By on January 4, 2018

2015 Escalade/Escalade ESV

Christmas was in the air, but Cadillac’s last sales month brought anything but good cheer. General Motors’ luxury brand saw sales of every last one of its models fall, year-over-year, ending December as the worst-performing division in the GM fold.

Total U.S. Cadillac sales fell 28.6 percent last month, year-over-year, with 2017 volume down 8 percent compared to all 12 months of 2016 — a loss of 14,566 sales. Hardly a brand reaching its pinnacle. However, as bad as Cadillac’s numbers look, there’s a couple of unavoidable factors working against the brand.

We’ll get to that in a bit. In terms of individuals models, the worst nosedive was the 60.9 percent drop in year-over-year sales experienced by the XTS. The CTS and ATS followed close behind with sales declines of 52.6 and 52.3 percent, respectively. Demand for the flagship CT6 fell 35 percent.

Among utility vehicles, long-regarded as a license to print money, even the Escalade and XT5 couldn’t top previous December performances. Escalade sales fell 15 percent, year-over-year, with Escalade ESV volume down 24.6 percent. The XT5 came closest to beating its December 2016 tally, logging a drop of 7.4 percent.

Now, let’s take a look at why these numbers are not as awful as they seen. For starters, December 2017 brought 26 selling days. December 2016 had 27 days where the public could drive home a new Cadillac. That has the potential to leave a mark.

The larger factor at play is that, for almost all automakers, December 2016 was an absolute dynamite month for auto sales. In that particular month, U.S. buyers took home 21,446 Cadillacs — the highest monthly volume since before the recession. Only one other month came close to this tally — the previous December. A month after those end-of-year deals dried up, volume was down to 50 percent of that level.

Looking at last year, in which the industry as a whole declined 1.8 percent (the first drop since the recession), December 2017 was Cadillac’s second-best sales showing of the past 12 months. Still, there’s no denying that any model with a trunklid seems doomed in today’s buying climate, Cadillac’s sedans especially.

This year, the brand plans to firm up its sedan-heavy lineup with the addition of a compact XT4 crossover, giving Cadillac a much-needed presence in one of the industry’s hottest segments. Another crossover, this one bigger, should follow the XT4 by a year, with the possibility of an even smaller crossover arriving after that.

[Image: General Motors]

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36 Comments on “Cadillac Takes a Sales Dive in December; All Models Drop...”

  • avatar

    “Unpossible” – Johann.

  • avatar

    I’m struggling to think of an auto executive who wouldn’t run Cadillac better than Johann de Nietzsche.

  • avatar

    Too many cars, perhaps too many brands, and the ones that don’t measure up to what the market is demanding – or at least seems to want determines the winners and losers.

    I’m not sure where Cadillac fits into the mix out there, but I feel most cars are overpriced, especially when some of them are basic trucks underneath. Why pay a premium for a vehicle when you can get almost the same thing from a lower model?

    For a regular car, sedans have become too cramped, which for the size of most models, should be much roomier than they wind up being.

  • avatar

    In the 70s and 80s they were selling 3 times as many Caddies in the US as today, and the cars were absolute trash. Today the lineup is arguably the best ever, but they can’t give them away, and thus demonstrates what 40 years of terrible brand management, incompetent product development, and shoddy manufacturing can do.

    • 0 avatar

      The competition has also improved exponentially – and more-so than Cadillac and GM products.

      Moreover, Cadillac’s whole reason to exist, is STATUS. It was always a GM product, not-that-dissimilar to a Chevrolet panel-delivery; but it was to REPRESENT status, success, wealth. And quality.

      It no longer does. The foreign brands came in with true quality – and it took a generation, but now they’re generally recognized as higher-quality and better-value. Even if in some ways that’s not entirely true.

      Moreover, the image Cadillacs offer, is a caricature of what it once was. Look at the chosen image at the top. Twenty years ago, we’d say George Barris – or maybe Tyrone’s Touch, We Pimp Your Ride.

      Now the Cadillac people want to sell it as mainstream.

      It’s not possible; but if they were somehow to recreate the tasteful, sleek B-bodies of the late 1960s, they’d have runaway sales. Especially with modern engine controls for better fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar

        If Cadillac had maintained the quality, engineering, and styling they offered from the 1930s to 1960s the competition would have never gained a foothold. The status of the Cadillac brand came from that period when they truly built the best luxury cars in the world – other than simply wanting something “different” – nobody in their right mind would have chosen a 1950s Rolls or Mercedes over a Cadillac, which was faster, quieter, more comfortable, equal or better built, and considerably cheaper to buy and operate. They threw it all away during the 70s, 80s, 90s, and the very good competition came in and now it is much tougher to rebuild an image in the face of such strong products and brands.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          I respectfully disagree. We wanted something different than our fathers’ dreams, and so MB and BMW took hold. Lexus proved you can provide luxury with reliability. Now Audi and lately Jaguar and Land Rover are at the forefront.

          All things must pass.

          GM’s lack of dirrection and overall indifference hurried Cadillac’s demise no doubt….

        • 0 avatar

          I always think of the 1990 Lexus LS 400 as the Sedan De Ville that Cadillac could have built if Roger Smith weren’t running GM (into the ground).

  • avatar

    For decades they made crappy cars with fuzzy interiors for older folks who thought a pink ’59 was the pinnacle of automotive achievement. Now those folks are out of the car market, but the bad aura stays. There is no longer a magic thing about the Cadillac name which caused folks like Elvis and Mr. Ali to stock up on them. They make a decent, but very pricey product which has stiff competition. The little guys with big cigars and the pinkie rings are gone and Cadillac have to offload their cars in a much less worshipful market.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @Hamish: Hey, I resemble that remark (not physically) but in that I still think that a ’59 Caddy is the most beautiful auto of the post WWII period. And would love to have a CTS-V allwheel drive wagon in my driveway.

      Of course I grew up with great big guys with diamond rings who would only drive Lincolns or Cadillacs.

      Understand the reasons why the ‘younger generation’ may have turned away from Cadillac but sincerely hope that the brand improves, and thrives.

      • 0 avatar

        @Arthur Dailey: Hey, we have a meeting ground here! My Grampa, bless him, was one of those little guys with the pinkie ring. He worked in the garment district in downtown Toronto and somehow managed to navigate those boats around a huge city. But man, what lousy cars. They floated so much on the highway you could get seasick. The interiors fell apart in months and my Grandma made cushions to hide the rips. He traded every 2 years because the cars were no longer reliable enough for daily use. So, I come from a Caddie Culture, but I don’t participate in the nostalgia or aura. Would I like one? Yep, a black ’58, if you please. Anything newer? No thanks. And, do the modern ones compete in the marketplace? No, not very well.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @Hamish: My maternal grandparents both worked in the Schmatta Trade on Spadina.

          The Old Man drove only Lincolns or Cadillacs from the early 1970’s until the turn of this century. Traded them every year. Never had the interior wear out or tear but he did break a number of driver’s seats.

          They may have been ‘big and floaty’ but back in the 70’s that is what defined a ‘luxury car’.

          As previously stated would still love a ’59 (did once own one briefly) or a CTS-V wagon. Do agree that they largely lost their way and Lincoln even more so.

        • 0 avatar

          My uncle was one of those machers who got a new Caddy every 2-3 years.

          My father – who mostly had base Buicks which lasted 7-10 years — joked that my uncle got a new Caddy whenever the ashtray was full, the shocks were worn, the tires were bald and the oil was tar. The old man was right, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision


        Too bad that an AWD Vagon isn’t a ‘thing’: I’d love one, too. I’ve been looking for a manual Vagon for several years and settled for a Gen I V until I find the black-on-tan Vagon my life seemingly requires. At this point a burgundy-on-lime example will do.

  • avatar

    Honestly, I feel bad for Caddy. Friends and I are all car junkies and we go to the Chicago auto show every year. I sat in the CT6 last year and I vastly preferred it to the Conti interior. But it might just be me, the CT6 somehow felt more muscular from the inside which will always appeal to me. No idea about the driving dynamics, etc. I also happen to like the Caddy’s exterior better and I’m a Ford fan boy (read: I really wanted to love the new Conti).

    Recently a friend and I went on a small road trip in a lightly used fully loaded SRX (which he bought used). I think depreciation simply kills these things. There is simply no good reason to buy one new when you can grab a used one with 40,000 on the clock for MUCH less, use it for a year or two, then sell it and get something else. Provided you have sufficient cash flow, of course, which my friend does. When/if I do, I expect to do the same thing.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 pheanix, and you’ve uncovered a big problem for Cadillac. The third owner to whom your friend or you sells or the fourth owner to whom that person sells is going to be someone irresponsible who trashes the car and hurts Cadillac’s already embattled image.

      The early second-gen SRX’s I see often have scratches, missing center caps on the wheels, and so forth. Meanwhile, contemporary Lexus RX’s are still with their first owners or maybe a first owner’s child. It’s kind of a shame because I think, on balance, the second-gen SRX was a decent effort at building an RX competitor.

      Speaking of the SRX, I realize XT5 is supposed to complement CT6, but discontinuing name plates ultimately hurts branding. Without having owned an example of either brand, I could name all of Hyundai’s current line-up. With Cadillac, I’m not sure I could.

  • avatar

    Alex, What is Denali?

    Cadillac sales suck while GM cranks out Denali trim in every pickup and SUV model.


    • 0 avatar

      (arguably) Denali just looks better on the inside. A lot less piano black trim. No logo that looks like a melted Autobots insignia. Real buttons to control HVAC.

      No real buttons on the center stack? Have no problem and I don’t mind change….unless it’s designed and implemented by Cadillac. Example, XC90 and Tesla do the whole no buttons thing much better.

      • 0 avatar

        and no (arguably) awful gauge clusters like on the base XT5 and ATS. for sales sakes, spend the extra $99 dollars to make the optional XT5 cluster standard across all models.

        It’s the little things that add up and make the difference between ‘i’ll take it’ and ‘lemme see what the dealership across the street has’

  • avatar

    Not much mystery here.

    Three sedans when one is enough.

    One crossover when three are needed.

    Pent-up demand on the K2XX Slade has been satisfied.

  • avatar

    Enough about car sales, how have their latte sales been at the Manhattan coffee bar?

    • 0 avatar

      The Latte is decent, I’ve been there.
      A year of running a Cadillac around in the well off suburbs has been interesting. My prior car was a 3 series, so I’m used to running a status marque. I had a TDI for a while too, so know the “blends in” car as well. Status is very location dependent.

      Cadillac is rare in my area. Audi, BMW and Mercedes are Ford Chevy and Chrysler in 1960. Now once you get past the “money line” outside NYC, they become status marques again. Cadillac’s lack of sales in the three counties around NYC is the exact problem…if it isn’t selling here, something is wrong.

      The performance is there. Fast, quiet and comfortable. I can hang with just about anything out there. I even got the transmission reprogrammed recently, so the 3.6 isn’t torque limited and now the back comes out quite easily.

      Non car folks are impressed by it, more so because it isn’t another boring A4. Most folks think I paid a lot more for it than I did. Any memory of Cadillac is Grandpa’s Fleetwood Cloud-couch, so they are all surprised by the fast and firm ride.

      The only let down is “genuine GM parts”. Caddy needs dedicated engines. I know that is harder today than it used to be, but the 3.6, while OK, isn’t great, and doesn’t belong in a 50k car. When you get to 100k miles, just like the Audi starts spitting the VW parts beneath, the Cadillac discovers bits that should have gone in a Camaro.

      I’m still tempted by a VSport. 420 hp, 35k or so…and they made a whole 500 last year, so it’s McLaren rare, but absolutely no one will know or care in the real world….and it won’t stand out in a pack.

      • 0 avatar

        You nailed it with your last line. Stop being poor, buy a Vsport and don’t worried about whether or not you impress others. I used to own a Vsport and trust me YOU will be impressed.

        I still miss that car.

  • avatar

    Those results are disappointing, but somewhat understandable. I like my 2014 CTS, it’s a beautiful and luxurious car, however it is the last one I’ll buy brand new. I have not seen the level of support I expected from a technology or customer sat perspective.

    They failed in the execution to support, improve and upgrade critical features important to the early adopters and influencers. The car does not have features my wife’s 2015 Toyota came with standard at half the cost. The technology is not upgradeable as was originally planned. Other features promised like apps and SMS text reading never materialized. Almost all of these should have been simple software updates. Yet calling Cadillac and working with the local dealer produced zero results.

    3 years in, I still have an unreliable bluetooth connection, a voice control system that simply does not work, and an occasional rough idle issue while stopped at red lights.

    Perhaps all of this would have been more acceptable had I bought a pre-owned CTS or a less expensive brand, but not a $65k Cadillac CTS.

  • avatar

    I think I am going to draft up a standard response to Cadillac’s misfortunes as I am a broken record at this point. They might as well not even bother with the XT4- what’s it going to bring to the table that’s not already in the market? GM and Hyundai have a bizarre, self destructive obsession with sedans. The XT4 is literally a decade late. I don’t even know why I click on Cadillac stories anymore, what a disaster.

  • avatar

    How could selling average cars at exorbitant prices possibly be a losing business model? And ditto selling overpriced trucks, at a time when GMC are doing gangbusters selling the same overpriced trucks, just with a different badge, down the road; at a price up to several pennies less overpriced…..

  • avatar

    at General Motors the results don’t change, only the excuses. year after year.

    like I’ve been preaching for decades as share continued dropping. it’s the marketing, the absolute worst imaginable. they just don’t get it.

    GM has no marketing talent, and they are unable to hire it because they don’t know what it is. GM dealers fully understand a major flaw. the incentive nightmare of vouchers, coupons, certificates, TAG money, Flex Cash, bonus for this, bonus for that, rebates on certain equipment packages, and on and on…

    if General Motors had accountability like the NFL, Steve Hill and his entire staff would be gone immediately. under the status quo, GM would be better off if they simply tossed a couple billion is marketing cash out the window into the Detroit River. the money would still be gone but no damage done.

  • avatar

    up to $10,000 in rebates! 40% off MSRP, lowball payments virtually no one qualifies for. this distress merchandising destroys brand equity, creates confusion and anger, wastes the time of retail personnel, frustrates and alienates shoppers. there’s so much more wrong but why bother? looking back over the years, I would have had better luck going to Milford and preaching to the Crash Dummies.


  • avatar

    Perhaps if they priced them realistically to begin with, sales would not be down so much. All of the sedans need immediate $5 to $10K price reductions. Their current pricing strategy is laughable.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem isn’t the pricing so much (which does undercut MB and BMW), but rather JdN wanting to be disciplined about discounting (rather lose some sales than go the discounting route).

      The other problem has been the combination of packaging and interiors not quite being up to snuff (in particular, the ATS and CTS), but that should be rectified by the upcoming Cadillac sedan lineup.

  • avatar

    For all the repeated gnashing about Cadillac…

    “Significant growth in China propelled Cadillac to its second-highest annual sales tally in the brand’s 115-year history.

    The General Motors luxury brand on Friday said it delivered 356,467 vehicles worldwide in 2017, a 16 percent increase over 2016. Cadillac’s global sales peaked at 360,825 in 1978, with most of the volume in the U.S.

    China, which overtook the U.S. as the brand’s top market in 2017, led the way with a 51 percent increase in sales, to 175,489 vehicles, followed by a 10 percent increase in other international markets. In the U.S., volume dropped 8 percent to 156,440 units last year.”

    Yes, US sales have been in the doldrums, but that should start to change when the XT4 hits the lots and as Cadillac adds more CUV models and makes major changes to its sedan lineup (for instance, the ATS replacement will be much larger – going back to the size of the 2G CTS).

    The XT5 makes up 40% of Cadillac’s total global sales; imagine of Cadillac had another CUV, much less 2 or 3 more.

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