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Cadillac sales spurt 53 percent to a record 26,000 in China

NEW YORK − An unexpectedly large surge in Cadillac’s China sales has brought a record performance this past year to the iconic General Motors luxury brand, establishing China as “Caddy’s” top export market.

Reporting the Cadillac results at a 2012-model preview here, the division’s marketing chief, Don Butler, said that about 26,000 Cadillac units will be retailed in China in 2011, up 53 percent from 2010’s 17,000 sales.

“We outdid ourselves,” said Butler. “Our expectation for Cadillac sales in China was a range of 2,000 to 3,000 annual sales per year. But the CTS and SRX models have surged in China, just as they have in the U.S.”

Butler projected Cadillac’s China growth as a pillar for continuing overseas growth, steadily rising from 2010 global sales of a record 180,000 vehicles, of which 20 percent were outside the U.S.

Cadillac is mounting marketing thrusts in North America, Asian and European markets to exploit the jump in the brand’s global popularity. The century-old brand, which was a foundation for the creation of General Motors in the early 1900s, will be showcased at golf, racing and skiing events, and consumers will be able to test-drive the 556-horsepower CTS-V model on private tracks in urban centers like Atlanta, Las Vegas and Los Angeles in the U.S., Toronto in Canada, Beijing and Shanghai in China and Frankfurt and Paris in Europe.

“Our uppermost goal is segment leadership,” said Butler, “with new models no longer blending in with the scenery or resembling bygone models like Seville and DeVille.

Butler said the CTS, a “car-of-the-year” winner at auto shows, is running close to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class in global sales and trails only the Lexus RX350 in the premium midsize crossover/utility segment.

“It’s tough to compete in Europe against the German brands,” Butler said, “but the CTS is winning fans globally and will lift our brand to a top contender by 2020, when China accounts for 40 percent of worldwide luxury-car sales.”

“The day is coming when Cadillac will sell more cars per year in China than in the U.S. (146,925 in 2010, 109,092 in 2009 and 100,449 in January-August 2011).”

“To help achieve our sales goals, Cadillac will continue to streamline its styling with lighting modules and state-of-the-art cues such as night-vision cameras,” Butler revealed.

“We are also planning to offer the latest interior amenities, such as a hands-free rear hatch; parallel parking systems; collision warning systems; remote starters; street sign detection; voice-activated connectivity; pedestrian detection; voice-activated in-cabin apps; adaptive cruise control; and for anxious parents of teen-age drivers, GPS-powered vehicle tracking.”

Missing from the Cadillac mix are hybrid-electric powertrains like those on Cadillac’s sister model, Chevrolet Volt, or the hybrid segment leader, Toyota Prius.

Butler’s reply to the “missing” question was “stay tuned,” an acknowledgement that Cadillac’s surge in China and the luxury segment is not ruling out features that comprise coming cars in the near-luxury and entry-level segments.

“Standard of the World,” said GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, referring to Cadillac’s venerable label, “won’t miss out on any of the technical advancements coming to the auto industry.”

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