This hasn't been the best of years for Cadillac. Between the gunfight among German luxury brands for every last buyer, General Motors recall fiasco and Cadillac's demand for higher prices and smaller discounts on its new models, sales have fallen even as the rest of the industry has grown. And the star of its one breakthrough ad has sold fewer than 1,000 copies to date.
But Cadillac has kept at it. First, it hired Johan de Nysschen away from Infiniti; the former Audi U.S. chief had been spearheading a plan to make Nissan's luxury brand a global player. Today, it revealed a long-rumored next step, confirming it would build a new, unnamed Cadillac at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant that would serve as the top of the Cadillac line — and put it squarely against the kingpin sedans from Mercedes, BMW and Audi.
“The objective for this upcoming model is to lift the Cadillac range by entering the elite class of top-level luxury cars,” de Nysschen said in a statement. “Currently in development, this new rear wheel drive-oriented sedan uses completely new, custom-designed materials on a unique vehicle architecture."
While Cadillac has kept many details close so far, the well-received Elmiraj concept coupe from 2013 likely previews the direction Cadillac will go. That car was built from a platform under development, and its running gear — a twin-turbo 4.5-liter V-8 good for 500 hp powering all four wheels — would fit right in among the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Audi A8.
Oddly, the best way for Cadillac to succeed among the wealthiest buyers may be to offer them a deal: building a flaghship car that keeps pace dynamically and technologically with the best Germans, at a price that's well below the $90,000 to $100,000 those firms ask.
The ATS and CTS show Cadillac can match up on chassis dynamics and come close in interiors, but Detroit will need to step up the game to make 2014 a outlier.