Cadillac promises additions to thin lineup

The Ciel concept convertible was a big attention-getter in Pebble Beach earlier this month. Photo credit: RYAN BEENE

This month alone, Cadillac has disclosed plans for four future products.

That's more nameplates than it has in its entire lineup right now.

With sales growth for General Motors' luxury brand stagnating for the first time in two years, the spate of future-product news is probably no coincidence.

The announcements and unveilings, including the show-stopping Ciel open-air concept that GM unveiled in Pebble Beach two weeks ago, help keep a bit of buzz around Caddy despite a product lull.

With the recent phasing out of its aging DTS and STS sedans, Caddy is stripped down to just the CTS sedan, SRX crossover and Escalade SUV. Brisk sellers, all, but the ebb in product cadence has prevented Cadillac from seizing the momentum it generated last year, when a 35 percent jump in sales made it the fastest-growing luxury brand.

It's also kept Cadillac from capitalizing on the troubles of Ford's Lincoln brand, which has seen sales edge up just 1 percent in the first seven months of this year, even as the overall market rose 11 percent.

In July, Cadillac sales fell 26 percent. It was the third consecutive monthly decline, following a 15-month streak of increases. Sales are up 10 percent for the year.

Don Butler, Cadillac's vice president of marketing, acknowledges that such a thin lineup puts the brand in a difficult spot. He says unveiling vehicles like the Ciel -- even if only a concept -- is a reminder to luxury buyers of Cadillac's bold direction.

"It kind of adds to the psyche of positive momentum with the brand, a future look at what it could possibly be," Butler said today in an interview in suburban Detroit, as the brand showed the Ciel to journalists who weren't at Pebble Beach.

The first drops of rain could fall on Cadillac's parched product landscape by "late spring" when the new ATS compact will begin arriving in showrooms, Butler said. The XTS large sedan is set to arrive later in 2012.

Nobody is more keenly aware of the shortcomings of the Cadillac's lineup than Caddy execs.

"We've done a lot of talking," Cadillac design director Clay Dean said today. "We need to do a lot of work at Cadillac. We know that."

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