There Are Big Changes Coming for Cadillac

2016 Cadillac Escala Concept
2016 Cadillac Escala Concept | Cadillac

Generally, automakers keep their future product plans close to the vest. Even after a team of designers and engineers spend months on a concept car and a big reveal, you’ll be lucky if you get anything more than “we can neither confirm nor deny” from anyone within the company. But Cadillac is a surprising exception. Since taking the reins in 2014, company president Johan de Nysschen has built a reputation for speaking his mind, even if it isn’t always what a trained PR professional would do. And instead of a series of gaffes, de Nysschen’s off-the-cuff statements are often bold, optimistic, and paint an exciting picture of what Cadillac’s future will look like.

Nevertheless, it was still surprising when he personally corrected a story in The Detroit Bureau in late August 2016 by weighing in in the comments section. The article cited unnamed sources who claimed that Cadillac was working to revise its five-year plan in light of disappointing North American sales growth, canceling development of a full-size flagship sedan, and reconsidering several other future models.

Johan de Nysschen at the Cadillac XT5 launch
Johan de Nysschen at the Cadillac XT5 launch | Cadillac

Unwilling to be scooped by unnamed sources, de Nysschen responded in the comments section with a rebuttal nearly as long as the article itself. “Sir, your well-written article was just brought to my attention and I feel obliged to respond,” he began.

I do not know the sources of your information, but must assume they cannot be very high ranking, certainly they do not have access to the full spectrum of information. Some of what you report is correct, some incorrect, most is conjecture. I would just say I’m a lot more optimistic than the gist of this article would have readers believe.

He then confirmed that the full-size flagship sedan was indeed on hold, and that new powerplants were being developed. He downplayed the sources, claiming that the information “… likely has its origin in customary managerial tactics as people jockey for resource allocation at this early stage of the budget process.” de Nysschen then did something that would terrify most other executives in his position: He put Cadillac’s cards down on the table. 

Johan de Nysschen (left) with GM vice president Mark Reuss at the Cadillac XT5 reveal. | Cadillac
Johan de Nysschen (left) with GM vice president Mark Reuss at the Cadillac XT5 reveal | Cadillac

In the closest thing to a manifesto we’ve seen come from a car company since Tesla’s “Master Plan of 2006,” de Nysschen laid out everything we can realistically expect from the brand in coming years:

We ARE planning a Cadillac flagship which will NOT be a 4 door sedan;
We ARE planning a large crossover beneath Escalade;
We ARE planning a compact crossover beneath XT5;
We ARE planning a comprehensive enhancement to CT6 later during life cycle;
We ARE planning a major refresh for XTS;
We ARE planning a new Lux 3 sedan entry;
We ARE planning a new Lux 2 sedan entry;

For those keeping score, this means that Cadillac will expand both its crossover/SUV lineup and its car portfolio, which if you ask us is one of the most underrated in the luxury segment.

A Cadillac flagship that isn’t a big sedan (think Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series) opens things up for a lot of exciting interpretation. Is it a big, Bentley-fighting coupe like the 2013 Elmiraj concept? A mid-engined supercar based on the test mule that’s been spotted at GM’s proving grounds lately? Some kind of hyper-luxe SUV to take on the Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan? No matter what it ends up being, it’ll be fun to spend the next year or two speculating on this one.

2017 Cadillac ATS Coupe
2017 Cadillac ATS Coupe | Cadillac

And with the Escalade and new XT5 selling strongly, it makes sense that Cadillac would work to expand its footprint here. The Chevy Equinox will be all new for 2018; we wouldn’t be surprised if its new platform ended up in the sub-XT5 model.

After his big reveal, de Nysschen concluded with: “I trust these unusually transparent insights which I have shared, will allay the fears of thousands of Cadillac fans who will greet your article with justified consternation.” Even for an executive with a reputation for being bold, it was an unusually bold move. But for fans of the brand, or anyone interested in the automotive world, it was a refreshingly transparent move coming from an industry that prides itself on discretion.

Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.