Last month, Cadillac launched a round of advertisements promoting the 2019 XT4 — including television spots. While the commercial is still set in New York City, it avoids the other trappings of the brand’s previous “ Dare Greatly” campaign. There is very little screen time without the crossover blitzing through the streets, backed by a high-energy soundtrack, and at no point does the brand try to encourage the viewer to assume its corporate philosophy. It’s just a straightforward car commercial — or so we thought.
Apparently, there was a hidden element we all missed.
You Might Not Want It, but That Doesn't Mean There Isn't a Case to Be Made for a Hotter Cadillac XT4
Exactly were the Cadillac XT4 lands in terms of sales volume remains to be seen. The brand recorded its first sales of the just-released compact crossover in September, with 212 examples leaving U.S. lots.
Offered with just a single engine (a healthy turbocharged 2.0-liter four) and single transmission (nine-speed automatic), the XT4 is Cadillac’s desperately needed entry in the premium compact CUV market — a hot segment where Cadillac’s tardiness puts it at a disadvantage. But perhaps this XT4 is just a starting point.
A rendering spotted on Cadillac’s XT4 show-and-tell page suggests the brand may hold loftier performance expectations for the little ute.
“Dare Greatly,” Cadillac’s slogan du jour, is open to a wide spectrum of interpretation.
Daring greatly could mean being the first to achieve something of note, like when Amelia Earhart became the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean; it could mean being the first to not do something, like that one kid at school who talked to the new guy instead of making fun of him; it might even be refining or simplifying existing memetics, like Apple did when it changed the way we interact with music through the iTunes ecosystem. Then there’s the case of the late-arriving Cadillac XT4.
Sure, it may be the last of the major-branded luxury-compact crossovers to report for duty in a segment that has been glowing red hot for several years now, but Cadillac’s great dare in this space is a bet that consumers won’t really care which chicken came before the egg, just if there’s a vegan alternative to the omelette. As a late entrant, Cadillac claims it’s been able to study the segment, getting to know the intimate needs of the younger demographic it’s been working to understand and engage for the past five years. And if there’s one thing the thirty-something, upwardly mobile, cosmopolitan, condo-dweller loves more than engineering a career, spinning, and brunch, it’s a puppy.
Halfway through the brand’s decade-long turnaround plan, Cadillac President Steve Carlisle says the company is finally ready to paint the town redder than a baboon’s ass. As you’ll no doubt recall, Carlisle took over for Johan de Nysschen after a “ surprise management change” last April.
He’s addressing 900 retailers this week’s Cadillac dealer meeting in Las Vegas. The strategy? Carlisle intends to outline Cadillac’s upcoming products through 2021 — primarily crossovers. For the most part it looks to be steady as she goes, with the new president following de Nysschen’s overall strategy with a few tweaks. Those changes will likely come through the brand’s marketing efforts and some minor adjustments to the 2019 Project Pinnacle retail incentive program. But it could alter the luxury marque’s final lineup, too.
Full disclosure, right up front: While I am in New York City for the auto show, neither myself or anyone from the TTAC team was invited to the XT4 unveiling the night before the show’s first media day.
I only mention this to point out that I can’t, as of this writing, judge the newest luxury compact crossover in the flesh, although I will likely see it 12 hours or so after I type this.
Hot takes aside, it’s common knowledge by now that crossovers are hot and just about every brand feels it needs to cover the subcompact, compact, and midsize classes. Cadillac has the midsize class covered with the XT5, so naturally, it’s time to go one smaller.
Cadillac is showing off the upcoming XT4 before its official debut at the 2018 New York International Auto Show by tossing it into a handful of commercials scheduled during the 90th Academy Awards. While the television spots seem to be intended to whet appetites prior to the vehicle’s launch later this fall, it’s the best look we’ve had at the model to date. That said, careful lighting and smoke machines allowed the XT4 to show plenty of leg without unbuckling its belt and giving us a real show.
The overall design is on par with what we’ve come to expect from present-day Cadillac, with vertical headlights cutting deeply into the front fenders. However, it looks to be a more shapely SUV than everything else the brand currently offers. Styling was clearly a priority here, and every element that identifies a model as a Cadillac appears to have been exaggerated without going too far.
General Motors is tooling one of its car plants to build the svelte new Cadillac crossover that’s aimed at fixing the luxury brand’s sales slump in the United States. However, GM is keeping quiet on the move as the XT4’s future hasn’t been officially announced. However, insiders have claimed the automaker has already begun production on test versions of the Cadillac XT4 at its assembly plant in Kansas City.
Cadillac deliveries fell 8 percent last year in the United States and, as crossovers seem to be the sure-fire remedy for every automaker seeking sales, the XT4 could be a godsend. That blessing isn’t isolated to North America either. Adding the more-affordable crossover to the company’s Chinese lineup is equally important.
By “can’t,” we mean “keep the division afloat.” The luxury brand’s sedan sales just aren’t cutting it anymore, forcing Cadillac to play a game of crossover catch-up with other players in the premium field. While the full-size Escalade and midsize XT5 remain strong (and consistent) sales performers, many of Cadillac’s rivals offer more utility vehicle choice. Lexus has four, and might not consider that enough. Even Lincoln has three.
The first of several answers to this problem is the XT4, a compact crossover positioned just below the XT5. Debuting in the middle of next year as a 2019 model, the new crossover recently made an appearance outside General Motors’ Milford proving grounds. Luckily, a cameraman was there.
Project Pinnacle hasn’t been incredibly popular with dealerships. Low approval ratings required multiple revisions of the plan, and dealers still found themselves irritated with the final version. There was a lengthy delay, refusal of noncompliant stores to accept General Motors’ buyout plan, and difficulties ensuring eligible shops adhered to the plan’s high standards of service.
Cadillac now says it will weigh customer satisfaction scores and compliance with brand standards more than actual sales volumes when determining U.S. dealer bonuses for 2018. The reason for this comes down to so many dealerships not meeting this year’s sales targets. That’s good news for those smaller outlets that were upset with Pinnacle to begin with.
It didn’t take long after the North American debut of the 2017 Cadillac XT5 for people to ask, “What’s next?” for the crossover-starved luxury brand.
At the Los Angeles Auto Show, Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen told Automotive News that the next Caddy crossover will come in two years and would likely slot below the XT5, in terms of name — but not necessarily in terms of size.
Cadillac’s next crossover, the XT4, will likely go on sale in 2018 with a bigger, three-row crossover coming one year later to bookend the XT5. The battleship-sized Escalade will remain, and a smaller, subcompact crossover could arrive at the end of the decade to give the brand a full range to offer a crossover-crazed market.
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