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GM’s Reuss Confims Cadillac’s Plans for Flagship Sedan

A book-end for a rapidly expanding product line-up.

by on Aug.20, 2014

The Cadillac Elmiraj concept is expected to have a strong influence on the new flagship, though it will go with a sedan body style.

Cadillac will finally bring to market a full-size luxury flagship sedan late next year, Mark Reuss, the global product development chief for General Motors confirmed.

The new model, as TheDetroitBureau.com previously reported, is expected to go up against some of the toughest competitors in the luxury automotive market, including the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the best-selling premium sedan. Industry analysts expect the new model to showcase Caddy’s distinctive Art & Science design language while also offering an array of new comfort, performance and safety features.

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“What we do there has got to be a symbol of excellence,” Reuss said during a media scrum following a GM event for student interns. “This is a car that Cadillac needs that will define this brand in terms of innovation and excellence.”

Cadillac has made no secret of its desire to create a flagship model, but the development process has been long and circuitous. GM’s top-line brand has long debated the form that halo car would take, whether to go with a relatively conventional sedan, a more expressive coupe, or even some alternative, such as a crossover vehicle.

The Cadillac Ciel concept was an early hint of GM's plans to come out with a new flagship.

Caddy has offered outsiders a hint of that debate in the form of some recent concept vehicles, including the over-the-top Ciel convertible and the equally ambitious Elmiraj Coupe Concept that was introduced to rave reviews at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Several well-placed sources at GM have told TheDetroitBureau.com that the Elmiraj will have a strong influence on the look of the upcoming flagship, though Cadillac has opted to stick with the sedan body style typical of top-line models.

(Cadillac readying small car to tackled Mercedes CLA, Audi A3. Click Here to learn more.)

It will be positioned above the current Cadillac XTS, a four-door model that is likely to go away after the current lifecycle, former Cadillac chief Bob Ferguson hinted to TheDetroitBureau earlier this year. While the XTS – briefly billed as a “flagship” — has gotten generally good marks for its looks and features, it is the only offering in the line-up to go with a front-wheel-drive architecture, an approach Cadillac plans to abandon.

The new flagship sedan will opt for rear-wheel-drive, though it is also expected to be offered with an all-wheel-drive configuration. Industry officials note that this is a competitive essential, especially in Snowbelt regions of the country where demand for rear-drive luxury cars has fallen off sharply in recent years. All major competing models, from the Jaguar XJ to the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes S-Class, now are either rear-drive or all-wheel-drive.

During his discussion with reporters, Reuss also confirmed that Cadillac is looking at the possibility of moving even lower into the entry-luxury market than it currently targets with the compact ATS model. As TheDetroitBureau.com reported yesterday, that vehicle also would be rear-drive, if given the go-ahead.

(Click Here to check out TheDetroitBureau.com’s review of the new Cadillac ATS Coupe.)

The sub-ATS model, along with the upcoming flagship, would bookmark a much further-reaching brand than Cadillac is today. That is no surprise considering the competitive realities of the market. Already awash in products from the new CLA entry-lux sedan to the planned S600 Pullman limousine, Mercedes-Benz officials have laid out an ambitious plan to introduce 30 all-new or completely redesigned models by decade’s end, about one per quarter. And Audi and BMW are on similar paths.

“New product is the lifeblood of any brand,” said Jim Vurpillat, Caddy’s marketing chief, during a drive of the new ATS Coupe. And though he wouldn’t go into extensive detail, he and others have hinted at a mix of new models to come.

(Cadillac counting on new product to reverse sales slump. Click Here for the story.)

That includes not only the big sedan and the entry-lux model, but also a replacement for the Escalade SUV, an update for the mid-range SRX ute, and performance-oriented V-Series versions of the ATS and CTS. Additional models to follow likely will include a compact crossover to compete with the likes of the new Lexus NX, Audi Q3 and Lincoln MKC. A convertible is also under discussion.

The rapid expansion of the Cadillac product line-up is believed to have been a big lure the GM brand used to win over Johan de Nysschen, until last month the global chief of Nissan’s Infiniti brand and previously the head of Audi of America. He is expected to push for an even broader portfolio of new models as Cadillac reaches out to become a truly competitive global brand.

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