DETROIT -- General Motors CEO Dan Akerson says China will be the jumping-off point for his plan to turn Cadillac into a global player. But he warns that it will take a long time.
Akerson said last week that GM eventually plans to build both of Cadillac's upcoming new U.S. entries -- the flagship XTS full-sized sedan and the ATS compact car -- in China as well as in the United States. He called that Step 1 in GM's plan to make Cadillac a true global brand.
The prevailing story line in last week's news reports about the XTS, which was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show, was that Cadillac is preparing to take on Audi, Mercedes and BMW for supremacy in the global luxury market. But Akerson injected a cold dose of reality to that optimistic view. "We're not ready for Europe in the near term," he said after an appearance before business leaders here. But he said GM can strengthen Cadillac in Europe "in the intermediate term."
GM sold just 412 Cadillacs in Europe through September, down from 953 during the same period a year earlier.
"To go to Europe without having right-hand drive or diesel is, in my estimation, premature," Akerson said. "So we've got work to do."
Prospects are better in China, where Cadillac sales are modest but growing. GM said it sold 2,085 Cadillacs in China in October, up 22 percent from a year earlier.
Akerson said China is the focus because by 2020 it is expected to account for about 40 percent of the world's luxury-vehicle sales.
But he's not expecting instant success there, either. "We've got about a nine-year run, or thereabouts, that we have to really establish" Cadillac in China, he said. "But then we're going to want to take it more international beyond that."