BY KATE McLEOD
The 2017 Cadillac XT5 is a signature vehicle that embodies brand’s stand in the luxury market, and it will help grow the transformation that ≠is taking place with Cadillac. The company has made attempts before, but its competitors are relentless. Mercedes, Lexus, BMW, and Audi are dominant.
Crossover utility vehicles — where the new XT5 will compete — have captured the imagination and the wallets of U.S. buyers. In 2015, sales of sedans were down about 11 percent, while sales of trucks and SUVs soared. Total crossover sales increased by 15 percent year-to-date from February 2015, while large cars decreased almost 60 percent.
We drove the XT5 recently and duly noted its great driving dynamics, a design anchored in the front by a sculpted hood and elegant vertical LED headlamps and all-around excellent proportions. The interior roominess and comfort, the overall craftsmanship heralded by the cut and sewn leather applications, and the open center screen that holds the navigation, technologies, and audio system amplify Cadillac’s seriousness about living up to the figure of speech it inspired: “It’s the Cadillac of….”
What we as consumers care about, in the end, is the product. Does it live up to expectations? Was the purchasing experience a black hole or a great customer experience? Do we love it once we own it?
As with everything, including the bones of this new Cadillac, it is the underlying structure that produces the desired end result. That goes for the structure of the XTS, as well as the company that builds it. The new XT5 is 278 pounds lighter than the current SRX, and 100 pounds lighter than the Audi Q5 — despite the Cadillac being 7 inches longer. The new XT5 is more than 650 pounds lighter than the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, achieving this with no compromise to body rigidity and crash performance.
It is powered by a new 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which debuted earlier this year on the Cadillac ATS and CTS sport sedans and is featured on the CT6. This engine enlists cylinder deactivation technology, allowing the engine to seamlessly and automatically switch to a fuel-saving four-cylinder mode under low or moderate loads. It delivers 310-horsepower and 271 lb.-ft. of torque and is equipped with stop/start technology.
As for the company, there is testament that this will not be another grandstanding on the part of Cadillac that doesn’t meet its mark. We have already witnessed that Cadillac isn’t following the General Motors party line. Cadillac has moved its company headquarters from Detroit to New York City’s trendy, hip, Tribeca neighborhood. As a veteran reporter on the auto beat I want to imagine the discussions that went on in Detroit when that was proposed. In Tribeca, Cadillac is neighbor to some major luxury brands, and its new headquarters in New York City are bold, contemporary, and built for the brand.
As for product expansions, look for a XT3 or XT7 to follow the XT5 in coming years, giving consumers a choice between compact and three-row choices. Cadillac hasn’t confirmed these new products, but has said it will introduce 11 new products by the end of the decade. Cadillac is also putting its nomenclature into a new arrangement: All crossovers going forward will be labeled XT and all cars will be CT (as with the new CT6). Except perhaps the one outlier, the Escalade.
The motivator behind these big moves is Johan De Nysschen. He has spent his career in the luxury market, recently at Audi and Infiniti. He intends to build a stronger foundation for Cadillac by building brand awareness.
“We aren’t going to build a business by analyzing sales figures every month. We’re focusing on the quality of the brand,” he said.
Cadillac has already increased the transaction prices substantially on the CTS by more than $8,000. And ATS transaction prices grew by over $2,000. These increases represent features the customer wants. It is an entirely different approach to the product than discounting by incentives. It creates a much stronger organization.
Another example of how the brand is getting stronger is that it has reduced its supply from 138 days to 48. That is in line with the luxury market and a huge improvement.
Cadillac may be the smallest brand within General Motors, but it is the one with the greatest name recognition. The company, the product group, the marketing group, the dealers are all being schooled in a measured, detailed approach to bringing Cadillac back to its original glory. The true test is when you, the customer, enters the dealership and considers Cadillac, perhaps for the first time, or perhaps again after a long time.
Kate McLeod, Motor Matters
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2016