Sitting at the very top of the famous pyramid that Alfred P. Sloan used to define the automotive market and values, Cadillac has always been General Motors’ flagship, offering style, luxury and innovation in a series of celebrated big vehicles that in the decades after World War II defined American affluence and influence.
But as the Post-War era gave way to a more complicated and contentious time, Cadillac has often seemed lost in the ongoing competition from Europe and Asia. But the brand’s masters at GM are eager to correct the course with a fleet of new vehicles they believe will redefine the brand’s image among luxury buyers particularly younger buyers.
Now it’s trying to build on its rich heritage at the same time it reaches into new segments where it never has been much of a factor in the past.
The effort will start with the launch of the Cadillac XT4, a compact luxury crossover utility vehicle that is described as the first step to move forward with the rebuild Cadillac’s reputation in the U.S. and enhance it in places like China.
(Cadillac celebrating 20 years of Escalade. Click Here for the story.)
While Cadillac built its image and reputation on building large, sleek vehicles and historically, in the words of Robin Krieg, Cadillac’s lead exterior designer, has “never really done small” as the production version XT4 was presented to journalists in Seattle.
In the early 1980s, Cadillac experimented with the ill-fated Cimarron, which was built on an architecture devised originally for Chevrolet, only to find itself the target of harsh and unrelenting criticism that led it to retreat to large cars and sport-utility vehicles.
Even now, Cadillac’s singular success story in the last two decades, the Escalade, is a large, imposing full-size sport utility vehicle that carries with it a substantial amount of Cadillac tradition.
However, with the coming of the XT4, which is the first in a series of new vehicles that Cadillac will introduce every six months through 2020, Cadillac will have a strong entry in what amounts to a new segment for the brand.
Krieg noted the fact that the XT4, with its 109-inch wheel base, putting it in the center of the compact segment, is built on a unique architecture meaning that Cadillac’s designers had a chance to endow the vehicle with elegant, eye-catching proportions that will separate it from the competition in the increasing crowded compact crossover segment. The unique proportions also are expected to appeal to younger buyers, he said.
(Click Here for more about our first drive in the new 2018 Cadillac Escalade.)
At the same time, the XT4, which will be built at GM’s assembly plant in Fairfax, Kansas, and use a new 2.0-liter engine from the GM engine plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, has an athletic appearance that calls attention to its inherent agility out on the road.
Cadillac’s designers also paid careful attention to the details. They used LED lights in the front in the rear of XT4. The hood over the engine compartment also has deep creases that accentuate the vehicle’s unique style and luxury and sport models also come with their own unique grille, Krieg said.
On the inside, the XT4’s unique architecture also gives the XT4 offers exceptional space for a compact luxury SUV, particularly for rear-seat passengers, which most designs in the segment, according Phillip Kucera, Interior Design manager. “We’ve been able to be simpler and bolder than we have ever been before, giving the SUV attitude and a sporty connotation,” he said.
Cadillac isn’t making predictions about the sales of the XT4, which also is being launched simultaneously in China.
(To see more about Cadillac culling its sedan line-up and focusing on SUVs, Click Here.)
Meanwhile, consumer opinion continues to improve, market share is increasing in the U.S. and it is the second most improved premium brand in J.D. Power’s closely-watched Initial Quality Survey, noted Andrew Lipman, Cadillac’s director of communications.