Book by Cadillac Remains a Major Failure

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The so-called Book by Cadillac program, the equivalent of a high-end lease program, looked like a major winner. It was a special approach never introduced by its German or Japanese competition. Yet, Book by Cadillac is still dead on arrival. Several people who signed up for the program have only heard once from Cadillac about their status. The message was that Book by Cadillac is oversubscribed. In an email sent January 24, the struggling luxury car maker said:

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Book by Cadillac member. At this time, there have been more requests than the number of open subscriptions. When a Book by Cadillac subscription becomes available, you will be contacted about the next steps.

Thank you again,
The Book by Cadillac Team

Neither before this email was sent nor after has Cadillac, a division of General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), provided an update. It also has made no outbound calls to “members,” or at least those of 24/7 Wall St. It has not offered those who have waited weeks any credit toward a free month. It is unimaginable that market leaders such as Toyota Motor Corp.’s (NYSE: TM) Lexus, BMW or Mercedes would treat potential customers so crassly. That, among other things, is why they are the market leaders: service.

This was the 24/7 Wall St. evaluation of the program published on January 25:

Cadillac got a tremendous amount of publicity for its new “Book by Cadillac” program. But the customer service for the program is poor. The potential customer who signs up for the service gets no response at first. And now Cadillac says it does not have enough cars for all those who want to pay the General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) luxury division to use Book by Cadillac. That erodes the luxury car experience substantially, the opposite of Cadillac’s push to differentiate itself from German and Japanese luxury brands.

Cadillac’s announcement of Book by Cadillac presented it as the next generation of car leasing, a service that no other luxury car company had created. The service is expensive, at $1,500 a month. However, one of its primary advantages is that customers do not have to commit to any long-term agreement.

Book by Cadillac at first seemed to bring a new model to luxury car lease programs, and Cadillac was not shy about bragging:

BOOK by Cadillac members will have app-enabled on-demand access to the latest premium trim Cadillac models to keep in their possession. The vehicles will be delivered via white-glove concierge to members’ requested locations and exchanged at their leisure or as their needs change. Members can just as easily take to the winding roads in a performance V Series and enjoy a back-mountain winter ski trip in an Escalade in the same week. Alternatively, they can keep an SUV during the winter months and switch to a performance sedan during the summer, with each vehicle picked up and delivered to their doorstep.

With maintenance, insurance and detailing of the vehicle handled by Cadillac, members are freed from the baggage that comes with traditional vehicle ownership and given the freedom and flexibility to fit their lifestyle.

Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac chief marketing officer, said at the time of the launch:

BOOK by Cadillac is an innovative new option targeted at a growing class of luxury drivers searching for access to various cars over time, dependent on their individual needs, coupled with a hassle-free white-glove exchange.

Ellinghaus in particular has to be humiliated.

The service is initially available in New York City, so its dealers in the city have let Cadillac down. All they wrote to some people who want to test the program is:

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Book by Cadillac member. At this time, there have been more requests than the number of open subscriptions. When a Book by Cadillac subscription becomes available, you will be contacted about the next steps.

Thank you again,
The Book by Cadillac Team

It is worth reminding Cadillac that luxury car owners do want “white glove” service, and not a misstep that will put many people off enough that some may never become customers.