- Jim McCraw
EVOQ - MORE THAN JUST A `FUTURE' CAR -Cadillac's unwrapping of its Evoq roadster concept car at the International North American Auto Show today is not just a harbinger of the luxury marque's next two-seater, but a "rallying point for a restaging of the whole brand," said general marketing manager John Smith. "The Evoq allows Cadillac to reclaim the attitude and feelings that led to the 1953 LeMans and Cyclone" said Smith, two chromey dreams from Cadillac's prestigious past that were part of the show exhibit and meant to position Evoq in the same class. The new marketing message that Cadillac is using these days to sell its image is "where art and science meet." It is both lofty and aspirational to be sure. And while the Evoq has the potential to live up to that image, once it jumps from its car-show carousel to your local street corner, the venerable Seville and DeVille nameplates may have difficulty stirring the same feelings - not to mention the newercomers to Caddy's lineup, Escalade and Catera. The Evoq, which does not evoke memories of Cadillac*s last two-seater, the Allante, is meant to be part of a solution to the brand*s long-standing problem, the graying of its customer base. Caddy has for years been trying to figure out how to draw some youth to the brand. The brand*s average age buyer today is 60, though Escalade and Catera are attracting buyers a decade younger. Still, Smith is hoping that the version of the Evoq that eventually hits the streets will attract monied 40-somethings who have been attracted to cars like the Jaguar XJS and Mercedes SLK/CLK. "The Evok stands for much more than a future car," said Smith.
- David Kiley
CADILLAC DROPS TO NO. 2 - As General Marketing Manager John Smith bowed to pay homage to the sleek Evoq sports car which Cadillac introduced at the North American International Auto Show, a gray - if not black - cloud hung over his enthusiasm. He, as well as all in attendance were waiting year-end 1998 sales reports, which are sure to show Lincoln topping Cadillac in sales for the first time since the last Truman administration. "Do I want to lose the sales leadership?,* asked a philisophical Smith. *No. But I have to take the broad view. We made money, met brand development targets and we also lost two months of production."
- David Kiley
QUACKING CADDY AD CRACKS UP - Cadillac has been trying to "lighten up" its advertising in the last few years in the hopes of appealing more hip. Remember the talking duck that escorted the Catera to market (it died a merciful death confessed one Caddy insider). And last year, to launch the new Seville, Cadillac tapped an actor from Seinfeld to star in the ads that said, "It's What's Next." Critics have said the ads try a bit too hard for hipness. It may not be a surprise then that Caddy has recently gone beyond its usual ad agency resource, DMB&B/Detroit, to the Los Angeles office of that agency as well as to a New York agency it previously was not doing business with. Ads this year for Cadillac, said head of North American Operations Ronald Zarella, will be "more demonstrative in showing product benefits and to convey the marriage of art and science idea."
- David Kiley
THE RETURN OF THE Z-CAR - The legendary Nissan Z may be heading for a comeback. A retro-looking version of the 2-seat sports car took its bows at the North American International Auto Show Tuesday. "This is not an exercise in nostalgia," said chief designer Jerry Hirshberg. "Rather, it's a fresh riff on an old tune. For now, Nissan officials stress that it's nothing but a concept car, but the reincarnated Z-car just may wind up in a dealer showroom sometime soon. A final decision is likely to be made by April, and production could begin within as little as 12 to 18 months. Several critical details have yet to be locked in place. Nissan's not sure whether to go with a V-6 or a high-performance 4-cylinder powerplant. "Our engine choice determines pricing," notes Nissan's top American executive, Mike Seergy. The goal is to keep the cost down below $25,000, roughly the same as the price-in inflation-adjusted dollars-the original Z-car cost nearly 30 years ago. It's also not clear if the car will be a true 2-seater, or delivered in 2+2 trim.