Cadillac and Audi Ham It Up in a Battle of the Hippest

Posted by: David Welch on January 27, 2011

There’s a subtle rivalry brewing in the luxury car business. Audi and Cadillac are both hamming it up with television advertising to make the case that they’re the hip antidote to stodgy traditional luxury (read: Mercedes). In recent ads, both of them have new commercials loaded with imagery painting luxury as cold and stuffy as they take a fun stab at old money.

One of Cadillac’s newest ads depicts an older couple having an anniversary dinner at their long dining room table. Actor Laurence Fishburne intones, “blue-blooded, cold.” Cut to racy imagery: a motorcycle roaring down the highway, a young guy eyeballing a beautiful woman in a glass elevator. The ad eventually goes to a Cadillac CTS and Fishburne asks, “What happened to luxury? Where did the personality go?” The point, of course, is that Cadillac brings something new and edgy to the luxury market. The theme is “red-blooded luxury.”

Audi takes it a step further. On one of the German brand’s newest ads is an obvious play off the classic Margaret Wise Brown kids’ book “Goodnight Moon,” with a vaguely creepy animated fox fur and other classic luxury items such as a well-coiffed French poodle and gold cuff links. “Goodnight outdated. Goodnight stuffy,” the ad says. “Good night old luxury and all of your wares.” Then we see a Mercedes sedan. Its lights go out. The ad concludes with a beauty shot of an Audi A8 sedan and we hear, “good morning, innovation. Good morning, unequalled inspiration.”

Audi likes throwing down the gauntlet before its German rivals. The brand has taken on BMW several times. Audi actually staked its claim as the newest and coolest luxury brand several years ago with an ad that had an old rich man waking up to the grille of his big luxury car in his bed. It’s a knockoff of the horse’s head from “The Godfather.”

So who has the better shout? Both brands are growing fast, Audi sales rose 23% last year and Cadillac was up 35%. Cadillac sells almost 50% more vehicles. But in terms of burnishing the brand as the coolest newcomer, Audi has the edge. Its average buyer makes more money. The A8 is a legitimate competitor to the Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series flagship sedans. Audi’s A4, which is smaller than the Cadillac CTS, attracts nouveau luxe buyers. Cadillac is still working on cars to battle it out in those two vital market segments. Plus, Cadillac marketers readily admit that they are trying to expunge the image of old, stuffy Cadillac. You have to appreciate the moxie shown by both brands.

Reader Comments

DanTe

January 27, 2011 5:01 PM

Audi is obviously the "hippest" of them all. Much like "Apple" is the hippest. You determine hippness by the massive number of defects that users are willing to live with. Audi's the only car that I know of that leaks oil as a "feature" when it's brand new.

GM Daughter

January 27, 2011 6:06 PM

Did you see the British version of Top Gear on BBC America? I'm talking about the Bonneville episode where one of the hosts was going on and on about how the Caddy wasn't a land-yacht anymore and then he found out what it was really good at. This ain't your daddy's Caddy.

Cgrothaus

January 28, 2011 12:15 PM

While they have tried for years, Cadillac will never overcome the close brand relationship it shares with gray-haired 60-year-olds in their four-door Eldorado. The CTS/DTS/STS lines may pair up nicely against Audi and BMW, but we 40-somethings don't want to be caught in our grandpa's Caddy...unless he's driving us to dinner in it.

asela

January 30, 2011 1:51 AM

Used to be a fan of Audi, but not very reliable. Cadillac may actually have better reliability. Still BMW seems to have got their styling edge back. Me I prefer the staid Lexus. Reliable, albeit slightly more murderous, unlike Audi and BMW whose running costs may drive you to suicide. No pun intended.

Tgteich

January 30, 2011 9:22 PM

Audi, and the other German luxury brands still have a fundamental problem. They saddle their owners with high maintenance costs and high repair bills. I have had two Audis and have experienced this first hand by shelling out thousands on both of them. My friends have had similar problems with BMW. One friend drove Mercedes for 25 and quit in total frustration over constant repairs. I will never buy one of these brands. Cadillac has to be better.

Honda Car Price

February 24, 2011 6:30 AM

Caddy IMO is on the rise, the CTS Coupe and Wagon are both world class vehicles and the SRX has had fantastic success in the marketplace. Caddy right now just needs more product. The XTS, ATS and refreshed CTS cant come soon enough.
http://www.indiandrives.com/category/make/honda

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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