GM's Cadillac to introduce high-end sedan in late 2015

By Reuters

Sep 22, 2014 03:41 AM EDT

As it strives to energize its Cadillac brand that once led the U.S. luxury auto market, General Motors Co said on Friday it will begin production of a new "top-end, high-technology car" by the end of 2015.

The as-yet unnamed flagship sedan will be positioned "above today's CTS and XTS product lines," and "will add to rather than replace any model in the portfolio," GM said in a statement.

First sales in the United States are likely by the end of 2015, and sales in China about the same time, said Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell. If there is a lag between introduction in the United States and China, it will be a short one, he said.

The new model will be in "the elite class of top-level luxury cars," said Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen in the statement. He added that the car, which is in development, will be rear wheel drive-oriented, using "completely new, custom-designed materials on a unique vehicle architecture."

De Nysschen came to GM this year and is charged with repositioning the 112-year-old Cadillac brand to truly compete with luxury leaders BMW and Daimler's Mercedes-Benz.

The sedan's public debut will be in the first half of 2015. It will be built at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck plant, where the plug-in electric Chevrolet Volt, Opel Ampera and the Cadillac ELR are made, as well as the Chevy Malibu and Impala. GM did not say whether it would add to the plant's 1,600 workers to make the new Cadillac.

Cadillac sales through the end of August were 172,000 worldwide, up 10 percent from a year ago.

The top market for Cadillac remains the United States, but sales are growing quickly in China. It is those sales in China that allows for the development of the as-yet unnamed flagship sedan, Caldwell said.

In the U.S. market, Cadillac sales have fallen 4.7 percent through August this year, and its U.S. sales of 114,000 lag far behind luxury market leaders BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The new Cadillac flagship sedan will compete with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW's 7-Series, and Volkswagen AG's Audi A8.

Cadillac's China sales through August were 45,000, up 67 percent from a year ago. GM expects Cadillac to reach 70,000 sales in China this year.

The flagship sedan is the model where GM is likely to introduce the latest technological developments, including the ability for the car to operate autonomously, said Caldwell.

But a true "self-driving" ability will not be available initially. Truly autonomous cars in mass production are still a few years away. Caldwell said when such a feature is offered, it is likely to be a high-end option.

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