SEATTLE — "It's on."
That will be Cadillac President Steve Carlisle's message to roughly 900 retailers this week at the brand's dealer meeting in Las Vegas.
The meeting will be a coming-out party for the Canadian executive, who succeeded the outspoken Johan de Nysschen in an abrupt management change in April. Carlisle will detail Cadillac's upcoming products through 2021, marketing efforts and tweaks to the 2019 Project Pinnacle retail incentive program, which was finalized in preparation for the meeting.
"We have an arsenal of products and technologies that will create even more differentiation for Cadillac and establish a very unique and attractive position for us in the global marketplaces," Carlisle said last week during his first address to media for the launch of the Cadillac XT4 here. "Where do we go next? Well, we're going on the offensive."
Cadillac is in the fourth year of a 10-year, $12 billion turnaround plan that promises to return the quintessentially American luxury brand to its former glory. The plan includes releasing a new or redesigned vehicle every six months on average through 2021, beginning with the long-awaited XT4, the brand's first compact crossover, which is arriving in dealerships.
For the most part, Carlisle's plan is to continue the de Nysschen blueprint, which included three sedans, three crossovers and the next-generation Escalade.
The next product, Carlisle said, will debut at the Detroit auto show. It is expected to be a three-row crossover to slot between the popular XT5 midsize crossover and the flagship Escalade SUV.
De Nysschen's plan had a small sedan coming next to replace the dated, heavily incentivized ATS compact sedan; followed by a smaller sedan and the next-generation Escalade in 2020; then, a redesign of the XT5 and possibly a performance EV and/or sports car based on the Chevrolet Corvette.
Carlisle said it's still "hard to say" if the brand needs such a halo car. It might help now, he said, but "if you look at everything that we have in front of us and the priorities that we set out, by the time you did it, I don't know."
"Now, if it were somehow a different propulsion system that might be more interesting," he added, noting later that EVs bring "really good performance."
If Cadillac is working on a performance EV to compete against Tesla, Porsche and other luxury makes, it may fall outside the CT and XT nomenclature that de Nysschen and former Chief Marketing Officer Uwe Ellinghaus introduced to align Cadillac with German luxury competitors.
"We feel like mainstream entries need to have references to categories in which they compete — mainstream luxury," Carlisle told reporters last week. "But special cars should have special names."
Those names might include references to Cadillac's history, he said, but wouldn't necessarily be revived nameplates from its past.
Cadillac's Super Cruise semi-autonomous driver-assist system will expand its capabilities as General Motors applies the technology to future vehicles, Carlisle said.
GM introduced Super Cruise on high-end trims of the 2018 Cadillac CT6. Customers can drive hands-free with the system on more than 130,000 miles of limited-access highways in the U.S. and Canada.
But the freeway function "isn't the only use case people are interested in," Carlisle said. "We wanted it to work and be very safe and reliable and intuitive. As time goes on, we'll expand applications and expand the use cases."
Carlisle's boss, GM product chief Mark Reuss, said Super Cruise would grow across Cadillac's nameplates, followed by other brands, beginning in 2020.
Cadillac's "Dare Greatly" advertising campaign — a sore point for dealers — will continue to "evolve," according to Carlisle.
"We have the opportunity to come in from a different perspective," he said, with "a little bit more fun and how the vehicle makes you feel" compared with competitors.
The brand's marketing had taken a more upbeat turn after Ellinghaus' departure in December.
The first post-Ellinghaus ads, which debuted at the Academy Awards broadcast, featured fast-paced imagery, popular songs rather than operatic ones and fewer New York street scenes, addressing persistent criticism from dealers and industry experts.