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CAR confidential: Slow but sure - Cadillac in the UK

Cadillac is a brand on a roll. A painfully slow roll-out in Europe, that is.

In 2006, it sold 400 cars in the UK, out of 3,000 in Europe. That’s small fry indeed, but Caddy chiefs are happy with their softly-softly launch – and plans are afoot to ramp up their presence here. Slowly.

How best to increase sales? Simple. Offer a broader range of cars more in tune with European tastes, and make it easier to own them. The 104-year-old brand is young in Europe and still has a skeletal, US-biased line-up. Over dinner at the recent Geneva Motor Show, GM’s global product chief Bob Lutz summed it up perfectly: “Most Europeans think of Cadillacs as something from the Sixties – a big pink Caddy with fins.”

That’s changing, slowly. The SRX 4x4 and STS saloon will both arrive in right-hand drive by the end of the year, while the new BLS Wagon comes this winter and the 5-series-chasing CTS arrives in June 2008. Plus, Lutz promised, there are more Euro-focused models in the pipeline.

Diesel is king in Europe, and Cadillac has just announced a new 250bhp 2.9-litre V6, destined for the CTS and others, but not until 2009. “We were too late with diesel,” admits Lutz. “It’s 70% of the market here and we will address that correctly in the future.”

GM’s new product strategy will bring more models to market, more quickly, and they will look more distinctive than the rebadged Saab-lookalike BLS.

“That car is too similar to the 9-3,” Lutz says. “It won’t happen again.”

Finally, Cadillac will take its fleet operation inhouse; previously, this has been handled by dealer group Pendragon, and officials are quietly confident that the latest models will have more appeal to business users wanting to stand out from the Anglo-German executive crowd. They will soon piggy-back on fleet deals alongside Vauxhall and Saab, extending the US brand’s reach significantly.

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