Don Butler, VP of Cadillac, Talks African Americans and Cadillac
Butler, the vice president of marketing for GM’s luxury automobile and flagship brand elucidated to select journalists during the L.A. Auto Show how Cadillac is working to return to the pinnacle of luxury brands in the world.
Butler ascended to the upper echelon of GM decision making through his work with GM in 2005, Butler was appointed Chairman and Managing Director, General Motors Egypt where he led the achievement of all time sales records in that country. Butler returned to the U.S. in 2007 where he was named Executive Director, Chevrolet Truck Marketing, guiding the Chevrolet truck brands through a critical time of restructuring in the U.S. market. Butler is returning to GM after a stint as Vice President of OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors Corporation, where he was responsible for global and OEM business leading the deployment of OnStar to other OEM partners and outside the U.S. and Canada.
Where do you believe Cadillac’s place in the automotive luxury market?
It is the icon of General Motors and dare I say it is the icon of the whole industry. I tell people all the time: I love my job. I love my job. We are able to show the new modern progressive definition of a large luxury sedan. We are doing things that Cadillac is known for — its space, comfort, elegance, control, great ride, read to bare unprecedented, leading technology and doing it in a package that we all agree is absolutely beautiful.
What attributes of the Cadillac make it so appealing to a broad range of the populace, including the African American community?
It’s beauty is simplistic: the exterior is a graceful, progressive look at art and science and the evolution of that. The richness of the interior, the craftsmanship, the authentic of the interior — real wood, real leather, it’s an orgasm of the senses. When you look at the car, you say ‘wow, it’s a Cadillac.’
You and GM VP of design Ed Welburn hosted a press conference with journalists from around the world at the LA Auto Show and introduced a spectacular, futuristic Cadillac ELR concept car that will now be put into actual production. What other major changes or additions can we expect from the brand?
People asks all the time, ‘What’s next for Cadillac.’ We have the ATS, which will be positioned just below the CTS, in the summer of 2012. So our sedan lineup will be fully fleshed out. The CTS will be the centerpiece. That’s the core. When you think of Cadillac, you think CTS. The ATS is the compact luxury; the STS is the full-sized luxury. We will compete in all of the main global luxury categories. And when I say compete, we aim to win.
What are these momentous changes in the GM flagship brand designed to accomplish?
We need to get our core foundation established in terms of entry into each of those segments before we look at another category like the SLR or the Mercedes SLS or CLS. You can expect to see those kinds of cars coming from Cadillac. The exciting part is, beginning with the STS, there will be this ongoing cadence of product introductions. Ed Welburn said it best: when you walk into the showroom it is evident. We are working on more Cadillacs at this point in the history of this company than ever before. That’s an amazing statement. It’s a testament to the faith that leadership has in the brand and what the brand means and how the brand needs to go global in a big way. It’s a testament to the potential that we see in the brand as well. For the better part of a century, we were known as the standard of the world. And that is the mantle and title for which we aspire. —terry shropshire