Can Cadillac Out-Tesla Tesla’s Sales and Service Experience?

In a move reminiscent of how Tesla now presents its vehicles, Cadillac said today it would seek to develop 700 small “boutique” stores with emphasis on superlative service, expertly trained staff, awesome new facilities, and technologically advanced products.

A de-emphasizing of such tired sales tactics as saying the dealer has some great special pricing going that day, and a far more customer-centric approach is proposed as part of the consultative, needs-meeting sales model.

The automaker made headlines in September under its still relatively new President Johan de Nysschen by announcing Cadillac was moving as a separate business unit to New York, and his intent is to shake up and improve the brand.

Presently Cadillac has around 200 “flagship” standalone dealers out of a little over 900 total. Many of these present dealers are multi-brand outfits. The move toward greater exclusivity and a customer-centric model is seen as improving the “customer experience.”

To be sure, Cadillac does not just face Tesla, but also brands including BMW, Mercedes and Audi, and against these, plans are to put special Cadillac dealers in urban areas where these German brands have no presence.

Overall, de Nysschen is proposing training and improving the image of its products sales force.

“I want wherever it is feasible to have dedicated, standalone Cadillac stores,” he said to Automotive News. “In those areas where it is not feasible — and there will be many — we want to come up with a concept where we can have a small footprint, boutique-like store that is very premium in its expression and size-appropriate, also in terms of its investment.”

Cadillac 2011 Ciel Concept. (The lead photo is the 2013 Elmiraj Concept.)

Cadillac 2011 Ciel Concept. (The lead photo is the 2013 Elmiraj Concept.)

This move accompanies a substantial investment also by Cadillac.

“Our recently announced $12 billion investment in product must be accompanied by corresponding upgrades to the customer experience,” de Nysschen said. “For all dealers, including multi-brand outlets, we should strive to create a premium showroom atmosphere and the sophisticated brand experience that luxury consumers expect.”

Automotive News in a separate interview noted De Nysschen has said he is exploring “a revised dealer margin and bonus system that encourages and rewards the right behaviors, which also includes investment in facilities and people.”

Compensating dealers for “the right behaviors” through a “revised dealer margin and bonus system” is something Chevrolet marketing director Steve Majoros suggested was off the table for Volt and Chevy plug-in dealers. This he said in an exclusive interview with, but it appears for the up-line GM brand, the maverick de Nysschen may be attempting to encourage compensation to sell products as they need to be.

De Nysschen also said plans are not to reduce Cadillac’s number of dealers, but by squeezing them to commit more financial investments, he may hear some backlash.

“Spending money on facilities is a flashpoint with dealers and with NADA,” said analyst Alan Baum of the proposed plan announced in a press release that must also still pass muster with GM.

Also needed, will be aforementioned pinnacle technological products. Cadillac has shown it can draw beautiful vehicles when it wants to, but under the hood, it has nothing all-electric like Tesla.

Its CT6 is due with a potent plug-in hybrid drivetrain, and this will shadow German automakers which are pushing to market plug-in hybrids. By 2017 Mercedes-Benz, for example, wants 10 plug-in hybrid variants in its product assortment.

GM CEO Mary Barra said in Detroit last week the automaker is quite committed to electrification. The automaker showed its 2016 Volt and Chevy Bolt EV concept at that show, but little was said about the Volt-based Cadillac ELR.

SEE ALSO: Former Volt Critic, Now Cadillac President: There Will Be a Gen-2 ELR

At the show, that car ostensibly positioned above the Volt sat lonely against a wall at the Cadillac display. Cadillac media reps said there are plans to update the ELR. We asked if this means receiving the new Volt drivetrain, but they were unwilling to share more than hinting around the edges.

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