DETROIT -- On paper, the hulking Escalade SUV represents everything that Cadillac wants to leave behind about its brand image. It shares underpinnings with Chevys and GMCs. It's not sold in any real volume overseas. Its blinged-out, body-on-frame ride offers anything but nimble performance.
And yet, it's the one vehicle in the showroom that has what Cadillac executives desire most: the brand-name cachet to command top dollar, often from import-leaning customers who might not otherwise set foot in a Cadillac dealership.
Last month, buyers plunked down $85,000 on average for the ESV long wheelbase, 33 grand more than on Cadillac's next-closest nameplate, the CTS.
The Escalade "is the one car we have that import buyers won't even bat an eye to buy," said Keith Harvey, executive manager of Gold Coast Cadillac in Oakhurst, N.J. "They don't have to worry what people will think when they pull up to the country club. It's an Escalade."
The Escalade's success since its spring 2014 redesign has given Cadillac and its dealers a glimpse of what life could be like under the long-term vision laid out by brand chief Johan de Nysschen. Restrained supply and tight inventories. Low incentives. Organic demand driven by desire, rather than the deal.