With the launch of the new ATS small car, Cadillac is beginning the most expansive product roll-out in its history, according to senior officials with the General Motors luxury brand – a risky but potentially lucrative effort that is likely to bring the launch of several new “flagship” models to challenge the likes of the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Designer Clay Dean with the Cadillac Ciel concept.

While Cadillac won’t try to go product-for-product with its fast-expanding German rivals, the U.S. luxury maker recognizes it has to rapidly expand its meager line-up to remain competitive.  And after years of hesitation, it appears that top GM management is finally freeing up the financial resources necessary to accomplish that long-delayed goal, has learned.

Caddy will begin to fill the various “white spaces” in its line-up over the next several years, numerous officials confirmed, speaking both on the record and on background.  That includes a much-needed compact crossover targeting one of the fastest-growing segments in the luxury market.  But one of the more surprising plans falling into place, was told, was the idea of rolling out several different flagship models that would target both “foundational” and “aspirational” niches in the premium luxury segment.

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“These are fun, happy times at Cadillac,” said Don Butler, Cadillac’s top marketing executive, during a dinner session prior to this past weekend’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.  “We’re expanding and elevating the brand.”

Caddy’s new ATS compact luxury sedan.

Long the leading luxury brand, Cadillac steadily lost ground to its import rivals during the 1980s and ‘90s.  A so-called “renaissance” launched early last decade stuttered due to a series of missteps, including a lack of breadth in the Caddy product line-up.  But the maker is rushing to correct that.  It has launched two key models this year: the little ATS which targets the like of the vaunted BMW 3-Series, as well as the bigger XTS sedan.

And more is coming, Butler promising there will be “10 new vehicles in the next three years,” proclaimed Butler, including replacements for both the current Escalade and CTS models due to market next year.  The CTS will grow slightly larger and more exclusive, better positioning it against the BMW 5-Series.

“We’re working on more new Cadillacs than at any time in the history of the brand,” Butler added, hinting that there are “still a few spaces” that Caddy needs to fill.

One of the all-new vehicles will be the ELR, a luxury version of the Cadillac Volt plug-in hybrid that will also make it to market next year.

It’s an open secret that a compact crossover, ala the BMW X1 or Audi Q3, will make its way into the line-up and additional crossover models are under consideration.

Though he would not confirm the CUV, advanced design director Clay Dean acknowledged “the compact luxury crossover market is exploding.”

Meanwhile, said a senior GM source in Detroit, the company is finalizing its strategy for giving Cadillac a much-needed flagship – or, most likely, several flagships.

“One car can’t do it anymore,” suggested a top-ranked GM official who is working extensively with Cadillac on the development of its new product strategy.

The next-generation Escalade will serve as one, as it did when the full-size SUV first appeared a decade ago. It will receive a much-needed makeover for a 2014 model-year relaunch.

But more significant will be the additions to Cadillac’s high-line passenger car line-up.  The luxury marque gave a hint of what it has in mind with the Ciel convertible concept it first revealed at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours.  While the prototype – its name meaning “sky” in French – won’t reach production, a more practical version has been approved for market and is “well underway,” according to several Caddy sources.

Most likely, the first will be what Dean calls a “foundational” product, much like the S-Class.  It will be solid, with a strong design and a potentially large audience – at least considering the exclusivity of the premium luxury segment.

“But you have to understand that to really justify the cost of a new platform, you need to use if for more than one product,” said a source, referring to the new Omega large rear-drive “architecture” that will be used for the flagship sedan.

What else might be in store?  Caddy and GM sources are not providing much detail though a convertible, like Ciel, appears to be a definite possibility.

Cadillac will focus on the launch of the next-gen CTS, Escalade and ELR next year, but it will also try to get the message out that a lot more is in the works. Another concept vehicle, closer to the final flagship production car, will be shown at the next Pebble Beach Concours, in August 2013, sources confirmed.  The first of the flagships could be in production by sometime in calendar-year 2014, it appears.



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