'This Is Pretty Much It': New GM President Acknowledges Cadillac's Last Chance For Glory
Cadillac is at a crossroads. While the brand has enjoyed growth in Asia, domestic volume never fully recovered from the Great Recession. It’s come back a bit, with sales dipping and rising between years, but hasn’t managed to keep pace with the overall market. As of 2018, Cadillac possesses the lowest share of the U.S. market in the brand’s recorded history. Fortunately, the fourth-quarter arrival of the XT4 helped to Cadillac stabilize sales as the year drew to an end.
However, General Motors wants the luxury arm to become a legitimate success and prove the automaker’s effort to develop advanced powertrains and new technologies weren’t in vain. Cadillac is positioned to become manufacturer’s leading electric brand and GM’s newly appointed president, Mark Reuss, has acknowledged this is sort of its last chance at greatness.
Leading up to the North American International Auto show, Cadillac announced it would be the first company to adopt General Motors’ BEV3 electric platform with a new crossover.
“Cadillac’s EV will hit the heart of the crossover market and meet the needs of customers around the world,” said Cadillac President Steve Carlisle as part of the corporate announcement. “It will represent the height of luxury and innovation while positioning Cadillac as the pinnacle of mobility.”
And it had better, because Reuss appears to see this as win/lose scenario. “We don’t have any chances left with taking Cadillac to a really new place,” he told Reuters from the sidelines of the Detroit auto show last week. “This is pretty much it.”
While it’s not the first time the company has forayed into electrification, BEV3 represents a broader change for GM and might just dictate Cadillac’s future existence. In fact, Reuss’ words kind of make it seem like everything is riding on these new luxury EVs.
“So we really have to hit the ball here,” he continued. “It’s my job to make sure we do.”
Reuss did not elaborate on what would happen if the multi-year effort to make the Cadillac brand more profitable failed.
But GM has demonstrated repeatedly over the last two years a willingness to exit unprofitable markets and kill weak car lines in North America. In November it put five North American factories, including four in the United States, on notice for closure and cut almost 15,000 jobs.
GM has struggled for years to make Cadillac more competitive. Last spring the automaker replaced veteran auto executive Johan de Nysschen as head of the Cadillac brand. Appointed in 2014, he outlined bold plans to reshape Cadillac’s lineup with a $12 billion product program.
Cadillac has endured a string of failures in North America. Sales haven’t been as strong as GM would like, moving the brand’s HQ to New York turned out to be a terrible mistake, and most of its advertising over the last few years has been poorly received. But it’s taken great strides to fix all of that. The brand is currently in the midst of a plan to shrink its lineup of sedans and inject more popular sport utility vehicles while placing a greater emphasis on hybrid and purely electric vehicles.
By 2021, General Motors plans to introduce a dedicated flexible electric vehicle architecture to spur the development of at least 20 new models in the United States and China. Cadillac should receive the first of these new models, with Reuss claiming at least one of these models will be on sale through the luxury brand by 2022.
He said it was too early to tell how long it would take for Cadillac’s entire lineup to become electrified, but he anticipated a combination of electrified and combustion engine models “for quite a few years” to come.
“All I’m focused on is what we’re doing right now…” he said, “and getting momentum back in Cadillac.”
As much as we’d like to see that, we know the brand’s real priorities lie in China. That’s where GM expects to see the most growth and that will be the market Cadillac caters to above all else.
[Images: General Motors]
Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.
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