There is no shortage of opinion pieces aimed at proposing what Cadillac should do to remain relevant. But forget about all of those, because they are terrible takes. I, however, have what may be the best answer for saving America’s historic luxury brand: Cadillac should make only two cars.
Now, this is not a post bashing Cadillac, but rather a reality check to ensure the brand’s survival. After spending millions of dollars and occupying segments with vehicles that elicit, at best, an apathetic response from buyers, Caddy should just focus on what works. The brand that was once the “standard of the world” has a lot of history but, unfortunately, also a lot of baggage. GM has learned the hard way that good products are not enough to shift the tide of buyer perception. It won’t matter how stylish, fast or even “class-leading” a Cadillac model is if it’s not even on the radar of a potential buyer or worse, automatically dismissed.
Cadillac should take a page from another Big Three luxury brand, Chrysler, and only make two cars. Technically, Chrysler sells three cars but let’s be real, the Voyager is just a de-contented Pacifica so for all intents and purposes Chrysler makes two vehicles: a van and a sedan. The latter of which doesn’t sell well, but since the platform is so old it’s not costing FCA much to keep cranking out those 300s for the handful of folks who insist on buying new ones.
However, the Pacifica is a success. Chrysler found something that works. Even though the minivan segment is losing buyers overall, people like the Pacifica because it is a stylish family car packed with great features and even offers a plug-in hybrid option. As a professional car shopper, I’ve helped a number of clients get into Pacificas, mostly hybrids. These are buyers that, for the most part, could have spent a lot more on a large luxury SUV but instead opted for the fanciest minivan they could buy.
When I compare requests for the Pacifica to pretty much anything in the Cadillac lineup there is a stark difference. I’ve brokered deals on hundreds of luxury cars from Caddy’s competitors like Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Volvo, but only a handful of Cadillac deals. Almost every one of those requests was, you guessed it, an Escalade.
Even when I discussed some of Cadillac models as potential alternatives to popular cars like the XC40, Q5, an X5 most of the buyers either responded with “Yeah that seems nice, but I will stick with my choice.” That or I’d get something along the lines of “I don’t think I can drive a Cadillac.”
As Kristen Lee excellently articulated in a recent post, the Escalade is the key flagship for the brand and frankly the only car that consumers recognize as desirable. Instead of having one car that makes money and a bunch of other things that sit on dealer lots only to be sold with heavy discounts and losses, Cadillac should pair down their offerings to two models.
What I mean is that they should not just abandon their current lineup overnight, but rather let those platforms run their course and focus on exclusively selling the Escalade and something else. What that other car could be, depends on the market, perhaps it’s the XT6 as a “more affordable” alternative to the Escalade, or maybe a high-powered sports sedan in small numbers, for the six people on this website that would buy a new one. The best choice would likely be the “Tesla beating EV” that GM has been talking about for years, as that would provide a nice balance to gas-guzzling Escalade. That and a big, comfy, quiet, fast luxury car is right in that Cadillac vision, in the same way that the big, comfy, burbly V8 Escalade is at the moment.
FCA, Ford, and even GM have already come to the conclusion that there is no point in occupying market share if it’s not profitable. Just because units are selling doesn’t mean the company is making money from those cars. While it would be a blow to scale back a once well-respected American luxury brand to a very limited lineup, it may be the only path forward.