MIKE COLIAS

Cadillac's 'avalanche of new product' should reverse sales slide

Automotive News | May 22, 2012 - 11:09 am EST

Mike Colias covers General Motors for Automotive News.
Other blogs

LOS ANGELES -- The sense of excitement (or is it relief?) is evident among Cadillac executives.

Since putting the DTS and STS sedans out to pasture last year, General Motors’ luxury brand has been limping along with just three nameplates: the CTS line, SRX crossover and Escalade SUV.

It’s Cadillac’s skinniest lineup in decades, and the sales results show it. This month, Cadillac is likely to extend its slump of monthly sales declines to eight.

There’s only one balm to heal that sort of wound: fresh product. And Cadillac is about to get a big dose, with a doubling of its nameplates over the next year or so.

“I don’t want to go through that valley again,” Cadillac marketing chief Don Butler said here during the media launch of the XTS sedan, which debuts in June.

The XTS debut, Butler says, marks “an avalanche of new product” for Cadillac:

• The XTS sedan is a return to Cadillac’s roots of “large luxury,” Butler says. While loaded with technology and even some performance touches -- note the magnetic ride control and Brembo brakes -- the cavernous trunk and roomy interior should keep plenty of traditional DTS and STS buyers in the fold.

• By late summer, the ATS sport sedan arrives. It has a chance to become the brand’s volume leader. The car’s reception will go a long way toward determining the fate of GM CEO Dan Akerson’s goal of transforming Cadillac into a true global powerhouse on par with German luxury stalwarts BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

• Next year, Cadillac expects to launch the ELR, which will use a version of the Chevrolet Volt’s plug-in hybrid powertrain. That might draw snickers from casual observers who know the Volt only as a weak-selling political hot potato.

But internally, GM executives like the ELR’s chances. They reason that the cult of Volt ownership -- it has spawned online message boards where owners try to top one another for longest stretches between trips to the gas station -- could translate well to Cadillac buyers, who won’t flinch as hard at the price tag.

Then there’s the redesigned Escalade, due out next year. And the next generation of the CTS, which should arrive longer and sleeker -- think BMW 5-series fighter -- in 2014.

What does the rest of the avalanche look like? GM hasn’t said. But a future three-row large crossover on the platform that underpins the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia is a pretty good bet. And maybe even a small crossover to fight the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.

Further out: Most industry insiders expect GM to finally pull the trigger on a range-topping, rear-wheel-drive sedan that would sticker north of $100,000.

It’s little wonder Cadillac executives have been quietly telling dealers to plan for a doubling of their sales over the next several years.

A bit optimistic? Could be. But as noted, one thing is for sure, vows Butler:

“We won’t go through that valley again.”

The XTS sedan is a return to Cadillac’s roots of “large luxury,” brand marketing chief Don Butler says

PRINTED FROM: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120522/BLOG06/120529980&template=printart

Entire contents © 2014 Crain Communications, Inc.