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Why Aren't Cadillacs More Popular?

Editorial / 81 Comments

And what can be done to change that?

No one ever said it would be easy to revitalize an automotive luxury brand that once successfully branded itself as the "Standard of the World." Cadillac has been fighting an uphill battle for the past few years to regain its status in the luxury segment against some very formidable competitors, namely Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. While General Motors has rightly allowed Cadillac to have a greater level of autonomy outside of Detroit (a New York City headquarters, for example), it has yet to achieve annual sales figures that would cause its rivals to worry.

Cadillac's 2016 year-end global sales came to 308,692 units. In that same period, Audi sold 1,871,350 units. BMW came in at 2,035,359 units, while Mercedes-Benz sold 2,083,888 cars. All three German brands increased sales last year, and so did Cadillac, which saw an 11.1 percent increase from 2015. However, Mercedes-Benz sales grew by 11.3 percent from the previous year. See what's happening here? Even with improved Cadillac sales, its German rivals are also on the upswing in a global market where luxury cars are more popular than ever. So here's the big question: Why aren't Cadillacs more popular? Its current lineup is better than ever, led by the new CT6 flagship sedan.

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Both the ATS and CTS are also highly regarded, as are their respective high performance "V" versions. Is perception the reason why Cadillac is failing to gain sales ground? Is it build and/or material quality? Something else entirely? In all likelihood, it's a combination of everything, but perception is most certainly Cadillac's biggest concern at the moment, mainly due to an identity crisis. It's an internal battle between the bling-tastic (and hot-selling) Escalade SUV and the state-of-the-art technology and luxury focused (and more conservatively styled) CT6, with the ATS, CTS and dentist favorite XTS stuck in between.

The new XT5 compact crossover does little to advance the segment when compared to, say, the Porsche Macan and Audi Q5. Luxury buyers already know all of this. They've already cross-shopped brands and sometimes alternate between them. They often remain loyal to one brand for years, and Cadillac lost that loyalty long ago. Its once loyal buyers are, literally, buried six feet under. But the stigma of an "old man's brand" remains and nobody – especially luxury car buyers where image matters – want to be seen in their deceased grandfather's once favorite brand. Change that image, find the right identity that bridges technology and luxury, and offer something the competition doesn't, and sales will improve. It's easier said than done.