What’s in a Name: The Strategy Behind Cadillac Model Names

August 8th, 2019 by

Ever wonder what’s behind the strategy of model names? Take a look at Cadillac model names and see how they’ve changed

To remember when the names of car models made sense is impossible for most of us. Any hope for straightforward alphabetical or numerical progressions ended in 1927.

That’s when the Ford A-Model “debuted” to replace the Model T. Never mind that the Model A was around as early as 1903.

Names Define & Designate

A model name is used by a manufacturer to market a range of similar cars. How manufacturers group their products into models can vary.

The car model often sets the style and engineering platform used. It also defines body style and engine choice.

Some models, like the Mazda 2 hatchback, only have one body style, while others are sold as sedans, hatchbacks, convertibles and more. The same is true for available engine and powertrain options.

A model can also be called a “nameplate,” specifically longtime models. For example, the Chevrolet Suburban, which debuted in 1934, is the oldest auto “nameplate” in continuous production.

Evolution of Model Names

Cadillac model names have gone through changes. Many of those changes were pinned to marketing and brand concerns.

Today, a Cadillac showroom like Huber’s features designations like CT3 and XT6. The reason mixes awareness of present competition with an homage to older model names.

The Early Days

Like many car companies, the earliest Cadillac models used a rough alphanumeric progression to name each new product. Back then you’d see the Cadillac Model B replaced by the Model C.

From there it would continue. A few letters were skipped because of internal issues or , for example, American-English’s limited use of the letter Q.

Competition and advancements created gaps in model branding. The names made specific sense, but they failed to become popular or to create emotional attachment.

Consumer Tastes

Innovations were constant, which meant as new models came out, they were expected to have new features. But not all features or updates made a splash.

Consumer tastes shift, recycle and change. A current example of this is the “muscle” car’s return to popularity.

Manufacturers began to build vehicles specific to certain needs and uses. Ultimately, model names diversified to reflect that narrowing of purpose for such models.

Model Diversification

Once model diversification became standard practice, names changed as manufacturers’ marketing teams looked for ways to stand out. Names of designers, landmarks, animals and concepts (though often misspelled) became the vector used to attract consumers.

Creative names for a signature design could become iconic and were the center of marketing campaigns.

Brand modeling has two jobs:

  • Keep the product in the public’s mind
  • Create emotional attachment to it.

In the same way the term “the Cadillac of x” developed, name brand word association counts.

The 1990s

The 1990s saw branding shift as the market for model diversity shrank.

Increasingly, consumers wanted cars to either perform tasks or be status symbols, not both. This produced shorter and savvier naming conventions.

By this time, certain letters and numbers represented specific industry-wide concepts. Touring and turbo models shared designations across the landscape.

It was also during the 1990s that European dominance, specifically by BMW and Audi, reintroduced easy-to-follow naming conventions like the BMW 5 and 7 series.

You could look at an Acura MDX and know what it was in comparison to an Audi A4.

International Impact

Since 2014, Cadillac’s naming conventions were carefully designed to match its international competitors. This lets dealers and consumers speak of similarities in vehicle use and form.

Newer model names have a designating letter code followed by numbers. The letter codes detail the legacy of the model, such as “AT” for the Cadillac Allante, followed by a number to indicate its size.

You don’t need to know exactly what the size means to know the AT 3 is smaller than an AT 4. The higher numbers also reflect upgraded features and premium pricing.

One reason this works is widely understood “scaling.” Cadillac model names are “pre-loaded” to indicate, for example, that an XT6 is better than a CT4.

Of course, it isn’t always that linear and all models have their place or they wouldn’t exist. But from a branding standpoint, it provides a clear hierarchy of value. From a marketing standpoint, it allows easy comparisons without lengthy explanations.

Going forward, cars will start with CT (Cadillac Touring) plus a number.

The first car using that naming strategy is the new Cadillac CT6. Crossover SUVs, start with XT (Crossover Touring) plus a number. The new Cadillac XT5 is the first crossover to use the strategy as it replaces the SRX. The number after the T designates the position of the model in Cadillac’s product hierarchy.

More Than Just Cars

No matter how Cadillac model names come and go, the engineering and passion for excellence remain the same. There is no undercutting the powerful and popular belief that Cadillac is a symbol of quality and a benchmark of success.

When you shop for your next car, depend on Huber Cadillac to provide the same service, under the same name, as our classic offerings.

Posted in History