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Auto blogMon, 18 Aug 2014 09:31:00 EST
Compact luxury sedans are fast becoming the trend among upscale automakers. Mercedes has the new CLA (and its many platform-mates), BMW has the 1 Series and 2 Series, Audi has the A3 and, though Lexus apparently isn't interested in anything smaller than its CT 200h, Infiniti is getting in on the action with a compact model of its own. It would only follow logically, then, that Cadillac should launch a competitor, and according to the latest reports, that's just what it has in store.
Speaking with Car and Driver, Cadillac marketing chief Uwe Ellinghaus confirmed that such a project is in the works. But unlike its rivals, Cadillac aims to go with a rear-wheel-drive layout. This despite research that apparently indicates that a surprising 80 percent of owners think that their BMW 1 Series is front-drive. It's the driving dynamics and styling proportions that motivate Ellinghaus and his colleagues to stick with rear-drive, however.
The new model would in all likelihood be based on the same GM Alpha architecture that underpins the ATS and CTS - a platform that has helped Cadillac keep the weight down on both models and which is expected to underpin the next-generation Chevy Camaro, as well. The sub-ATS could be positioned as a four-door 2+2, however, as the ATS grows a little larger in its next iteration in order to make room for its new baby brother.
Here's some shocking news to no one: People love crossovers, including those living in China. Since introducing the Cadillac SRX there in 2009, the model's sales have gone through the roof. Now, the brand is considering moving some production of the next-generation model in China to eliminate import tariffs and make it an even bigger player in the market.
According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, the crossover is leading Cadillac's Chinese growth, despite its US-equivalent price of over $67,000 after the country's high import tariffs. The CUV's sales are up 23 percent there so far this year, and it's responsible for over 40 percent of the brand's sales. John Stadwick, General Motors' VP of sales, service and marketing in China, told the WSJ that GM could "very possibly" build the next-gen model there.
The SRX is Cadillac's golden goose in China, and it just keeps pushing the brand's sales forward. "It's the vehicle that took us out of being a small niche in the market," said David Caldwell, Cadillac Communications Manager, to Autoblog. Before the CUV, Caddy was selling a little over 20,000 cars a year there, but partially thanks to the crossover's success, the brand sold 50,000 vehicles last year and could reach 60,000 this year. "The SRX is the most popular Cadillac in that market," he said.
Despite some hiccups, China remains the auto industry's great hope for new vehicle sales, with significant sales gains and a huge upside. Nowhere is that hope more fervent than at General Motors, which offers eight different marques in the Asian nation. China has been GM's single biggest market the last three years running, and is unlikely to give up that title anytime soon. Yet its premiere brand, Cadillac, has remained essentially stagnant, selling just 30,000 units in China last year. That's in a segment where sales of luxury vehicles has outpaced that of the larger Chinese market. So what gives?
According to Cadillac officials Autoblog spoke with in China this week at the Shanghai Motor Show, it's been a problem of product - they haven't had the right ones. Displacement taxation issues, import tariffs and currency fluctuations have all conspired to make the brand's products less appealing than they might otherwise have been. But GM is stepping on the gas with Cadillac, and executives are eyeballing 100,000 sales by 2016 - more than triple the Wreath and Crest's current volume. And the expectations for the brand only get more ambitious from there - they're shooting for 10 percent of the luxury market by 2020. Bob Socia, President of GM China, promises that there will be a new Caddy launched in the market each year from now through 2016 and most will be built in China. Characterizing the company's efforts to revive the brand's fortunes as a "relaunch" of sorts, Cadillac also figures to gain dealers as GM expands its sales outlet footprint westward.
New products like a made-in-China XTS sedan (with a market-specific 2.0-liter four-cylinder to avoid heavy displacement taxes) will help, and Socia hinted that the ATS sport sedan could be next in line for in-country production. The SRX crossover - currently the brand's best-selling model in China - will also likely get a long look for future local production when the next-generation model is introduced. In the meantime, Cadillac unveiled the Escalade ESV Hybrid (shown above) as its latest model addition to capitalize on the market's white-hot luxury SUV segment.