All the safety regulations that they have to meet are from here. There are very few that you have to meet to sell in Europe when you’re doing a car. They are American regulations and the European companies meet our regulations. There are a few—German regulations and Swedish ones—but they’re very, very simple, regarding the overall picture.

I don’t know what their production capability is relative to their sales volume but there’s no use trying to sell in Europe if you’re not going to have enough cars to send there. Also, I think the big market opportunity in the world is China. So, Europe is probably—I’m only speculating here—it’s probably a market viewed as, “yeah, it would be nice to sell some cars there and it would be nice to be known there,” but all the real intellectual effort and volume effort, in figuring out how to do that, has to be in China.

Cadillac is already well thought of China and now, they’re even building cars [for the Chinese market] there. They are making a tremendous effort there and doing well.


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