Hoping to kick-start the struggling Cadillac division, one of the “bookends” of a downsized and restructured General Motors, the automaker will replace one of its most important products and add a new model that could become its global best-seller, a senior GM executive tells TheDetroitBureau.com.
The shake-up at the ailing maker has forced a complete rethinking of its luxury car strategy. Of GM’s three high-line brands, two – Hummer and Saab – will soon go away, notes Steve Shannon, marketing chief at the automaker’s Premium Channel.
That means Cadillac will have to carry the weight alone, though it’s not necessarily a bad thing, Shannon is quick to add. If anything, the elimination of those two premium brands, along with more mainstream Saturn, and the sharp reductions at Pontiac should mean more resources for Caddy.
“Cadillac (will) be a beneficiary of not having so many mouths to feed,” Shannon says, as he settles back at the GM booth at the 2009 New York International Auto Show.
The luxury brand is coming up on the launch of two important products: a replacement for the slow-selling SRX crossover and the wagon version of its small CTS sedan. A coupe version will follow soon after.
The old SRX, contends Shannon, was a “tweener,” not quite crossover, not quite wagon, and that means it was just not quite right for most crossover customers. Splitting things up, by adding a CTS wagon and turning SRX into a true crossover should help improve sales, though Shannon admits the latter model will have a tough challenge battling the crossover segment leader. The Lexus RX, he admits, “casts a big shadow.”
Proliferation has been a way of life in the luxury market, over the years. Mercedes-Benz offers an alphabet soup of models, and even smaller contenders are expanding their line-up – Acura, for one, brought its new ZDX to the NY show. Caddy has been falling behind, in part because it struggled for the necessary resources. It still won’t get all it wants, Shannon cautions. Because of GM’s cash problems, it must play “triage…putting its chips down only on the biggest business opportunities.”
And the two that follow are a replacement for the largely-unloved STS, once the Caddy flagship, and a new “sub-CTS that,” Shannon foresees, “would become the highest-volume model for Cadillac.”
The small car wouldn’t just be a replacement for the current BLS, a hastily-developed spin-off of the old Saab 9-3 platform. “The new one would be a proper Cadillac with a dedicated architecture and content,” adds Shannon.
The project is well underway, he hints, and could reach market “probably in 24 to 30 months.” Beyond that, Shannon goes mum, though he concedes a variety of body styles are under study, including the requisite sedan, and alternatives including a 3-door hatchback, a 5-door wagon and a convertible.
Expect several different powertrains to be offered, including a diesel for the fuel-sensitive European market. An oil-burner might make it to the U.S., as well, says Shannon, but not initially.
As for the STS, the current model simply isn’t big enough, nor was it properly distinguished from the slightly-smaller CTS, the executive concedes. A key challenge for the replacement program is to increase the differentiation between CTS and STS, in terms of design, content, price and space. Size will also be a factor.
“Spaciousness, in that segment, is critical,” says Shannon, though it can’t come at the expense of fuel economy, as mileage rules are tightened all over the globe.
The Cadillac marketing chief won’t discuss timing on the replacement STS, but based on traditional cycle plans, it would seem likely that it will appear in Caddy showrooms very early in the coming decade.