It’s hard to imagine a world without Cadillac in it, but it could happen

General Motors’ decision to identify Cadillac as the lead brand towards its plans for electrification comes with a lot of weight and expectations. It could also be the key to Cadillac’s survival as an auto brand. GM’s newly appointed president, Mark Reuss, acknowledged as much in a conversation with Reuters. According to Reuss, electrification is the only place the General can take the brand if there’s any chance for Caddy to survive. It’s a delicate place to be in, but the changing winds in the auto industry have left General Motors with few options on the table for its once proud luxury marquee. If Cadillac doesn’t thrive as an EV brand, it could very well end up with the same fate as Pontiac and Saturn, two GM-owned auto brands that are no longer with us today.

If Cadillac Can't Sell EVs, the Brand Will Get the Same Treatment as Pontiac and Saturn
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Even if it’s just reality, sometimes, the auto industry can be a cruel place. You can thrive as an automaker for a certain period but lose your way as new innovations come into the forefront. When that happens and you struggle to adapt to the changing times, you end up becoming irrelevant. That’s a place no automaker wants to find itself in, and just as quickly as you become irrelevant, you get put to pasture.

A lot of automakers have suffered that fate, and as unfair as it is, Cadillac could join them in the graveyard if it doesn’t thrive as an electric automaker.

That’s the predicament new General Motors president Mark Reuss is facing. To his credit, Reuss isn’t shrinking from the challenge of keeping Cadillac from going the way of the dodo. “We don’t have any chances left with taking Cadillac to a really new place,” Reuss told Reuters at the 2019 North American International Auto Show. “This is pretty much it.”

2020 Cadillac XT6
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Reuss, of course, is referring to General Motors’ plan to turn Cadillac into the company’s leading electric brand. It’s a tough ask to transition Cadillac from a luxury automaker into its primary EV company, but the current landscape of the auto industry is forcing GM’s hand in doing it. For the longest time, Cadillac defined itself as a company that rolled out some of the best luxury sedans in the market. It was successful in that approach for a time as the company became known for its unique brand of American luxury. But just as electrification slowly gained footing in the industry, so did the growing popularity of crossovers and SUVs. Ok, so Cadillac has had the Escalade for a while, but it’s a large SUV that caters to a unique market, partly because it starts at a whopping $75,000. Caddy rolled out the XT4, XT5, and most recently, the XT6 to gain a piece of the crossover and SUV markets, but none of these models — the XT6 is new so judgment is still out on how it does in the market — have established Caddy in the segment.

As for its bread-and-butter luxury sedans?

Let’s just say that as of 2018, Cadillac possesses the lowest share of the U.S. market - 0.89 percent — in its recorded history.

Annual sales have also gone down steadily from 2015 when Caddy sold 175,267 units to last year when it only moved 154,702. Even Cadillac’s 2015 performance pales in comparison to where it was last decade when it routinely broke 200,000 sold units per year without breaking a sweat. The brand is surviving, but it’s fallen far enough as an auto brand that General Motors decided to reinvent the marquee and give it one final push, this time as a full-fledged electric car maker.

2020 Cadillac XT6
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That’s the reality facing Cadillac these days, and the General wants to get the ball rolling in positioning Cadillac into its lead EV brand. That’s one of the reasons why Cadillac is the first GM-owned automaker to adopt the GM’s new BEV3 electric platform. As it is, details about Cadillac’s future electric lineup haven’t been announced yet, but we know that the first Cadillac EV model will be a crossover. This coincides with Cadillac’s other plan to shrink its entire sedan lineup and focus more on crossovers and SUVs, as shown by the arrival of the XT6 at the 2019 NAIAs last week.

If General Motors’ electrification plan goes as smoothly as it hopes, we could see at least 20 new models in the U.S. and China that will use the same flexible electric vehicle architecture.

Cadillac’s got first dibs on this platform, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say what the automaker better make the best of the opportunity it has in front of it if wants to remain relevant in the auto industry, be it here in the U.S. or in China.

2020 Cadillac XT6
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To say that Cadillac is at a crossroads is an understatement. It’s more important than that. General Motors might not want to admit it, but Caddy’s new president wasn’t mincing his words when he said that “we really have to hit the ball here, and it’s my job to make sure we do.” Cadillac’s future is at stake. If it succeeds as an electric brand, a resurgence could be on the horizon.

If it doesn’t, well, it can join Pontiac and Saturn in the retirement home. Last I heard, they playing backgammon on wooden boards.

2020 Cadillac XT6 specifications

Engine 3.6L V-6 DOHC VVT with Direct Injection
Bore & Stroke (in / mm): 3.74 x 3.37 / 95 x 85.8
Block Material: Cast aluminum w/ cast-in-place iron bore liners
Cylinder Head Material: Cast aluminum
Valvetrain: Dual-overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, continuous variable valve timing
Fuel Delivery: Direct, high-pressure fuel injection with electronic throttle control
Horsepower (hp / kW @ rpm): 310 / 229 @ 6600 (est.)
Torque (lb.-ft. / Nm @ rpm): 271 / 373 @ 5000 (est.)

Further Reading

2020 Cadillac XT6
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Read our full review on the 2020 Cadillac XT6.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2019 Cadillac XT4.

2017 Cadillac XT5 – Driven
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All-new design but with familiar cues

Read our full driven review on the 2017 Cadillac XT5.

Source: Reuters

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