This year’s slide in fuel prices has led to a big surge in sales of utility vehicles, whether conventional sport-utes or the newer, car-based crossovers. And General Motors plans to take advantage of that shift away from conventional sedans and coupes by adding an assortment of new utes to its line-up.
They range from downsized models, such as the soon-to-debut Buick Envision, to the big Cadillac XT5. And GM’s four U.S. brands plan to fill in as much white space as possible with either all-new utility vehicles or variants such as the GMC Acadia Denali.
“We keep expanding the plan.” Johan de Nysschen, the president of the Cadillac brand, told TheDetroitBureau.com following the official unveiling of the new XT5 at the Los Angeles Auto Show last month.
The XT5 serves as the replacement for the old Caddy SRX, and targets such critical competitors as the BMW X5 and newly renamed Mercedes-Benz GLE. The crossover-based SRX and traditional truck-based Escalade have been the only utes in the Cadillac line-up until now. But that will soon change.
At the beginning of this year, the GM luxury brand had approved two more models. Now it is adding a third new crossover, which will bring to five the total line-up of utes offered by Cadillac by the beginning of the next decade.
The most recent addition to the brand’s plans will go into the entry-lux segment, targeting the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Infiniti QX30. Though demand for such models is modest in the U.S., that is one of the world’s fastest-growing segments and could be critical if Caddy hopes to gain traction in the key Chinese market.
(For more on Caddy’s crossover plans, Click Here.)
GM is already scoring big in China with the little Buick Envision crossover. And that new model will come to the States later next year, becoming one of the first Chinese-made products to be exported to the U.S.
Crossovers have become critical to Buick’s American revival, models like the current Enclave and Encore accounting for about 60% of its total sales in the U.S. market.
(Chinese-made Buick Envision could generate some controversy. Click Here to learn why.)
Crossover-utility vehicles and more conventional truck models are especially important for General Motors’ largest brand, Chevrolet. And it also plans to expand its line-up going forward. Industry planners have increasingly come to realize they no longer can make do with one-size-fits-all offerings in the utility segment.
Chevy already covers a number of distinct segments with models like the Trax crossover, at the low end, and the classic, truck-based Suburban at the other extreme. Now, insiders hint, it is looking to make room in the middle for yet another offering in the works.
It would slot in-between the current Equinox and Traverse models, and is expected to share the same underpinnings as the new Cadillac XT5, according to several sources.
To give the new model a little breathing room, the next-generation Chevrolet Traverse is expected to move up-market a bit, the Equinox a little bit down-market.
The new model – likely to be offered with a three-row configuration — would target such segment leaders as the Ford Edge, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.
The same platform will also be used for the next-generation GMC Acadia when it comes to market in mid-year, making it slightly smaller than the current Acadia.
GMC has become a master at spreading its net to catch a broad range of buyers. Key to that strategy is Denali, a sort of brand-within-a-brand that pushes basic models, such as the Acadia, up-market for buyers who want a bit more.
Industry planners say that they’re finding a strong market for fully loaded utility vehicles and trucks, allowing them to generate previously unheard-of profit margins. Look for GM to try to emulate the Acadia strategy with its other U.S. brands’ crossover offerings, as well.
(End of the road: Click Here for a list of models going out of production this year.)