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General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac division will have a tough sell this fall when it launches the Catera, its first car in the entry-level luxury category.

Cadillac, whose average owner is 65 years old, wants to sell the new sedan to a younger target-fortysomething baby boomers. The tricky part, auto experts said, is getting those consumers to even think about the Cadillac marque.

"Baby boomers have no intention of buying a Cadillac; it's not on their shopping list," said David Kalmus, VP-business development at Dohring Co., an auto marketing researcher. Boomers have been behind the major shift from passenger cars to higher-end trucks and sport utility vehicles, Mr. Kalmus said, noting Cadillac markets neither vehicle type.

SALES GOAL: 25,000

The carmaker expects first-year sales to hit 25,000 for the Catera, with a base price of $29,995.

Cadillac's biggest marketing challenge will be getting younger people into Cadillac dealerships to test drive the Catera, said Susan Jacobs, president of consultancy Jacobs & Associates. "I think Catera will be made or broken on the marketing and getting people into the cars."

An estimated $40 million TV campaign for the brand breaks in October, carrying the theme, "Cadillac that zigs."

Several agency executives close to GM have speculated the Catera campaign could be a make-or-break one for Cadillac's national ad agency-the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., office of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.

DMB&B is already on the hot seat with GM's new marketing czar Ron Zarrella, group VP-sales, service and marketing at North American Operations. DMB&B last month changed its top car creative, although both DMB&B and GM have denied reports of client pressure. Cadillac named a new ad director earlier this month.

Cadillac is very pleased with DMB&B, said David Nottoli, Catera brand manager.

The agency "has done an outstanding job" for the division," he said, labeling rumors the agency might lose the account if Catera flops "pure speculation."

He also believes the key challenge is getting potential customers into the showroom.

"If we can get them behind the wheel of the car, it will validate that this, in fact, is a different kind of car and will change their image of Cadillac," he said.


Catera commercials will feature an animated duck, "a comical character with a fun image," said Mike Theodorakis, a Cadillac dealer in Brooklyn, N.Y., who saw the ads at Catera College, a training center mandated for dealers selling the new sedan.

Of Cadillac's 1,580 dealers, only 758 have opted to sell the new brand.

The Catera has to meet buyers' expectations, not only in dealership service, but styling and luxury features in a very competitive segment that includes well-established brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, said Mary Ann Keller, manager and auto research director at Furman-Selz, New York.

`It's not a great-looking car, but it's a very nice car. It's not a high-volume car. It will get its share in the entry-level luxury."

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