Cadillacís been on
the move for the last few years. Not its sales or image. The
brandís physical address keeps changing, with little to show for
Caddyís latest move
is the most perplexing yet, particularly considering that General
Motors just delayed badly needed updates to its design and
engineering centers to save money.
I didnít complain
when Caddy moved its headquarters to New York, though I saw no need
and foresaw precious little benefit. Nor when the brand recently
announced it was returning to Michigan, without giving any reason
that wasnít cited as a reason not to make the move in the first
place: being closer to engineering is more efficient and costs less
than an ego-stroking Manhattan address.
But the more I learn
about Cadillacís homecoming, the less I understand. Cadillac HQ
will be in the office building occupied for decades by the Campbell
Ewald advertising agency in Warren, across the street from GMís
Tech Center. I mean no disrespect to Warren. Like a lot of suburbs,
itís gets a lot cheap shots it doesnít deserve. The city hosts
thousands of GM employees who engineer and design terrific vehicles.
Itís a fine community, with a leading role in Americaís
industrial history and future.
But seriously, the
old Campbell Ewald building?
ĎMad Mení and a
Cadillac just spent
three years and beaucoup bucks on the theory that a cool location
leads to forward-thinking decisions and cool vehicles. Now itís
moving into the building that was among the inspirations for ďMad
Men,Ē TVís hymn to the 1960s, three-martini lunches and the days
when men were executives and women got the coffee?
The Campbell Ewald ad
agency itself cited an environment more conducive to creative work
when it left the building in favor of downtown Detroit in 2013.
By contrast, Ford
plans to spend $740 million dollars turning the old Michigan Central
train station into a showplace for new ideas and vehicles. Ford sees
the hopping Corktown district as a recruiting tool for creative
young workers. The Campbell-Ewald building wonít ever be that, its
proximity to Olive Garden and National Coney Island notwithstanding.
The revitalization of
Detroit is a cause cťlŤbre. The city seems a natural spot to
launch Cadillacís latest comeback. Is there no vacant building in
Detroit waiting to become an breathtaking office and event space for
Cadillac? A showcase for the brandís inspired thinking, luxury and
Does nobody at GM
have Dan Gilbertís phone number? He canít be that hard to find;
heís rich, not invisible.
The Cavaliers play
the Pistons in Detroit Nov. 19. Heíll probably be down front.
GM says returning to
metro Detroit will help Cadillac by moving its executives closer to
the Tech Center, where new vehicles are designed and engineered.
Plus GM owns the old CE building. GM says the building wonít need
much work, a promise familiar to every homeowner who ever lied to
themselves because the prospect of moving is so exhausting.
It may seem
reasonable that product development should be less than 600 miles
from the bossís office, but that wasnít a concern when Cadillac
moved to New York in 2013. Even if GM learned that was a mistake,
the 18 miles from downtown Detroit to the Tech Center is Warren
isnít a problem for Chevrolet, Buick or GMC. One would think
Cadillac can overcome it.
Updates to design
center on hold
The move gets even
harder to swallow given that GM just delayed improvements at its
tech and design centers in Warren and Pontiac to save money.
Cadillac will continue to pay for its Soho pied-Š-terre through the
end of its lease ó reportedly in 2025 ó unless it manages to
A massive expansion
of GMís Design Center in Warren is on indefinite hold. Thatís
particularly unfortunate, since the look and feel of GM interiors
may be the companyís greatest shortcoming today.
The work that the
Tech Centerís engineers and designers do means more to
Cadillacís future than whether a few execs have a view of the
Brooklyn Bridge, the Ambassador Bridge or an overpass on I-696.
nothing when it relocated to New York.
Thereís still time
to make the move home meaningful, or even to stay put and
concentrate on getting critical new vehicles right, rather than
trying to figure out which packing box the stapler is in.