Cadillac: The standard of what?

Cadillac’s tagline “Standard of the World” goes back to 1908 when it won the Dewar Trophy. While you might think that the moniker and the trophy have something to do with a feat of racing and daring-do against a cadre of British, French, and German marques, it’s nothing of the sort. Rather, Cadillac achieved the trophy because of interchangeable parts.

The parts they were producing back then were so well-made that Henry Leland, who established Cadillac, was able to disassemble three Model Ks, mix up the parts, and then put together three functioning cars. This amazed the Brits who handed him the trophy, and the “Standard of the World” was born.

During the past several months, Cadillac has been producing news releases that would seem as though the company is the Standard of the World: “Cadillac Global Sales Rise 44.2 percent in January … 18 percent in February … 22.1 percent in March. . .40.9 percent in April … 33.8 percent in May … 7.2 percent in June.”

Like the Dewar Trophy being about manufacturing not performance, things are not necessarily what they seem. That is, Cadillac’s growth is predicated on performance in China, not in the US. Through June, its China sales are 80,357 vehicles for the first five months of 2017, versus 72,073 in the US. The China number is a 75.4-percent year-over-year increase while the US number is a 1.6-percent decrease. For the entire globe, Cadillac has sold 164,174 vehicles. Of them, 65,250 were the XT5. That was followed by the ATS, at 34,277 units.

In the US, the XT5 is doing reasonably well, as it has moved 29,798 units during the first six months. The ATS, conversely, is doing not particularly well, as it is down 26.2 percent with sales at just 7,209 for the year so far. To put that into some sort of context, know that Cadillac has sold 7,370 copies of the generally derided XTS, which is down 24.7 percent.

The CTS is down 36 percent at 5,059 units, and the only other car in the lineup (we’ll pretend that the ELR doesn’t exist anymore and it shortly won’t), the CT6 sedan, is up 172.7 percent – but they have sold only 5,397 CT6s. While Caddy talks a good game about competing with the likes of the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes E-Class, know that those two sedans have been sold 17,036 and 20,783 times this year in the US respectively.

So what is Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen to do? According to Reuters, it is to cull the lineup. As in letting the XTS, CTS, and ATS fade away in 2019 and bring out a CT5, a smaller brother to the CT6, at about the same time. At least they’ll save on red ink.

And Cadillac will glom onto the growth in car-alternatives with a compact XT4 crossover and a three-row SUV. It is worth noting that in the first six months GMC sold 55,995 Acadias in the US, about 77 percent of Cadillac’s total sales during the period.

Electrification? Of course. But right now they have a plug-in CT6 and the about-to-be-gone ELR. De Nysschen said to Reuters more electrics will be coming – the second half of the next decade. Meanwhile, the likes of BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes will have an array of electrified vehicles. “Standard of the World”? Well, that was the case in 1908. But numerically and technologically, that doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment. And the shrinking lineup is troubling.

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