Cadillac prepares for growth surge, with the Ciel possibly inspiring a sedan

Posted on August 30, 2011

The Cadillac Ciel convertible concept is keeping car buffs abuzz about the potential of the brand’s upcoming flagship. But Cadillac executives’ main focus is preparing for the brand’s long-awaited product offensive starting next year.

Cadillac showrooms are down to three vehicles — the Escalade SUV, the CTS midsize sedan family and the SRX crossover — as the brand awaits the arrival of two sedans next year. The XTS large sedan will launch in late spring from General Motors’ plant in Oshawa, Ontario; the ATS will start production in late summer in Lansing, Cadillac marketing chief Don Butler said Monday at an event in Rochester Hills where Cadillac showed its Ciel convertible concept to journalists.

The Ciel debuted earlier this month at the Concours d’Elegance car show in Pebble Beach, Calif.

To prepare for its product offensive, Cadillac is releasing a new advertising series, themed around the line: “We don’t just make luxury cars. We make Cadillacs.”

Dealers are also preparing for the new products. Two hundred of them are planning to have remodeled stores by this time next year.

“We’ve got a product onslaught that’s coming. Let’s get our house ready before our guests come in,” Butler said.

Cadillac will unveil one of the two newsedans in Los Angeles in November and one at the Detroit auto show in January. Until then, ads will air that show product details that characterize Cadillac’s claim of bold, “red-blooded luxury.”

For instance, in one new TV commercial, Cadillac boasts of developing magnetic ride control suspension technology used later by Ferrari, showing the Italian sports car in the rearview mirror of a racing CTS-V coupe.

Along with the two new sedans, Cadillac will launch an extended-range electric car, the ELR, as early as 2013 in the Detroit-Hamtramck factory. Developers are also working on a big, rear-wheel drive flagship to compete with the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

The topless Ciel hints at that car. Designers have a version of the car sketched with a top, said Clay Dean, Cadillac’s global design director.

The brand also has room for another sedan, sized between the XTS and the flagship, Butler said.

Even though a flagship derived from the Ciel is a few years off, the car plays a role in preparing for Cadillac’s newest products, Butler said.

“People are coming into the showroom talking about this vehicle,” he said. “It kind of adds to the psyche of positive feeling about the brand.”

Through the Ciel, designers were trying to evoke the expansive, beautiful luxury to which critics are waiting for Cadillac to return, Dean said. The brand is working to show it can make the Cadillac luxury of old relevant for today’s buyers, so that such a car won’t be a stretch, Butler said.

“Cadillac has permission to do this vehicle. It’s not something that would be out of place,” Butler said.

Even as Cadillac phased out the STS and DTS large sedans this year, its sales increased 9.5% through July from the previous year.

That gain is less than that of German luxury brands, but Butler said that’s partially because of some competitors’ incentives, directed primarily at customers of high-end Japanese cars.

By Chrissie Thompson, The Detroit Free Press