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It’s a long way from the hard tarmac of Germany’s legendary Nurburgring to the manicured greens of Pebble Beach. But Cadillac clearly has a long road to travel if it ever hopes to regain its crown as the self-proclaimed “standard to the world.”
Last weekend’s annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance served as a fittingly elegant backdrop for the formal roll-out of the all-new, 2003 CTS sedan, the car Caddy hopes will help it begin that journey. The designated heir for the largely unloved Catera, CTS is Cadillac’s latest attempt to gain traction with the type of young, hip and demanding buyers who’ve all but abandoned the General Motors division for its import competition.
“One of our highest priorities is to restore this great automotive brand and once again become the standard of luxury for the world,” said Ron Zarrella, GM’s brand marketing guru, as a fleet of classic Caddys rolled onto Pebble Beach’s legendary greens.
The international language of luxury
The best-selling luxury brand in the U.S. for nearly three-quarters of a century, Cadillac is now struggling to simply hold on under an increasingly aggressive assault from the likes of Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But where the Catera was little more than an asterisk on the sales charts in the fast-growing “entry-luxury” segment, Cadillac is counting on CTS to make it a credible contender.
The new sedan is more than just an update of the Catera. It marks the formal debut of Cadillac’s controversial “Art and Science” design theme. It’s a striking shift for a division that’s unsuccessfully tried to play it safe over the last few decades. The look isn’t likely to appeal to everyone, concedes Caddy’s general manager, Mark LaNeve, and it isn’t meant to. Taking a cue from its Japanese rivals, the GM marque has accepted a fundamental reality of today’s luxury market: no risk is the biggest risk of all.