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GM FastLane:Cadillac Comes to South Africa

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Ed Welburn

By Ed Welburn

GM Vice President, Global Design

Well, GM has brought a great surprise to South Africa: Cadillacs!

After launching the South African production of Hummer H3s for export on Tuesday, we invited South Africa's press corps to what they expected would be a Hummer event in the Western Cape city of George. We put on a grand "Hummer" show, complete with jungle theme, a large wooden crate, and false stockade fences. Lots of Hummer displays, great music… and then all of a sudden the music switched, the displays dropped, the crate opened, and inside was... a Cadillac BLS ! As those stage-set fences came down, the crowd slowly began to see Cadillac SRX and STS.

The response was tremendous.

Starting early next year, three Cadillac models will be sold in South Africa — the BLS mid-size sedan best known in Europe, the SRX crossover SUV, and the STS full-size sedan. They'll be available to the sophisticated markets of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and other cities here.

We took the reporters for a drive in those Caddies, on the smooth, wide switchbacks of the roads over the stunning Outeniqua Mountains, and down into the desert. It's spring here, and the desert floor is bursting in color: intense reds, purples, oranges. All the colors I'd seen people wearing in Cape Town were right here, on the desert floor. Those colors make sense, now that I've seen them in nature.

I struck up some great relationships with South Africans, and they are very interested in branding. They want to know more about GM’s brands. They say Hummer and Cadillac are so distinct, and they appreciate the differences between Cadillac and other luxury brands. They want us to bring the XLR here.

This is a real car culture. People have a passion for cars. As this country begins to explode economically, the auto industry will explode with it. Now that I've seen it, I'm not surprised that South Africa is one of the fastest growing automobile markets in the world.

During my talks with South African journalists, I was amazed at how positive they are about GM and about American cars. They want more American cars here. They think the American design aesthetic — the Cadillacs and Hummers — are right for this market. They think the STS is a great design statement. They loved driving the BLS, they love its bold front end, its hard edges, its overall design.

The journalists also told me they feel that the H3 goes way beyond anything our competitors have here.

I'm leaving South Africa feeling pretty good.



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