For years the company has tried to carve out a niche market for the brand in the UK and Europe, but with limited success.
Particularly in the UK, great expectations in the late 90s and 2000 turned to concern in 2001, when Cadillac sales, based around the STS, dived to just 61.
Since then, there have been a series of initiatives, including a tie-up with Saab. None have taken off until now, GM believes.
GM has appointed Kroymans Corporation to develop and manage a European dealership network to sell and service Cadillac and Corvette vehicles.
In the UK, the distributor will be the giant Pendragon dealer group.
Bob Lutz, GM vice-chairman, product development and chairman of GM North America, believes Cadillac has learnt valuable lessons from the past.
At the opening of the first ‘experience centre’, in London’s Park Lane, one of 25 brand hubs expected to be opened throughout Europe, he said: ‘I will not permit Cadillac to create the spacehoppers of the past. That is how it nearly ruined itself last time.
‘And having massive daily rental sales to be the biggest at the end of the year is just a path to mutual destruction.
‘Imagine boasting you are the world’s biggest selling luxury car. When everybody has it, it is no longer a luxury. Sales are not a goal. The goal needs to be demand, rather than push.
‘If I said sell 300,000 Cadillacs, they could do that, but we wouldn’t like what it did to the brand.
‘We know that to succeed with Cadillac in Europe and other world markets, we need products developed for those markets.’
All new Cadillacs will be available in right-hand drive, with the UK getting the BMW 5-series rival, the CTS, as the first model in January. Along with the left-hand drive Corvette, these will form the test-bed among buyers in the UK, before a decision is made on bringing in further models.
Fleets will be the key target market for the CTS, so they will ultimately decide the fate of the brand’s latest attempt to take the market.
Lutz added: ‘I think we are going to have huge success with Cadillac and Corvette.
‘We have the right distribution chain. The EU programme is not like the past. In the past, vehicles were imported by GM Europe and sent to selected dealers.
‘That way it is impossible to have a focus on the luxury brand when at the same time you are under pressure to sell masses of Opels and Saabs. You can’t get the attention.
‘And if you pay £30,000 to £40,000 for a Cadillac and you want to get a service you are not going to stand in line behind five Astra owners. We will have a unique focus on high-end customers.
‘We are confident that Corvette and Cadillac are the best they have ever been. We are sure you can put them next to any product, anywhere in the world and compare them for fit and finish, squeak and rattles, engine, braking, ride and handling.
‘These are world-class products and have nothing to do with the old image of the US cars, sloppily built and put together, using huge amounts of fuel and with no brakes.
‘Cadillac is our best shot at a global brand and Park Lane is symbolic of how we are going to take that brand global.’
Pendragon already has a 250-strong dealer network covering a range of major brands and sees the latest addition as an important challenge.
Over the next year, three more ‘experience centres’ are likely to open, focused on major conurbations, including Manchester and Birmingham.The target is 18.
These may be backed by a shared servicing network with other Pendragon garages. The most likely option is Saab service centres, with a separate entrance for the new brand.
Trevor Finn, chief executive officer of Pendragon, said: ‘Cost of ownership is crucial to business users. It needs to be a car that people want to buy and fleets want to buy. Residual values are a number one priority, but because of the volumes, we can protect values by remarketing through out own network.
‘We aim to have three or more centres open next year, with a target of 18 if the volume comes over the next five years.’
LAUNCH: Early 2005
KEY FACTS: 5-series rival. Launching with 2.6 and 3.2-litre V6 petrols, offering 181bhp and 218bhp, achieving 62mph in 9.3 and 7.4 seconds respectively for the manual. If demand is high enough, a diesel could be added to production. First Cadillac in 20 years to feature manual transmission, offered in five-speed format. Five-speed auto also available. Standard equipment includes six front, side and curtain airbags, traction control and electronic stability control.
LAUNCH: Early 2005 for left-hand drive. Likely to be 2006 for right-hand drive
KEY FACTS: Sport utility vehicle, offering estate load-lugging and off-road capabilities. Nearly five metres long, powered by 3.6-litre 258bhp V6 with variable valve timing and 4.6-litre V8 Northstar unit, the first use of this engine in a 4x4. Both power wheels through five-speed automatic box, achieving 0-62mph of 8.1 seconds for V6 and 7.4 seconds for the V8.
LAUNCH: Early 2005 in left-hand drive. Likely to be 2006 or later for
right-hand drive depending on demand.
KEY FACTS: Two-seater convertible roadster based on Evoq design study unveiled in 1999. Uses 4.2-litre 326bhp Northstar V8 to hit 62mph in 5.9 seconds and limited 155mph top speed. Includes adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and DVD navigation. Powered roof, features heated glass rear window, can be lowered electronically in less than 30 seconds.
LAUNCH: Available 2005 in left-hand drive.
KEY FACTS: Sixth generation of the all-American sports car. Slightly shorter and narrower than previous model, with all-new interior. Powered by 6.0-litre V8 based on GM’s new Gen IV ‘small block’ family of engines, achieves 400bhp and hits 62mph in 4.2 seconds for both six-speed manual or four-speed auto. Removable roof panel in coupe can be carried in luggage area, while convertible has power operated soft top, stowed away in 18 seconds.