No cars for sale at Cadillac House

Cadillac Chief Marketing Officer Uwe Ellinghaus gave me a grand tour of Cadillac House, the ground floor of the car maker's brand-new Manhattan headquarters. 

Ellinghaus calls Cadillac House a representation of the Cadillac brand world and says they want it to be as inviting as can be. He wants people to go there and find out more about Cadillac and its aspiration to be a luxury brand for the 21st Century.

Cadillac House is part coffee shop, part retail lab, and part art gallery. The one thing it's not is a dealership.

Ellinghaus says they simply wanted to create a place, not for selling cars because they have a dealer network for that, but for engaging customers with the brand. Ellinghaus says he doesn't even care if visitors are in the process of buying a new car or not. He just wants them to understand the Cadillac world.

In 2014, Cadillac announced it was moving its headquarters to Hudson Street in SoHo, opening Cadillac House in June. Ellinghaus says that Cadillac moved downtown because it is simply the cooler New York, where the creative class lives. The move was all part of Cadillac's brand-new campaign "Dare Greatly," Ellinghaus's vision to make Cadillac the luxury car brand of future generations.

Ellinghaus says they wanted to reach out to younger customers, as Generation X and Y will be 80 percent of all new car buyers by 2020. And they wanted to reach out to that generation's areas of interest: fashion, design and architecture. In the past, he says, automotive marketing was directed at the leisure interests and hobbies of the Baby Boomers.

Up front, Cadillac House has Joe Coffee and space to work, meet, or have lunch. In the back is a retail lab in collaboration with the CFDA, featuring upcoming designers in need of their own retail space. Ellinghaus says the retail lab initiates additional traffic for Cadillac House, and if fashion magazines report on certain designers, the lab and Cadillac House will get a mention.

Also in the back of Cadillac House is an art gallery where, once again, the focus is not on sales. Cadillac House partnered with Visionaire, which curates the content. The changing exhibitions also generate traffic from people interested in art, and ensure that Cadillac House will be listed in art guides as a place to go.

You will find cars at Cadillac House even if you can't buy one here. But you won't find logos apart from the one on the front of the building and those on the cars. Ellinghaus says it wasn't necessary. He doesn't have an awareness problem. Everyone knows Cadillac.

Ellinghaus is well aware that his brand strategy is unique, but says it's all about daring greatly. He says he wants to be a distinctive face in the crowd, the brand that goes its own way.

If some people don't get it, he says, he simply has to accept that. If you want a safe choice in luxury, go German, he says. If you want a bold choice, go Cadillac.

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