DETROIT -- General Motors has decided to deep-freeze a range-topping ultraluxury sedan it was developing for Cadillac, according to three people with knowledge of the company's plans.
GM executives recently concluded that the rear-wheel-drive car, which would have been a low-volume showstopper priced well north of $100,000, didn't offer enough brand-building pizzazz to justify the investment, the sources said. Designers recently were taken off the program and reassigned.
The decision doesn't change GM's plans for a large rwd sedan to line up against the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series. Development of that future Cadillac, to be built on a new rwd platform dubbed Omega, is well under way, with a launch expected for the 2016 or 2017 model year, sources have said.
One source said GM decided that the pricier specialty car, referred to internally as the "flagship" Cadillac, wasn't a big enough departure from the large rwd sedan already in the works. The person said that Cadillac executives are weighing a number of other niche vehicles to push the boundaries of Cadillac's revitalized lineup.
GM CEO Dan Akerson told Automotive News in November that he expected the company to decide this year whether to move forward on a range-topping flagship. "This is a big bet for us," he said at the time.
The exclusive sedan would have been another effort by Cadillac to color its lineup with more exotic offerings -- just as Audi has with its S7, or Mercedes-Benz with its CLS class -- now that most of the basic building blocks are in place.
For instance, the ATS, launched last summer, finally gave Cadillac an entry in the compact market, a high-volume segment considered a must for any luxury automaker. Niche vehicles such as the ELR plug-in hybrid, due out in early 2014, are meant to lend the brand cachet rather than drive sales volume.
Cadillac's replenished lineup -- which had dwindled to just three vehicles as recently as spring of 2012 -- has revived U.S. sales, which are up 38 percent this year through May. The brand plans to continue the momentum with 10 new or redesigned models by mid-2015.
A big ultraluxury sedan could have been a good fit for China, where Cadillac has ambitious plans to triple its sales by 2015.
Building a top-end car on the Omega underpinning, along with the 7-series fighter under development, would have helped GM better leverage the cost of that new platform.
Talk of an exotic flagship to sit atop Cadillac's lineup has swirled for years, since GM tantalized fans with the V-16-powered Cadillac Sixteen concept at the 2003 Detroit auto show.
In 2011, Cadillac drew raves at the Concours d'Elegance classic-car show in Pebble Beach, Calif., with its Ciel open-air concept, which designers said was meant to hint at styling elements of a future large sedan. One source says elements of the long, elegant Ciel are likely to be incorporated into the future 7-series fighter.
Cadillac sells a large sedan, the front-wheel-drive XTS. But the brand wants a large rwd sedan as it continues to position its lineup head-to-head against the German luxury brands.
It's unclear whether a future large rwd sedan would replace the XTS or whether the two cars would be sold alongside each other.