Granted, this news is icing on the cake -- the coupe is going to be low in sales volume and may serve as a halo performance car, and the XTS Platinum concept is a work in progress. The cake is the success Cadillac is having with vehicles like the new SRX crossover and the CTS sedan.
I've liked Cadillac more or less since the company relaunched the brand in 2003 with the CTS. That car, with its chiseled-out-of-quartz shape, was polarizing but it began to change the game for the automaker. Within a couple of years, Cadillac climbed back into the premium game versus BMW, Mercedes and Lexus, and is probably the second-healthiest GM brand after Chevy. Both brands were in the Top 10 list in a Consumer Reports brand perception study in January.
I will wager the company's SRX crossover is carrying that reputation for the division. Indeed, Cadillac says the SRX is taking off, sales wise: January, in which SRX sales were up 264% versus the month last year, was the fifth straight month of year-over-year increases of more than 100% for SRX. GM says the vehicle has gained 15 points of retail market share and, last month, was second place in sales among mid-size luxury crossovers. If anything, the SRX is too popular, as GM is reportedly in short supply.
The company has been marketing the vehicle as a performance car in a crossover package and that's how it performs. But it also manages to solve the interior problem that used to be the bane of domestic vehicles: wrong buttons in the wrong place, weird fabrics and padding, chintziness and lack of delightful surprises. I've driven a couple of the vehicles -- both turbo and non -- in the past couple of weeks, and they had the right stuff inside and the right surprises in the right places.
The division stands to gain this year from general recession-driven weakness in brand loyalty and market share issues with at least one competitor: if Lexus' rep gets dinged by problems at Toyota, Caddie stands to benefit in no small part because all things being more or less equal (read "quality"), aggressive vehicle design will exert that little extra pull that could lure consumers into showrooms.
Looks aren't everything, but for a lot of consumers they are way up the list. And both the SRX and the CTS (and the wagon version) deliver there. And they -- from my highly unscientific perspective -- deliver in other departments as well. Now if Cadillac can boost production, it may have a good year indeed.