By on September 7, 2017

2017 Cadillac XT5 - Image: CadillacCadillac, with market-specific cars and a rapidly expanding dealer network, is increasingly a China-reliant GM luxury brand.

In four consecutive months, from April 2017 through July 2017, GM’s Cadillac division sold more new vehicles in China than in its U.S. home market. Indeed, so far this year, 48 percent of the Cadillacs sold around the world were sold in China. Thank a massive 67-percent year-over-year sales gain, stirred up by very healthy Chinese demand for the XT5.

But in August, for the first time since March, Cadillac’s U.S. dealer network reasserted its collective claim as the rightful nation for Cadillac sales success. That’s correct: Cadillac sold more vehicles in the United States in August 2017 than in China.

Albeit not many more.

U.S. Cadillac sales slid 8 percent to 15,016 units in August despite overall GM expansion, growth that can largely be credited to strong crossover gains at Chevrolet and GMC.

In China, meanwhile, Cadillac sales jumped 51 percent, a massive gain that continues Cadillac’s rapid China growth rate. But that 51-percent rise only took Cadillac’s China volume up to, wait for it, 15,014 units.

Two fewer than in America.2017 Cadillac ATS-L - Image: CadillacThis blip on the radar certainly doesn’t — and won’t — represent a trend. Cadillac’s U.S. volume has been sliding for much of the year. Only slight upticks in April and May broke a trend that’s seen Cadillac’s U.S. sales decline, year-over-year, in six of the last eight months. In a luxury market that increasingly favours utility vehicles, Cadillac has the exceedingly premium full-size Escalade (in two wheelbase lengths) and the XT5. But there’s not yet any competitor for the BMW X1, no direct Mercedes-Benz GLC alternative, no Audi Q7 rival.

That’s not to diminish the success of the Escalade, which outsells the Lincoln Navigator, Infiniti QX80, and Lexus LX570 combined. Nor would anyone suggest the Cadillac XT5 is anything but a success. The SRX’s succesor produced a 23-percent rise in U.S. Cadillac crossover volume in August, and the Cadillac XT5 currently ranks second among U.S. premium brand utility vehicle sales.

But Cadillac’s 7-percent year-to-date U.S. light truck sales increase is more than counteracted by plunging passenger car sales. Even with the CT6 adding sales to the car lineup, sharp declines from the Cadillac ATS, Cadillac CTS, and Cadillac XTS have brought the brand’s U.S. car volume down sharply compared with 2016. In the U.S., Cadillac sold 42,547 copies of the ATs, CT6, CTS, ELR, and XTS in the first eight months of 2016, but 23-percent fewer — 9,721 fewer actual cars — in the same period of 2017.

GM’s drawback from fleet sales has nothing to do with the Cadillac division’s decline, either. While retail sales at Cadillac are down 6.5 percent to 86,996 units so far this year — 88 percent of the brand’s total volume — Cadillac fleet sales are up 4 percent to 11,320 units.

The bright spot for Cadillac? Transaction prices. Cadillac charged an average of $54,000 per vehicle in the United States last month, up about $1,000 compared with August 2016.

Outside of China and the U.S., which account for 48 and 44 percent of global Cadillac volume in 2017, 4 percent comes from Canada and the scant remainder from the rest of the world. Global Cadillac sales are up 22 percent to 221, 566 units through 2017’s first eight months. Cadillac is on track to sell 161,000 new vehicles in the U.S. this year, a five-year low and a 25-percent drop from a decade ago.

[Image: General Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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19 Comments on “By the Slimmest of Margins, Cadillac’s U.S. Operations Reclaim No.1 Position in Global Cadillac Sales Race...”

  • avatar

    The XT5s strong sales would have Bill Mitchell crying into his lunchtime martini.

  • avatar

    I hate to say it, but they should ditch a sedan (or two) and replace them with a crossover (or two).

    This ain’t rocket (art &) science!

  • avatar

    Okay, this one was confusing – Cadillac sold more cars in China for the past 4 months. And then China sales jumped 51%, and u.s. sales slumped 8%, leading to u.s. outselling china?

    After some thought, I can only assume the percentages are based on sales versus august 2016?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, sales comparisons are almost always made against the same month of the previous year unless otherwise noted. And often the percentage change is adjusted for the number of selling days in each month.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    China can have them. I count a few HNW individuals within my circle of friends, and to a man they’d never consider a Cadillac. It’s neither a brand nor image with which they desire to be associated.

    • 0 avatar

      What do they associate modern Cadillac with?

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged Miata Man

        Second-rate Detroit garbage that primarily appeals to non-aspirational social demographics. (And yes, they’re aware that Warren Buffett drives an XTS.)

        • 0 avatar

          the coming from a middle aged loser in a Miata. OK big shot

          • 0 avatar
            Middle-Aged Miata Man

            ttiguy, thank you for your considered and thoughtful response. You demonstrate great wisdom and I am suitably humbled before your obviously vast repository of knowledge and wealth.

        • 0 avatar

          Interesting. I feel much the same way, though I wouldn’t call them 2nd-rate garbage; that’s Dodges and ’70s cars. It definitely lacks the conspicuous consumption factor though; even if the -V class Caddies are competitive as sports sedans, the name and badge would bring me weird looks.

          • 0 avatar
            Middle-Aged Miata Man

            Note panel gaps, material quality, and trim stitching and seams in a $60,000 Lexus, Bimmer, or Benz. Then sit in an $80,000 CT6.

            The Caddy is decidedly second rate by comparison, and evidence of the futility in GM trying to compete in a market it has no business being in.

        • 0 avatar

          That’s just mis-informed.

          Plenty of auto-enthusiasts would be happy with the ATS-V or the CTS-V (despite their flaws).

          But yes, Cadillac does need to improve their interiors (which is what they have in store for their next gen models).

          • 0 avatar
            Middle-Aged Miata Man

            There’s nothing “mis-informed” in my opinion. I’ve checked out a few recent Cadillacs, and inside and out they remain woefully inferior to other, more esteemed luxury brands… and several mass-market ones, for that matter.

            Look at panel gaps. Look at paint quality. Listen for squeaks and rattles.

            Again: GM has no business attempting to compete in this segment.

  • avatar

    So Cadillac global sales are about what BMW and Mercedes each sell only in the US. Hard to compete with competitors that have 4x the sales.

  • avatar

    Cadillac has 1 car that even makes sense. The CTS-V is a great small car V8, but what the hell happened with the price? This used to be a 50k car, it’s now over 100k in certain trims.

    Lost their freaking minds, that car should be competing with $45k BMWs not 911s. Any Cadillac over 100k should at least have a 8+L V12 – at bare minimum.

    • 0 avatar

      The CTS moved up a size segment (actually, more like a half, as the previous model was a “tweener”).

      The ATS is basically the successor to the 2G CTS and is a disaster since it really cut down on passenger/trunk space.

  • avatar

    Cadillac is done everywhere but China it seems. I considered it a few years ago but, it’s nowhere near the Germans it terms of anything other than the price. By now I think they have tried everything they are capable of and it ain’t enough. Better to just close the shop down.

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