Cadillac has a long history in Hollywood. From the classic Coupe de Ville to the Escalade, its iconic cars have been memorialized on screen for nearly 85 years. But instead of staying stuck in time, the American automaker is entering new era of innovation with two new luxury sedans, the CT4 and CT5, and the 2021 Escalade, the SUV’s first major overhaul in five years. By bringing industry-first technology and staying connected to pop culture, Cadillac is leveraging its starry history to stay ahead of the times. We caught up with Shane Peever, Cadillac Canada’s managing director, ahead of the 2020 Canadian International Autoshow to talk about the new cars, new features and what’s next for the brand.
You joined Cadillac Canada as managing director last June. How are you enjoying the role so far?
Oh, it’s amazing. I’ve always wanted to work for an automotive company from the time I was a kid. My parents bought new cars every three or four years, and I was the kid that went in and got the stacks of brochures, so to be able to lead a brand like Cadillac is just a lifelong dream for me. This has been pretty exciting, especially at the time that we’re in right now with all of our new launches are coming up. The future’s pretty bright, so it’s a great time to be part of Cadillac.
Speaking of new launches, the new 2021 Escalade got some major tech upgrades. What are the coolest features?
We try to revolve the launches around “see and be seen”, “hear and be heard” and “move and be moved”. From a “see and be seen” perspective, obviously the car’s got a new bold presence, it’s been completely redesigned from the ground up. It has our new Y trim strategy, so you have the choice of a premium luxury model or a sport model. If you’d like a little bit more chrome, you stand with the traditional premium luxury model. If you like the blacked-out look with a little bit more of an edgier appearance, we have the Sport models. On the inside of the vehicle, we also have our industry-first 38-inch OLED screen, which is pretty incredible. [It] houses all of your navigation, all of your driver information center. It even has augmented reality navigation where you will actually see a camera view of the road in front of you and the nav directions will overlay on top of it. It’s pretty incredible.
On the “hear and be heard” part, inside, the sound system is unbelievable. We have a 36-speaker AKG audio system – the first time AKG has been used in the industry. They’re associated with musicians and sound technicians and we’ve been really proud to partner with them. And then of course, what’s Escalade without power, right? We have an updated 6.2 litre engine, 420 horsepower, made it to a 10-speed transmission, which provides a really refined driving experience and [gives you] all the power you need. We really feel like we’ve got everything we need with Escalade to really deliver what customers are expecting.
And how has the Escalade customer changed?
As customers evolve along with us, they’re demanding things like more technology, more interior space, comfort and luxury touches, and more power train options. One of the things we constantly hear about the Escalade customer is their need to travel with family and friends, the whole crew, and have the room they need. So, we’ve added 10 inches of legroom in the third row, and then rear cargo room has improved by 68 per cent too. In the second row, we’ve got two 12-inch screens for the passengers that will allow you to stream wirelessly from your devices and then pass content back and forth from one screen to the other. Our customers have been telling us to really up the game, and we really think that this delivers.
What’s your media strategy for reaching new customers?
One of the big kickoffs to the Escalade and our new brand campaign Make Your Way is through our partnership with the Oscars. Cadillac has always been at the forefront of Hollywood and stardom, and it’s tied greatly to success, whether it’s NBA players, NHL players, NFL players – we’ve always had a great presence there. We’re starting to leverage that notion of celebrity a lot more, and the recent partnership we had at the Oscars is a big part of it. We partnered with Spike Lee and Regina King to create unique content for us that’s highly shareable and highly engaging. Part of our strategy as we go forward is to leverage those kinds of partnerships and tie it back to the roots of Cadillac being this aspirational brand that is really on the forefront of innovation.
What’s Escalade’s unique selling proposition?
With Escalade we’re looking to elevate the extraordinary. To me, the industry-first technologies that we have inside – the interior experience, in particular, is like nothing in the industry with the AKG audio and that 38-inch OLED, and we really feel that those two pieces alone are going to bring in new customers to the brand.
Does the Escalade customer cross shop Range Rover, the Mercedes GLS or the BMW X7?
Absolutely. We have a really strong, loyal customer base. A lot of whom have reached out waiting, wanting to take advantage of the new Escalade. But, you know, there’s more and more entries in this segments and so we really made sure we upped our game to hold on to that base because a lot of people cross shop and we do want to attract more buyers from the other luxury brands and we think Escalade will do that handily.
And what’s next for Cadillac’s high-performance V-brand?
The V-brand has expanded recently with the addition of Vs for the CT4 and the CT5 and the expansion of those Vs to really make the V-brand accessible for people. It’s one step up in their journey and it can really exemplify sporty driving and handling. And then of course, there’s more to come on the V story; we haven’t revealed all of the strategy just yet.
Cadillac is synonymous American luxury and manufacturing. What do you think the difference is between American luxury and German, British, or Japanese?
For us, it’s about elevating the extraordinary and that connection to pop culture. Elevating the extraordinary for us is doing things that are industry firsts. Super Cruise is an industry first. If you think about the competitors in this space, none of them are really, truly hands free. Super Cruise is completely hands free, and we just introduced lane-change assist. When it unveils this fall in the Escalade, you’ll be able to change lanes without touching the steering wheel.
You have a strong background in retail marketing. What are your plans for Cadillac at the retail level?
I think the biggest piece is leveraging our network. You’re going to see a lot more transformation of our retail facilities and the customer experience at the dealership level with redesigned dealerships. We actually have the world’s largest redesigned Cadillac dealership under our new image program in Calgary at Carter’s, and we have several of those outlets opening up across the country, including one right here in Toronto at Roy Foss in Woodbridge. So, completely new customer experience elements across the board.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.