One of the brightest stars of last week's New York International Auto Show was General Motors' (NYSE:GM) long-awaited Cadillac "flagship," the all-new-from-scratch 2016 CT6 sedan. The CT6 is a big, luxurious sedan that is expected to go on sale late this year.
Outside, it follows Cadillac's recent styling trends, but adds a plush and roomy interior that makes good use of leather and wood -- and is stuffed full of luxury features. But underneath, the CT6 really shines. An innovative body structure has made the CT6 unusually light for a full-size car, several hundred pounds lighter than its key German rivals. That's expected to translate into superb on-road performance, with better-than-you'd-expect fuel economy.
GM hasn't announced pricing for the new CT6. It's likely to be expensive, and it probably won't sell in big numbers. But it's important to the brand and to GM's all-out effort to revitalize Cadillac, for other reasons.
While it's fair to argue (as many observers have) that Cadillac really needs some small SUVs in order to boost its flagging U.S. sales numbers, it also needs a car like this one: an "aspirational" product that can serve as a no-compromises expression of the brand's top-of-the-line vision.
We spent some time with several key GM executives at last week's show in New York, and we asked each of them for his thoughts on the CT6, and how it fits into Cadillac's ongoing evolution.
In the video below, you'll hear from GM president Dan Ammann, Cadillac brand chief Johan de Nysschen, and Cadillac marketing chief Uwe Ellinghaus, each giving his thoughts on the new Cadillac flagship and the brand's ongoing efforts to take on the German luxury giants.
A transcript of the video is below.
John Rosevear: How about the Cadillac CT6? That was your other big debut this morning. What does that do for the Cadillac brand?
Dan Ammann: I think what it shows you is the technical capability that we have to really win in the luxury space. When you think about what's in that car from a body-structure perspective, a mass-production perspective, a dynamics perspective, and the technology all through the driver experience, it shows the investments that were made, and the investments we'll continue to make to really put Cadillac back at the pinnacle of the automotive industry.
Rosevear: So the new CT6. What does this do for the ongoing evolution of Cadillac?
Johan de Nysschen: Well, as our new flagship, it obviously plays an important role in shaping up that aspirational brand character for Cadillac. It puts the brand back into the market segment that frankly, in the early part of our existence, we used to own, and it does so with a car that also showcases our technical competence. The technology in this car really is industry-leading, and I think it certainly serves the purpose to disturb the equilibrium in the luxury market.
Rosevear: We hear that there are electrification options coming to Cadillac. How does that push the brand forward?
de Nysschen: Well, in terms of our power trains that we'll be deploying in this car, we're launching with three derivatives. There are more in the pipeline. Electrification, specifically, is going to be a core competence at Cadillac that we will roll out across virtually our entire product portfolio, and certainly CT6 will be no exception. But we quite clearly expect that Cadillac will be one of the leading brands when it comes to adoption of these alternative power train strategies across our range.
To be quite candid, too, a lot of that is driven by the importance of China in our future, and in order to ensure that we can also take these superlative products into the Chinese market, it's just a key requirement that we also incorporate these technologies.
Uwe Ellinghaus: For me it's the next natural step in the Cadillac's elevation. As we've always said, rebuilding Cadillac into an iconic global luxury brand requires both expansion and elevation. And 2015 was the launch of the CT6, as much as the recent launches of ATS-V and CTS-V, is clearly a year of elevation.
All three cars are at the top of the range, and while the volume might be limited, they, of course, have an aspirational effect for the brand that every single ATS standard car driver buys, as well, when they decide to buy a car -- what we marketing people call a "halo" car.
Rosevear: So, "Dare Greatly."
Ellinghaus: I think the design is showing that we dare greatly. We are not giving up our conviction that Cadillac needs to be more distinctive. That you need to have immediate brand recognition -- unmistakably Cadillac -- but, of course, it has a certain masculinity. You are allowed to call it aggressiveness that, for some people, might be too much. But what I want to achieve for Cadillac -- a differentiated positioning to the Germans -- this is spot-on.
But the biggest, maybe, lever [is that] the CT6 provides me ways for building the Cadillac brand to further strengthen this unique combination of comfort and luxury with agility and performance. The exterior dimensions of this car, as you know, are 7-Series or S-Class Short Wheelbase. The weight is just the weight of the CTS, which is class-leading over a 5-Series or an E-Class.
So, I think I have an opportunity to show that this is not just another large luxury car. The world does not need another large luxury car. There are already enough out there, and they are damn good cars, but they are all heavy. And I know that there are luxury-car buyers out there who would love to keep the comfort and the interior roominess if just they could get a better driving dynamic. They are one part of the target group for this car.
And I also think there is a great opportunity among the much bigger size of mid-lux buyers, who love the driving characteristic of their car. Who do not want to give up on being nimble, quick, fun to drive, agility in responsiveness and performance, but who simply need more space in the rear. And I think this is another interesting group for the CT6.
And then, believe it or not, I am totally convinced that there are many people out there who like Cadillac as a brand, but simply couldn't get their heads around when we embarked on our new journey with ATS and CTS, that Cadillac was now building cars that were significantly smaller than our cars used to be, and that have probably been waiting for the arrival of the CT6. To a certain extent, we say those [older Cadillacs] were our predecessors, which is absolutely true, but we are reentering the large luxury sedan segment in which we've been over many, many decades, but we left a while ago.
John Rosevear owns shares of General Motors. Rex Moore has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.