There was a time when Cadillac was the brand of choice in Hollywood, lionized in film and song and a mainstay in the valet queues at Ciro's and the Brown Derby. But like those shuttered showbiz hotspots, the days of Coupe de Villes and endless tailfins are long gone. The General Motors brand, which reached its nadir with the Cimarron compact car of the 1980s, has struggled to remain relevant with show business players, many of whom opt for a German make. But things are changing.
Launched in summer 2010, a year after GM emerged from bankruptcy protection, the high-performance Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, which starts at $63,660, was an instant critical darling. (It's a tuned version of the CTS Coupe.) Now, Cadillac is trying to claw its way back into studio and agency parking lots with a unique strategy: It is putting the V coupe (and the CTS-V wagon and sedan) in the hands of influencers.
"It helps people update their opinion of our product because it is very convincing," says Cadillac communications manager David Caldwell. (While other carmakers lend vehicles this way, Cadillac's program may be the most aggressive.) As part of its efforts, the company lent a V sedan to Entourage star Jeremy Piven in 2010 and handed keys to a V wagon to Jackass 3D executive producer Derek Freda this year. The strategy doesn't always result in a sale, but there are ancillary benefits. Piven tweeted to his 1.25 million Twitter followers in August 2010 that the "V-8 on the CTS-V is a beast."
Massive sales aren't necessarily the goal with the V series. It's a low-volume sub-brand -- Cadillac has sold 2,845 this year -- but it's an aspirational product that could entice buyers to consider any Cadillac.
Freda's time with the V led him to buy a Cadillac, though he chose the non-V wagon. "It was a brilliant idea because when you have something for a week, it ingrains itself in your life," he says. "I wanted the V, but to have that much power in L.A. isn't a good idea." Other buyers include TV producer Eric Peterkofsky, who drives a CTS Coupe, and Seether bassist Dale Stewart, who drives a V sedan (Cadillac did not lend him a car). Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHS Global Insight, says Cadillac's Hollywood marketing efforts are helping to make the brand relevant again: "It gives them credibility. Jeremy Piven is not going to put his reputation on the line by endorsing a product he doesn't believe in."
Indeed, owners with showbiz ties believe perception of the brand is changing. Says Stewart, a former Porsche owner who has written songs for film soundtracks: "I told friends I was buying a Cadillac, and they said, 'You are?!' The thought is of grandpa's old Caddy. But I think it's changing."
SCOUTING THE COMPETITION
BMW M3 Coupe: The standard-bearer in the souped-up luxury coupe class, the V-8 M3 starts at about $59,000 and hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds.
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe: Debuting in September with a base price near $64,000, the all-new Mercedes coupe features a V-8 that propels the car to 60 mph in about 4 seconds.