BEIJING – “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
The famous quote from Sir Winston Churchill nearly 77 years ago probably can best describe the current state of Cadillac in China.
With the debut of the CT5 midsize luxury sedan and a cameo appearance by its smaller sibling CT4 at the Cadillac Gala Night held at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing on October 20, the 117-year-old American luxury brand has completed the refresh of its entire locally-produced model lineup. It will now be composed of the “CT” sedan series with CT4, CT5 and CT6 and “XT” SUV series with the XT4, XT5 and XT6, with the numbers denoting the size of the vehicle. The CT5 replaces the XTS, the CT4 the ATS-L, while the XT5 had already replaced the SRX SUV a couple of years back.
Positioned as the “New American Luxury” brand, Cadillac has also reached a new milestone: one million vehicles have been sold in the Chinese market since the brand’s entry in 2003, according to Wang Yongqing, president of SAIC-GM.
“For 16 years, Cadillac has been committed to bringing a new experience to China’s luxury car market,” said Wang. “Our lineup has grown at a fast and steady pace, becoming popular among those who have a passion for life.”
The CT4 will be available in China early next year. It will join the CT5 and CT6 in Cadillac’s New American Luxury sedan family and the XT4, XT5, XT6 and Escalade in its New American Luxury SUV family. As its most aggressive product expansion continues, Cadillac’s portfolio will cover all mainstream luxury segments in 2020.
The CT5 itself will be officially launched in China in November after its China debut in September at this year’s Chengdu Motor Show and global debut at the New York International Auto Show in April. The CT4 had just made its global debut less than a month ago on September 25.
Pre-sale for the CT5 began on September 24 at pre-sale prices of ¥280,000-¥340,000, as the model tries to tackle the midsize luxury sedan segment from the stronghold of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4L and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The CT5 is the first ever model to be based on General Motor’s all-new digital vehicle platform – the enabler of its advanced technologies, including electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving – and together with CT4 represent the brand’s move into rear-wheel-drive based luxury sedans to compete with their German counterparts.
Since 2015, when Cadillac announced its “2020 Strategy” in China, SAIC-GM has invested nearly ¥30 billion in product projects, technology R&D and engineering into the brand, and launched 12 new or refreshed models in the Chinese market. It now has nearly 300 dealerships across more than 100 cities and regions in China and opened the Cadillac House in Shanghai, the biggest worldwide, in March. Over half of its dealerships in China have adopted the so-called “7S Modular Service System” composed of financial support, spare parts, sales, aftersales service, pre-owned used car service, information survey and sharing.
It has seen sales skyrocket in China since 2015, when just 80,000 units were sold. In 2018, sales surpassed 200,000 units for the first time, double the sales volume achieved in 2016, propelling it to the No. 4 luxury brand in China behind Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, with Lexus closely trailing behind. The caveat, though, was that this was largely achieved at the expense of heavy discounting at dealerships. Unlike other leading German or Japanese luxury brands, though, Cadillac is a bit late on its electric plans in China, so far only having only debuted the brand’s first fully electric SUV in January this year on a global basis.
Cadillac had a record third quarter in China, with sales increasing 11 percent from a year earlier to 51,049 units. Over the first nine months of 2019, Cadillac sold 164,048 vehicles in China, up slightly by 0.9 percent. Sales of the XT6, XT5 and XT4 SUVs reached 7,536, 38,954 and 35,911 units, while sales of the CT6 reached 14,428 units, up 17.1 percent. Sales of the outgoing ATS-L and XTS, which are replaced by the CT4 and CT5 respectively, were down as the models make their transitions.
Lexus, currently the No. 5 luxury brand in China, sold 144,590 vehicles in the first nine months of 2019, but grew much faster at 22.8 percent.
Last year, Cadillac sold 227,997 vehicles in China, up 31.8 percent and becoming just the fourth luxury brand to ever sell 200,000 vehicles in a calendar year in China behind the German luxury brand trio. Lexus sold 160,468 vehicles in China last year, up 21 percent.