Cadillac unveiled the new ELR at the 2014 North American International Show to a confused public. The ELR is a two-door, Cadillac-badged, Chevrolet Volt that starts at $76,000. Some people believe that Cadillac needs to make a statement; to price their vehicles according to what they believe their brand should be worth instead of pricing it to be an inexpensive alternative. There is logic in that, as companies like Apple charge premium prices for their products. Instead of a commercial showing the merits of the vehicle, Cadillac chose a more direct, and arrogant, approach to selling the car. Starring Neal McDonough of Desperate Housewives fame, the commercial takes a nationalistic approach that Americans are better than the rest of the world because they work harder, want things, and spend money. However, some people were offended by the commercial, and a bit of a firestorm ensued. Let’s take a look at the commercial and the points-of-view.
It appears that Cadillac wants to say that their ELR is better than anything else the world has to offer because Americans work harder and do more. McDonough often uses the terms “other countries” throughout the commercial, clearly bashing some European states that have a different style of work. It is not entirely false, as some of the wealthiest and most successful people on the planet were Americans. The commercial cites Bill Gates and Muhammad Ali as prime examples.
Cadillac also wants to be cocky about it. McDonough mentions that Americans shot for the moon and actually made it there before getting bored. He says that we left a car with the keys in it on the moon because someday we are going to go back for it.
The criticism of the ad is several fold. First off, the commercial makes the assertion that Americans work hard for money to buy things. However, a quick look at just the comments on the YouTube version of the commercial shows that many people are angry that General Motors makes that claim when they were the ones needed bailed out by taxpayer dollars. They feel insulted because they believe that GM did not work hard enough to help the company and took the easy way out by borrowing from taxpayers.
An additional complaint about the commercial is the mention of the space program. The United States has dramatically cut funding to the space program and recently the Chinese were the ones to put a rover on the moon. It is unlikely that the United States is going to go back to the moon anything soon, and some wouldn’t be surprised if the Chinese actually get there.
Finally, some of the complaints follow anti-union sentiment. McDonough refers to countries that take the entire month of August off. However, many UAW contracts allow for ample vacation time of a month or more, and are often mixed in with summer factory shutdowns. For some, making fun of countries that have different employment laws that allow for vacations is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.
Unrelated to the tone of the commercial, the final big complaint really is how much the ELR is priced. At $76,000, it has a more expensive starting price than the Tesla Model S, which is also an American company. There are also no differences in the drivetrain or hybrid system in the ELR, meaning that underneath the Cadillac body is a Chevrolet Volt that starts at $34,185. The Volt also has two extra doors. It is unclear if the ELR will be a sales success or a sales flop, but based on the vehicle and the marketing, they are taking a gamble.