RICK KRANZ

Cadillac aims XTS at luxury import owners

The XTS will be the largest and most luxurious car made by Cadillac, GM says.
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.
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SAN DIEGO -- It is a small niche, but an important one for Cadillac as it prepares to launch the XTS sedan.

The industry calls it the "black car" business.

The Cadillac XTS sedan will hit dealer showrooms next year in late spring or early summer. The car is one part of the product plan to make Cadillac appealing to import luxury car buyers.

The XTS will be the largest and most luxurious car made by Cadillac, aimed at buyers who demand state-of-the-art technology. Cadillac's new CUE infotainment system is a key part of the technology story, along with a reconfigurable instrument cluster that gives the driver four different displays, from simple to complex.

Audi A6, BMW 5 series and Mercedes-Benz E class owners are the target buyers, says Patrick Nally, XTS marketing manager, who was interviewed at a Cadillac event here.

But how do you get them into an XTS?

"Black car" is a term the industry uses to describe the Cadillacs, Lincolns and a few other models used for livery vehicles seen at airports and hotels. Sometimes the wheelbase is stretched six inches to create more rear seat legroom. The livery business is separate from the limousine business.

Historically, the rear-drive Lincoln Town Car has been the top player, accounting for several thousand units annually. The Cadillac DTS has averaged around 1,200 units. Sales are linked to the ups and downs of the economy. Granted, the sales are small, but the cars make an impression with riders.

But production of the Town Car and the DTS ended this year. Lincoln plans to modify the MKT crossover for the livery and limo business, and Cadillac will rely on the XTS. The chopping and stretching for both cars will continue to be handled by approved coachbuilders.

There likely is an opportunity for Cadillac. The retail version of the MKT has been a sales slug due to its unremarkable styling, but Nally won't comment on whether that will raise Cadillac's livery and limo expectations.

Speaking of the XTS, Nally said "the black car business is important to us."

"A lot of people will not consider Cadillac that buy Mercedes or BMW," he said. "They do not put us on their shopping list. There is an opportunity to get the right people in the vehicle who would not otherwise" be sitting in a Cadillac.

Nally said the appointments in the livery model will be nearly identical to the high-quality appointments in the retail version of the XTS.

"We will really impress people vis-a-vis the back seats of those cars."

Literally, one seat at a time.

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