Not since Alaska replaced Texas as the biggest state has being No. 2 been so low. What with all the oil money and Arab business down here, you'd think a Cadillac dealer in Texas could sell more cars than one someplace else.
Not so, but not for long, hopes a local Caddy dealer. He wants to be No. 1 so bad he's baiting Texan's pride with the advertising claim of "The nation's second-largest Cadillac dealership." Imagine, boasting second place in Texas.
And the shame of it all, as the world is viewed from here, is that No. 1 is in . . . New York.
"Bring that title to Texas where it belongs," is the message going out to Houstonians in $75,000 worth of ads in Newsweek, Time and Sports Illustrated. Freeway billboards bear the same call to arms.
"It's an appeal to the traditional Texas sense of pride," acknowledges ad man William A. Cameron Jr., who dreamed up the pitch for Bland-Curran Cadillace. "All this national publicity Houston has received - it's all one thing; achievement. This is a community of people who accomplish a great deal - and make money in the process."
Is he serious?
"How much is serious and how much is tongue-in-cheek is going to vary with the individual recipient," says Cameron. "It will happen that some of the longtome Texans around here - ranchers and oilmen - are going to take it seriously. Some of them will buy not one but two or three - and that's a lot of money - out of regional pride. They will take it seriiously.
"The newcomers would be inclined to treat the thing as a humorous, tongue-in-cheek approach because they're not made out of the same stuff as longtime Texans."
What does he mean by that?
"Well, I was born in Chicago, and my sister was born in Texas. The difference between us is, I don't want to live anyplace else and she doesn't know there is anyplace else."
"It's working," says Neil C. Bland, general manager of Bland-Curran. For whatever reasons, sales are up to about 600 for the first three months of 1978, compared to 525 for the same period a year ago. "At first, everybody laughed. Then we stared getting serious comments."
Like the time someone asked, "How are we doing?"
Bland-Curran sold 2,811 Caddies last year, Bland said, helping to make Cadillac the eight-largest selling car in Houston, ahead of Dodge at ninth and Plymouth, at 10th, according to county data. New car sales in this auto-dependent society were 204,988 all told. The city and surroundings county added a net of 411 cars a day last year to its street and highways.
So on a good day in traffic you may be able to get a long look at the Caddy with 45-caliber, chrome-plated pistols for door handles on all four doors. Or the one with longhorns on the hood. Or the El Dorado convertibles that are custom-made here because Detroit quit making convertibles.
But Bland, sitting in a blue denim cowboy shirt in the recreation room of his River Oaks home - that night he's dressed for a Future Farmers of America livestock auction - scoffs at the image of Texans buying Cadillacs in quantity. "It's quite common to order two," he said, but the sales of three and five at a time generally are to corporations. Legends die hard, though.
Whatever those legends of "lawmen" in their poity-toe boots speeding around Texas, Bland describes the basci Caddy customer as "down-to-earth people." And what with inflation, Cadillac isn't so far out of the reach of the rest of us, he says.
After all, at $13,000 to $14,000 you can own a Caddy for only a $1,000 more down and $3,000 more in payments than you'd pay for one of those pretned luxury cars.
This whole thing has gone largely unnoticed in New York, where No. 1 Potamkin Cadillac sold around 5,000 new and 3,000 used Caddies last year. "We wish him the best of luck," said Potamkin's George Katz. "When you're second best you've go to do some thing."