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Hey, Cadillac – You've got it wrong

September 29 2014

Tim Smith

Two events happened in Detroit this week that exemplified the mindsets which exist within two of Detroit’s very different worlds – the sports world and the business world.

The first was an announcement by GM that the Cadillac brand is moving to New York. The second was when one of the Detroit Tigers best hitters was intentionally hit by a pitch during a critical game.

It was the responses to these events that were most revealing. Both instances involve a potential blow that could have significant negative impact.

The first, on a recovering, but fragile city trying to emerge from bankruptcy.
The second, on a team trying desperately to make the playoffs.

The response by the teammates of the Detroit Tiger was swift and without hesitation. They were out of the dugout immediately, sprinting onto the field to protect their player. In that move, they made a clear and direct statement to the other team and the league. Do not mess with us.

The response to the Cadillac announcement was almost nonexistent.
How can we continue to sit by and allow our biggest corporate citizens, and most established brands, to push Detroit backward, and not forward? The claim that the Cadillac brand needs to be in New York to “develop attitudes in common with our audience” is ludicrous. The fact that this news broke during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MICHauto Conference, and during the Detroit Design Festival, should have brought a resounding slap down from our business and corporate leaders.

We must be united in our effort to show the world we are not what they think we are. We are celebrating what we are, what we’ve accomplished and the opportunities that exist within Detroit.

And then GM allows a new guy, a month on the job, to tell the world: Detroit is exactly what you think it is, and I’m taking my new job and moving out.
To say in the same breath that he is proud of Cadillac’s Detroit roots, but that his marketing team can’t understand the luxury market without being in New York, is simply reinforcing a negative stereotype about Detroit.
How can we compete on a world stage when we sit back and watch one of the largest and most recognizable global brands tell the world they want out of Detroit? Where’s Detroit’s team sprinting out of the dugout? Where are our leaders telling GM that this is a mistake? Who’s reminding them that Ford did this same move several years ago with the Lincoln Brand, but it lasted less than two years?

Who’s gonna tell Mr. Johan de Nysschen, the new head of Cadillac, that his comments are both insulting and inaccurate?

I am. Join me.  Share, comment, forward – make your voice heard.
This post also ran as an Editorial in Crain’s Detroit Business.