There was a time, not all that many years ago, when General Motors’ Cadillac division seemed on a roll. It received initial raves for the edgy styling of its first CTS sedan and promised to follow with a wave of additional products sharing the so-called “Art & Science” design theme.
But things didn’t work out quite as planned. The SRX crossover and the current version of the big STS sedan didn’t click with consumers, while efforts to make the marque a serious player in Europe simply didn’t gain much momentum. So, Caddy’s got a lot riding on it as it prepares to roll out two new products that could be critical – not just for the brand, but for its parent, GM, which has announced that Cadillac will be one of only four divisions it will keep as part of its corporate downsizing and restructuring.
The 2010 Cadillac SRX is, without question, the most important new product making its debut in the coming months. While the division’s general manager, Steve Shannon, declined to mention its key competitor by name, the original SRX did little to displace the leader in the strong and growing luxury crossover-utility vehicle segment, the Lexus RX350. But after a decade of import domination, Shannon insisted, during a Wednesday preview, “There’s an opportunity” to topple the king of the CUV hill.
As TDB has reported, of all the nonsensical opinions held by enthusiast writers, none is more pervasive or wrong headed than the proposition that luxury vehicles have to be rear-wheel drive. The Lexus RX series, built from the Camry no less, demolished that assertion a decade ago. Not only did the RX300 catapult Lexus to the number one sales spot in the U.S. luxury segment, where it still resides, but it ended the reign of body-on-frame, rear-drive trucks as the basis for luxury vehicles. And Lexus had customer satisfaction and quality levels that embarrassed German and American makers. It still does.
Cadillac, once the uncontested U.S. luxury vehicle leader, is coming off a disastrous rear-drive SRX model built from an aging platform. It’s finally seeing things the way Lexus envisioned. The next-generation 2010 SRX crossover is built from a GM front-wheel-drive architecture that promises relative efficiency in a mid-size package for five adults.
It’s harder to anticipate what opportunity awaits the 2010 Cadillac CTS wagon. When first conceived, planners were hoping to use it as a wedge to pry their way into the European luxury market, where wagons are in high demand. With Caddy scaling back – at least temporarily – its effort to penetrate the Continental market, the new CTS spinoff will have to make a go here in the States, where wagons haven’t exactly been setting the market on fire.
More on the new models after the jump. (more…)