Led Zeppelin Sound Track Continues Charge to Lure Young Buyers

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DETROIT ( -- General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac, for years considered a stodgy vehicle brand for the silver-haired
Cadillac's 90-second Super Bowl ad was a showcase for historic Caddies and Led Zeppelin music.
set, hopes to keep luring younger new car buyers with a host of new models rolling into showrooms this year.

Greying image
The luxury automaker is riding the success of its year-old ad campaign that broke during last year's Super Bowl that featured the Led Zeppelin anthem "Rock and Roll." The work, from Publicis Groupe's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Troy, Mich., aims to improve the brand's greying image, and recent models, such as the CTS sedan, the redone Escalade sport utility vehicle and its EXT version with a pickup bed, are attracting younger drivers, according to the company.

That sort of news has prompted Cadillac's general manager, Mark LaNeve, to claim that "there's truly a renaissance at Cadillac."

New models
The new models in Cadillac's rebirth include a full-size Escalade, the ESV, now trickling into showrooms; the XLR roadster, which is due in late spring; and the SRX sport utility, which arrives in the third quarter. Cadillac is set to launch its new high-performance line with the CTS V Series sedan this fall.

The automaker on Super Bowl Sunday broke a 90-second spot showing its new lineup and,

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as it did last year, awarded the game's MVP, Dexter Jackson, with a new Cadillac of his choosing.

Doug Scott, an analyst with consultancy Allison-Fisher International, said, "This is the most focused I've seen Cadillac" in the 20 years he has been following the industry. But, he added, the brand will have to "claw [its] way back, as will [Ford Motor Co.'s] Lincoln, from the imports that leap-frogged them in recent years."

Lexus, BMW
Toyota Motor Sales USA's Lexus division was the best-selling luxury nameplate in 2002, though BMW of North America was only a couple of thousand units behind. Cadillac last won the crown in 1997.

In the past year, the average age of buyers across Cadillac's line dropped by three years to 59, Mr. LaNeve said. The marketer doesn't want to replace its current owners, a lesson sadly learned by sibling Oldsmobile, which didn't get enough newcomers to replace its aging base. "We just want to expand, and I think our ad campaign has helped," he said.

"The game plan is to play offense, not defense," said Mike Uffner, a Cadillac dealer in Delaware since 1982. "Our products appeal to more people, and we're in more segments than before."

He said he routinely gets 30-something professionals in his dealership for the CTS, while teenagers bring their parents to see the car: "I never remember seeing that before as a Cadillac dealer."

John Santilli, a dealer in Massachusetts, has also noticed relatively new developments in his showroom. He said he regularly sees 45-year-old buyers and 40% to 50% of his Escalade buyers are women.

There are other signs Cadillac is on the right track. Mr. LaNeve said the brand sold nearly 199,700 units last year, or 16% more than 2001. He is cagey about his goal for 2003, which experts have already predicted will be a slower sales year for the industry. "I want to sell at least 200,000" cars this year was all Mr. LaNeve would say.

No boost in ad budget
Despite the new models, Cadillac's 2003 ad budget will equal last year's. Mr. LaNeve said the level will be fine, especially since local dealer ad groups are now spending about the same as Cadillac.

The marketer spent $178 million in measured media in the first 10 months of 2002, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

Unlike last year, Cadillac's spending will be even throughout the year. The automaker spent heavily in the first half of 2001, mostly for the CTS launch. In 2003, the SRX will get the biggest chunk of ad dollars. Mr. LaNeve said the CTS V Series sedan may only get backing in automotive books due to its low volume.

"We got a lot of work out in front of us," he said.

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