NEW YORK – Booming sales in the U.S. and China are powering Cadillac to its comeback as a serious contender in the luxury segment, but the General Motors marque seeks a greater presence in emerging markets where it either has been absent or uncompetitive.


Jim Vurpillat, former global marketing chief for Cadillac, has been assigned as the brand's first director of marketing for emerging markets to focus on all areas outside the U.S. and China. Cadillac's U.S. and Chinese sales are up about 30% and 45%, respectively, through Sept. 30.

Now Cadillac is targeting higher sales in regions it defines as emerging markets to about 15% of its global volume. These regions include Russia, the Middle East, Canada, Mexico and eventually South America, where it sells no vehicles at present.

Cadillac is seeking to enter the South American market in the next couple of years, Vurpillat tells WardsAuto at a press conference here. The luxury brand also is putting more focus on sales in Canada and adding dealers in the Middle East.

In some markets, such as Russia, Cadillac is hampered by regulatory situations. For instance, Russia penalizes vehicles with engines generating more than 250 hp. Cadillac also lacks right-hand-drive models for Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the U.K. “We're not there yet,” the executive says.

Strangely enough, Vurpillat says Europe is one of his responsibilities as Cadillac's new chief of marketing for emerging markets. Past efforts to set up a dealer network there failed as the brand’s Dutch distributor went bankrupt some years ago.

“(But) we now have 38 dealers in Europe serviced by a national sales company headquartered in Zurich (Switzerland),” he says. “You'll start to see us bring more dealers into the network.”

Cadillac's new ATS compact sedan and CTS-V coupe have earned high praise in third-party reviews in Europe. “We have the potential to create want for the brand there,” Vurpillat says, adding the SRX midsize CUV has potential in emerging markets and the Escalade fullsize SUV already is important in many of those markets.

But Vurpillat admits the Cadillac brand has a long way to go to become as aspirational as the German luxury brands. He also acknowledges Cadillac can't grow its European presence without diesel powertrains.

Cadillac is handicapped by nationalism in Europe as it seeks to compete with the German luxury brands. Its only important non-native competitor in Europe currently is Lexus, but Vurpillat notes another Japanese luxury brand, Infiniti, has strong global aspirations.

Vurpillat’s office remains in Detroit. “But I have close contact with everybody in marketing (overseas). My knowledge of Cadillac is also important to grow our sales over there.”

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