SHANGHAI -- Although U.S. auto sales are cooling, Cadillac marketing chief Uwe Ellinghaus says the nation's party isn’t over.
U.S. sales will probably plateau this year just below 2016’s record finish and hover at near-record levels for some time, Ellinghaus said on the eve of the Shanghai auto show's first press day.
"What they call a cooling off I say is the best thing that has ever happened," he said. "Levels that were once seen as excessive are now sustainable."
Robust replacement rates will buoy sales as people who held onto vehicles after the recession return to market, Ellinghaus said, adding that overall economic indicators are still healthy.
"We don't see that the party is over. It's continuing,” he said.
U.S. sales edged ahead 0.3 percent in 2016 to end the year at 17.5 million units, a seventh straight year of gains. Through March of this year, however, sales were down 1.6 percent, with Cadillac volume falling even faster with a 4.6 percent decline.
But even if the market loses 500,000 vehicles, it will still be above 17 million units, which is a healthy level by any standard, Ellinghaus said.
As a brand, Cadillac is getting an extra lift from China. Cadillac sold more cars in China than in the U.S. last December. And China sales were up 90 percent in the first quarter of 2017, said Andreas Schaaf, general director of Cadillac in China.
Cadillac’s global sales advanced 11 percent to 309,000 units in 2016, with about 170,000 sold in the United States and 116,000 in China. Ellinghaus predicted that China will surpass the U.S. as Cadillac’s biggest market in less than five years.
China sales surged 45 percent in 2016, thanks to the launch of two new models, the CT6 flagship sedan and the XT5 midsize crossover. With no new nameplates planned for 2017, except the CT6 plug-in derivative, Cadillac isn’t expecting a repeat performance, Schaaf said.
But Cadillac sales are still expected to notch a double-digit percentage increase in China, as the brand rides a rising tide of overall luxury segment sales, he said.