Detroit could still work for Cadillac

The Detroit News

Everybody seems to agree that Detroit is joining ranks of America’s cool places. It’s hip, edgy, a magnet for the young creatives coveted by marketers and advertisers and starting to lure both the urban hipsters and those who can afford to live anywhere.

But just as America’s comeback city is solidifying its reputation as the cool place to be, GM is moving its Cadillac division to New York’s Soho district, where it will occupy the sort of modern, loft-style offices that are becoming ubiquitous in downtown Detroit.

The automaker says it is looking for new energy for its struggling luxury brand, a more creative approach to positioning the vehicles both at home and abroad and a launching pad to new global markets.

We understand the need for Cadillac to shake up its moribund brand.

But we wish it would have given Detroit a bit more time to prove it’s the kind of place an automaker seeking a global upscale audience can operate from.

GM is not the first automaker to test the theory that breaking away from the Midwest and heading to the vitality of the coasts will jump-start creativity and sales has been tested before.

Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln division was convinced shifting to California would infuse its staid brand with appeal to a hipper, richer consumer. It didn’t, and eventually Lincoln came back home.

GM traveled this road once before, for different reasons, establishing its Saturn brand in Tennessee.

That didn’t work out, either.

At various points, all of Detroit’s automakers have had flings with New York and California, particularly for their design, marketing and advertising arms.

Eventually they discover that there’s a disadvantage in putting too much “distance” between those who make the cars and those who market them.

Detroit can do both, and is positioned to do them better.

The Motor City is becoming a hotbed for creative talent, offering them the lifestyle they desire for a lot less money than in, say, Manhattan. Besides that, Cadillac is a big fish here; in New York, it’ll be just another minnow in unfamiliar waters.

Cadillac’s departure stings for a number of reasons, including that it is one of Detroit’s oldest automotive brands, has a loyal customer base here and bears the name of the city’s founder, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. It belongs to Detroit.

But Cadillac is important to General Motors, and GM is important to Michigan.

So we hope sincerely hope Cadillac finds what it’s looking for in Soho.

But we also hope that it will be back someday.