Cadillac Prepares For Perpetual Party, Forecasts Buoyant U.S. Auto Sales Demand While Relying On China

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
cadillac prepares for perpetual party forecasts buoyant u s auto sales demand while

“Levels that were once seen as excessive are now sustainable.”


—Uwe Ellinghaus, Chief Marketing Officer, Cadillac

Cadillac expects to see auto sales in the United States in calendar year 2017 fall just below 2016’s best-ever results, which GM’s premium brand considers a positive sign for the U.S. auto industry and Cadillac.

While the decline reported America’s auto industry in March 2017 drew headlines because 2017’s first-quarter encompassed three consecutive months of year-over-year decline, Cadillac’s chief marketing officer, Uwe Ellinghaus, views the results through another lens.

“What they call a cooling off I say is the best thing that has ever happened,” Ellinghaus told Automotive News. “We don’t see that the party is over. It’s continuing.”

Cadillac? Party? Huh?

As the U.S. auto market surged out of the recession with numerous premium brands setting all-time annual sales records, Cadillac’s U.S. volume fell 6 percent in 2014, perked up only slightly in 2015, and then fell to a four-year low in 2016. Yes, that 2016, the one in which the U.S. auto industry recorded its highest-volume year in history.

Compared with 2005, when Cadillac’s U.S. volume rose to a 15-year high, sales last year were down 28 percent. During the same period, Mercedes-Benz volume jumped 40 percent, BMW grew 17 percent, Lexus was up 9 percent, and Audi volume shot up 153 percent.

Fast forward to 2017’s early results and Cadillac, through the first-quarter of 2017, is down 5 percent in a market that’s down 2 percent. Car volume has tumbled 12 percent despite the addition of the CT6. Cadillac has added some 2,400 CT6 sales to its U.S. ledger in 2017 Q1 (compared with 2016 Q1) but the brand has lost more than 4,100 sales across the rest of its car lineup. Plus, Escalade growth has stalled.

If this is a party, you don’t want to be invited.

Unless the party is being livestreamed from the other side of the Pacific.

Last year, as Cadillac’s volume declined in the U.S., Canada, the Middle East and totalled scarcely measurable figures in the rest of the world, Cadillac’s volume in China jumped 46 percent. That drove Cadillac’s global volume up 11 percent in calendar year 2016, a three-decade high.

China accounted for 26 percent of Cadillac’s global volume in 2014, 29 percent in 2015, and 38 percent in 2016.

And through the first-quarter of 2017?

50 percent.

Actually, 50.1 percent.

More than half.

Cadillac’s Chinese volume nearly doubled, year-over-year, in the first-quarter of 2017. Cadillac’s Chinese sales will continue to grow as the market drinks in luxury vehicles.

Cadillac’s Chinese success hasn’t turned the brand into a worldwide luxury powerhouse. Global Cadillac sales totalled 27,406 units in March 2017, less than the totals Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus produced in the U.S. alone last month.

The idea of Cadillac as a viable long-term luxury brand, however, is becoming increasingly realistic.

The idea of Cadillac hosting a U.S. sales party, on the other hand, seems increasingly far-fetched.

But maybe an after party.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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  • JEFFSHADOW JEFFSHADOW on Apr 25, 2017

    My 1983 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz is a Standard of the World. 22 MPG, regular fuel, sumptuous comfort and all the style plus more! It had 64,606 miles and I bought it for $125 in 2015 at Copart! Discerning Eye for the V8 Guy! I always seem to find the bulletproof 4100s. Make Cadillac Great Again!

  • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Apr 25, 2017

    Did anyone else think that GM's 1977 B-bodies were watered down derivatives of the 1975 Cadillac Seville, which was a sorry reskin of the Nova emulating the Fiat 130 coupe of 1971? Claiming to create the '77 B-body is like a rapper claiming to create a base line.

  • Slyons My guess is they keep the 2.0 liter they have now with minor tweaks, and shoehorn in the 48V mild hybrid system that just debuted in the CX-90. Should allow for all the regular fun of wringing out the 4 cyl and bump the fuel mileage up at least a couple points. I don't think we'll see a major evolution of the drivetrain until the next next model (NF?).
  • 28-Cars-Later " as long as internal-combustion engines exist?"So... forever until society collapses, rebuilds, and then the Hunger Games begin?
  • Jeff S It would be a neat project but the 6k should include the parts car.
  • Kcflyer Why oh why does every manufacturer slop the roof so much on vehicles that are supposed to be utilitarian? Especially a three row people mover. Let the rear roof square off like an old volvo wagon for cripes sake! And get off my lawn. And don't give me the mpg noise. I'd happily give back a couple mpg for some utility in a "utility" vehicle.
  • Varezhka KISS, just like Miata always has. No exotic powertrain options, a simple 2L NA with MT with similar power output as Mazda3 and CX-30 would best match the car; as much as I have always dreamed of a rotary powered RX-5.That said, the Miata that I actually liked and driven the most was NC. It was just practical enough and comfortable enough over long distance that I can actually use it as my DD/road trip vehicle without losing the lightweight nimble feeling. ND as nice as it is lost some of that IMHO.The only other thing I'd like would be the new MazdaConnect which is so much nicer, and a less angry face.
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