PARIS -- Cadillac needs "a big halo" vehicle that will help it become more than an entry-luxury brand, said Ed Welburn, General Motors Co.'s chief designer.
During an interview at the Paris auto show, Welburn said surveys conducted with owners of luxury-brand vehicles show an opportunity for larger cars at Cadillac.
"Right now they have mixed feelings about Cadillac," he said, "but they see the potential."
In August, then-CEO Ed Whitacre told reporters that GM was developing a large flagship. No details were given.
While declining to discuss the car that Whitacre had cited, Welburn said: "There is a real opportunity for Cadillac to rightfully be considered the standard of the world again with the work that we are doing in design and engineering and the technologies that we will be bringing to market."
For vehicles such as the CTS to be successful, the brand needs a strong flagship, he said.
"If you have the right halo for the brand, the right vehicle at the top of the brand, then your volume vehicles benefit from that vehicle," Welburn said. "Cadillac needs to be more than an entry-luxury brand. There is an opportunity for it to grow to be a much stronger force. Our research is telling us that."
Cadillac will introduce the XTS sedan next year. That car will share a front-wheel-drive vehicle architecture with the Buick LaCrosse and Regal sedans. Also, in 2012 Cadillac will introduce the ATS, a line of rear-wheel-drive cars that will be smaller than the CTS.
Sources say the flagship Cadillac sedan will be rwd, larger than the XTS and priced to compete with the BMW 7-series and Mercedes-Benz S-class sedans.
The base 740i sedan carries a $71,025 sticker, including shipping. The Mercedes-Benz S500 starts at $94,525. Depending on the model and options, both can top $100,000.