The next generation Cadillac Escalade, which is due out next spring, will be the most sophisticated sport utility vehicle every built by General Motors, GM executives told analysts this week during a meeting at the company’s Milford Proving Grounds.
Robert Ferguson, GM vice president of Global Cadillac, offered analysts a glimpse at the 2015 Escalade and emphasized it is expected to play a major role in the growth of Cadillac, which is enjoying its best year since 1976.
“The Escalade is still a very bold vehicle,” Ferguson said. “But the next generation is going to become more sophisticated.”
Ferguson said the new Escalade will meet or exceed the expectations of high-line buyers with a luxury interior that will match or exceed those found in luxury passenger cars.
Cadillac has long struggled to rebuild its once-formidable position in the U.S. luxury market. The original Escalade scored a significant coup by becoming the vehicle of choice for many high-profile entertainers and sports start. But the SUV has gone far too long without a major update, many analysts have argued.
A solid hit with a new version of the so-called ‘Slade could be critical as Caddy moves to not only rebuild its position in the U.S. but gain a foothold in other key global luxury markets.
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Cadillac’s rapid growth in the U.S. and in China, where sales are up 50% this year, will boost GM’s profitability. GM has relied on trucks for its profits for a long time but GM’s ultimate goal is to make Cadillac a major source of earnings, Ferguson told analysts.
“We have the growth and experience to make a very significant contribution,” he emphasized, adding that in China the typical luxury customer is 35 years old and quite willing to consider Cadillac. “They’re quite receptive to the Cadillac brand,” he said,
Cadillac is also the only luxury brand in the portfolio of GM’s Chinese partner SAIC, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Company. SAIC is very capable company and very excited about Cadillac’s prospects in the Chinese market, Ferguson said, suggesting, “We expect sales to triple in China by the end of 2015.”
Ferguson noted that Cadillac isn’t focusing exclusively on the next-generation Escalade. It has unleashed several other new models this past year – the compact ATS and bigger XTS – and is about to launch an all-new version of the mainstay CTS sedan.
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Inside and out, the third-generation CTS sedan is ascending into the heart of the midsize luxury market, with an all-new design that is longer, lower and leaner – but also about $6,000 more expensive for the base model. The 2014 CTS standard model will start at $46,025, including $925 destination fee, while the top-line CTS Vsport will start at $59,995.
In its new form, Cadillac hopes it will more directly compete for buyers against such luxury stalwarts as the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
“CTS has always been Cadillac’s centerpiece, and as our brand expands and elevates the car properly grows to its true place” said David Leone, CTS executive chief engineer. “With last year’s addition of the award-winning ATS compact luxury sedan, CTS will directly challenge the luxury midsize competition with uncompromised performance, luxury and technology.”
CTS will be offered with a choice of three powertrains, including a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out 272 horsepower and goes from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. The CTS Vsport model features the new Cadillac Twin-Turbo 3.6-liter V-6 which, at 420 horsepower, is more powerful than the V8 engine offered by BMW.
Speaking to analysts gathered at the Milford Proving Grounds, Mary Barra, GM’s vice president in charge of product development, said GM’s new vehicle development process is also significantly more efficient. It took GM only two years to develop the ELR, Cadillac’s new extended range electric vehicle, which is coming to market in 2014.
GM’s scale also is allowing the company to introduce features, such as airbags that protect a drivers knees and legs, much more quickly, Barra noted. GM also is working with fewer suppliers but offering them longer-term contracts, she said.