Making Sense of the All New 2020 Cadillac CT4 and CT5 – Is Downsizing Good?

Letting the dust settle a bit before jumping in on the news of the Cadillac CT4 and CT5, I wanted to rationalize and understand why GM decided to downsize in more ways than one. When Cadillac unveiled both models, I thought a few people in the car community were going have mental breakdowns after the performance numbers were released. The CTS-V came out of the box with a 6.2L V8 engine that put out 640 hp, and now its successor, the CT5-V, is equipped with a twin turbo V6 that gets 355 hp. A drop of nearly 300 hp could make any car enthusiast pass out, but there’s far more to this story than just performance.

The last 30 years of the American automotive industry has been well documented. For anyone under the age of 40, German dominance in the luxury segment is all they’ve ever known. Cadillac and Lincoln being a status symbol was no longer relevant to younger generations, as BMW singlehandedly became the brand that represented success and luxury. By the mid to late 2000’s, Mercedes Benz and Audi became more mainstream, providing upscale interior and exterior styling, while also offering performance models as well. Cadillac’s response was the ATS-V and CTS-V to match up against formidable competition like the BMW M3 and Mercedes Benz E63. While on paper Cadillac seemed more appealing and superior in terms of horsepower, sales numbers are what truly counts at the end of the day, and that’s how we’ve ended up with the CT4 and CT5.

Competing head-on against the Germans is playing a game you can’t win. BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz’s brand recognition and awareness has captivated generations since the mid 1990’s, and there’s not enough consumers willing to pay $70k – $90k for a Cadillac sports sedan. Crosstown rival Lincoln has already made adjustments to their lineup to be more American, rather than producing vehicles that will be marketed as X3 and Q5 competitors. They fully understand that to have any longevity in this new market, embracing their heritage with a modern twist is the best way to go moving forward. Cadillac’s mindset may be a bit different, but here’s my take on why the brand is aiming a bit lower and will take on lesser adversaries.

The ATS and CTS were always considered to be “tweeners”, where in terms of size they were smaller than their competition but larger than cars in the segment just below them. With their successors comes a new marketing approach to tackle this problem, and with less horsepower being offered for the CT4-V and CT5-V, the markets they’re now entering begin to make sense. Downgrading from the mid-size luxury sedan segment, the CT4 will now take on the Audi A3 and Mercedes Benz A Class, which it will dwarf in size and dimensions when it hits showrooms next year. In a new class will likely come a change in price tag, as experts predict the CT4 will start somewhere in the mid $30k range. The CT4-V is predicted to start in the low to mid $40k’s, which is right in line with the Audi S3.

As of right now, barring any refreshes and updates to the competition, the CT4-V will be equipped with more horsepower than the A35 AMG and S3. A 320 hp 2.7L 4 cylinder engine taken from a Chevy Colorado and an all new 10 speed automatic transmission will be under the hood. It’s already been stated that there’s a track version CT4 on the horizon, so there’s still something to look forward to if you’re a car enthusiast. So lowering the performance, but also lowering the price tag now makes sense and Cadillac is reaching new consumers which makes this decision look good from a business and sales perspective.

The CT5 is what’s drawing most of the eyre because of the dramatic decrease in power. It’s predecessor was more powerful but also took on the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes Benz E-Class. Starting next year, that all changes as the CT5 will now be pinned against the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. When looking at the CT5-V, it lines up almost perfectly against the B9 S4. Just like the CT4, this mid-size luxury sedan will also get an enhanced track version, which we haven’t received any details on yet.

No matter how angry or disappointed we get, keep in mind that this major shift was done with increasing sales numbers as the top priority. We can sit down and argue on this topic for a while, but the ATS-V and CTS-V weren’t going to outsell their competition. The individuals who are the most outspoken and outraged at Cadillac weren’t in the market to buy either model, and a majority of people would still end up purchasing a German car because of the status symbols they’ve become. Furthermore, the Dodge Challenger Scat Pack and Hellcat are more affordable options, but thanks to the Fast & Furious franchise and other car related movies, Dodge has a more appealing brand image. Cadillac is facing an uphill battle, which is why finding more vulnerable targets to compete with is a smart business move.

What Cadillac and American automakers have done over the last 30 years isn’t working. The Japanese brands took control over a large portion of market share that once belonged to Ford and GM, and the Germans are unstoppable in the luxury vehicle segments. To change course Cadillac had to try something new, and a lower price tag for a car that is better suited against the A3/S3 and Mercedes Benz A-Class is where tide can turn for the now Detroit-based manufacturer. The CT5 is a different story, and it’s not likely enthusiasts are going to get over this car being neutered anytime soon. However, Cadillac needed a new tactic to reach a younger generation, and making them more attainable is the best way to achieve that goal.

Cadillac Should Be Focusing On Dodge, Not The Germans

Cadillac’s President, Johan de Nysschen, has been very vocal the past few months after the unveiling of the new Cadillac ATS-V and CTS-V. He believes that the GM luxury brand will compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes Benz, especially when it comes to performance. But is Nysschen getting too far ahead of himself, especially since the BMW M3/M4 and Mercedes Benz C63 are already on the market? Not only that, but is he also forgetting a domestic rival that hasn’t been part of the discussion when it comes to performance?

Nysschen has been emphasizing performance over luxury when it comes to the ATS-V and CTS-V, essentially stating that this is BMW and Mercedes Benz “fanboys'” worst nightmare. However, by pushing the performance aspect of his two new cars, is he blindly walking into the hands of Dodge? The Charger and Challenger Hellcat could certainly give Cadillac a run for it’s money, especially since they’re all in the same price range, with Dodge offering more horsepower than Cadillac.

Even Cadillac lovers acknowledge that when the debates start firing up between the M3/M4, C63, and the ATS-V/CTS-V, “German car fanboys” revert back to the luxury aspect of their favorite cars. Nysschen is creating a new perception for his company, that Cadillac is no longer the forgotten luxury brand and is now a force to be reckoned with thanks to its performance. But the ambiance that he’s trying to capture might backfire as consumers see Dodge as performance-driven cars, putting Cadillac’s new perception in line with their American counterparts.

The Dodge Charger Hellcat’s starting price is $62,295, while the ATS-V will start at $61,460. The Hellcat has 707 hp and the ATS-V will have a 3.6L twin turbo V-6 supplying 464 hp. While on paper both cars wouldn’t be seen in the same class or market, we are talking about two cars that are in the same price range, both offering performance. Dodge has been forgotten, hidden in the shadows while Nysschen only makes reference to German automakers. A luxury car that offers performance is one thing, but by solely marketing performance, Cadillac is going to find themselves in competition with another American car brand, which wasn’t Nysschen’s intent.

When it comes to cars, American consumers traditionally want performance, power, and speed. Hardcore car enthusiasts on the other hand have always looked across the Atlantic and Pacific for cars that could offer both power and luxury. Cadillac is playing a dangerous game targeting the German car enthusiasts, while they should be trying to acquire American consumers who fully want power. The Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcat are already satisfying those needs, whereas Cadillac is trying to target two completely different sides of the spectrum.

Cadillac will continue competing against their German rivals, but if they start overlooking the luxury aspect of their new performance luxury cars, they’ll find themselves in the same discussion with Dodge. Nysschen needs to cover all the bases, or the Hellcats will strike with force, putting them into the discussion that they can outperform Cadillacs.

Again, this isn’t Cadillac’s intent, and Dodge shouldn’t even be an afterthought. But when you enter the performance debate, it would be sacrilegious to forget about two muscle cars that are in the same price range, and can offer more horsepower.

Cadillac Will Soon Bow Out Of The Livery Market

A decision by Cadillac that has been long overdue will finally come to fruition as the American luxury car manufacturer will no longer be in the livery market. This comes after reports of the XTS’s lifecycle coming to an end, as this car was to attract the traditional Cadillac buyer. With sales still down, even after some exciting changes and announcements of new models, Cadillac needs to and is in the process of changing the perception the brand has had for many years, which is cars that are geared towards the older, affluent American consumer. By getting out of the livery market, this is one step in the right direction.

Seeing Cadillac’s in funeral processions gives the brand a bad image, especially in the eyes of the younger generations. How can the American automaker compete with their German rivals when 20 and 30 year olds are more interested and attracted to Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz? This has been the problem for Cadillac for many years, and by also being a part of GM and having their name thrown into the fire with all the recalls surely hasn’t helped. Since it doesn’t appear Cadillac is leaving GM anytime soon, now is the right time to take on the problems that they can control, and that’s to change the brand’s image entirely. By exiting the livery market and going full throttle into luxury and performance, the American luxury brand can once again compete against other luxury juggernauts.

The new Cadillac ATS-V got a warm reception when it was unveiled, so they need to take advantage and ride the momentum of positive vibes. It’s going to take a while for the changes to take full effect as consumers are not often quick to change perceptions towards brands, but if Cadillac can continue making bold moves and offering quality, luxury, and performance the car buyer wants, we could see a revival in sales.

The one real question at the end of the day however, is will consumers have a positive reaction to Cadillac’s desire to sell RWD cars? That’s still a question that’s up for debate as almost every car manufacturer has either focused on front-wheel drive, 4WD, or AWD drivetrains. Surely Cadillac will still offer 4WD/AWD, but they’re creating a small hurdle for themselves if they do intend on moving forward with plans to manufacture RWD cars, since the average consumer has been fully exposed to AWD capabilities by most auto brands.

What Are Your Thoughts On Cadillac and BMW?

Over the past few weeks Cadillac has become very bold, and rightfully so, with the unveiling of their new ATS-V Coupe. This has lead to a lot of banter on the Internet, with some going as far to say that BMW should be looking in their rearview mirror because Cadillac is catching up with the German luxury car manufacturer. The BMW faithful are defending their favorite cars, while fans of the new Cadillacs are beginning to believe GM’s luxury branch has finally made a comeback in the luxury car market. What do you think? Is Cadillac inching closer behind BMW, or should the people in Munich just laugh at Cadillac’s show of force?

The BMW product line has certainly been extended the past few years, and with the BMW M4, and the highly anticipated four-door BMW 435i Gran Coupe, it doesn’t look like they’re going to give up ground easily. While Cadillac’s newer designs and breath of fresh air is encouraging, can they compete with a luxury brand that seems to be sticking their nose into every market in the automotive world? BMW continues to push their SUV and crossover models, the new 2 series is sure to be a hit with the younger generations, and their 3 and 5 series sedans are still experiencing strong sales figures this year.

What are your thoughts on Cadillac and or BMW? Is Cadillac ready to take the stage? Or do you not like both and prefer an Audi, Mercedes Benz, or maybe even Volvo due to what they’ve been doing lately. The great thing about the automotive world is that it’s constantly evolving. What might be exciting and popular today, might be old news by tomorrow. Right now BMW is still riding on their popularity over the past decade, while Cadillac is trying to revitalize their sluggish sales figures and create a buzz for their cars that hasn’t been seen in years.

Lower Gas Prices Are Still Not Enough For Consumers To Buy Big SUV’s

Cadillac Escalade SUV
Bruno Rs / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The national average for gas is below $3.00 a gallon which has affected different markets in the automotive segment of the economy. Electric and hybrid cars have seen lower sales figures since the recent nose-dive oil has taken the past few months. However, with these lower gas prices, sales figures for large SUV’s still hasn’t improved, and just as the sports car market, the bigger SUV market may never recover.

Ian Robertson, a Sales Chief for BMW said recently that the age of the sports car is coming to a close and that we’ll probably never see that market recover. While he only mentioned two-door coupes, it appears that the recession has also put another segment of the auto industry on life support. Larger SUV’s such as the Cadillac Escalade and the Chevrolet Tahoe are only maintaining a 7% share of the market, which that number has flatlined since 2009. Not even lower gas prices are helping this segment. Since the recession and the days of $3.00 a gallon, car companies have had to adapt to a new economy, one in which the consumer is very careful about spending and expenses.

The crossover SUV’s have taken a bite out of the traditional SUV’s market share which could explain why we’re not seeing improving sales figures. Crossovers and small SUV’s such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, BMW X1 and X3, Mazda CX-5, Audi Q3 and Q5, Ford Escape, Volvo XC60, and Honda CR-V, are all eating away at the sales figures of their bigger siblings. Car companies aren’t just stopping there, they’re continuing to grow the crossover segment as Mazda already has a CX-3 in the works, and seeing the competitiveness of the Germans, who knows what they’ll think of next.

Consumers have also adapted to the new economy that we’ve lived in for the past seven years. They’re learning that they don’t need a huge SUV to get around and that even with a smaller vehicle, they can still carry their groceries, drive their kids to school, and while doing that, saving money at the pump. Smaller SUV’s and crossovers have become the new practical. While Americans won’t admit it, they’ve become more like Europeans since the recession, as Europe has been living with high gas prices way before the economy had it’s downturn.

We live in a new world. The economy may or may not have recovered, or some sectors have while others are still lagging behind. But one thing is for sure, the auto market will not change the direction it’s heading in unless there is a major swing in the markets and on Main Street. In 5-10 years, we may look back on the recession as the killer of the big SUV and sports car markets as we once knew them.

The Issue Cadillac Faces, Whether They Produce Nice Cars Or Not

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe
That Hartford Guy / Foter / CC BY-SA

Prior to the past decade and a half, Cadillac was always held in high regard as the premier luxury car brand in the United States. Fifteen years later that same luxury brand now faces stiff competition from Mercedes Benz, Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Infiniti, and is usually forgotten when it comes to facing these competitors head on. Cadillac is now suffering from it’s own brand and the marketing that went on behind the scenes that got them to this point in their history.

Cadillac has always been known as the old man’s car to younger generations. It doesn’t help when Cadillacs are often seen in funeral processions either, as this easily dictates how millennials perceive the American luxury brand. From the commercials 10-15 years ago with the Rolling Stones music chiming in near the end of the ad, to even the appearance of the car itself, Cadillacs were meant for the older population, even if that’s not the intention of the car manufacturer. With baby boomers getting older, it’s time for GM’s luxury brand to start appealing to younger generations. But how do they do that after decades of targeting the affluent aging population?

The new Cadillac ATS V Coupe has turned heads, making some believe that it could take on The BMW M4. But here’s the underlying issue. Whether the ATS V Coupe is faster or more luxurious than the M4 or not, younger people are more likely to go with the BMW, that’s just a fact. As a single, 21 year old, the last car I see myself being behind the wheel of is a Cadillac, unless they can prove to me that I will get noticed and get the attention I want. A BMW on the other hand already turns heads. The German engineering along with the fierce appearance makes the driver feel powerful and ready to take on the world. The Cadillac’s image is more of retiring from the workforce and signing up for AARP. That might be a crass statement, but it’s the perception, and the belief that people from my generation hold against the automaker.

Sure the new ATS looks great, but would I buy it if I had the money? No. Cadillac is however moving in the right direction, you have to give them that. The newer models are a bit more refreshing than in years past, and the 0-60 acceleration times along with the engines that Cadillac uses certainly makes the car more appealing, but until the old man perception is gone, that’s all young people will think about.

Lastly, Cadillac needs commercials geared more to younger generations. For instance, the Escalade commercial shows Cleopatra, a stage coach, presumably in England, and a powerful leader on an Elephant, and to brutally honest, I could see a 2000 year old Egyptian queen and a 300 year old wig wearing gentleman driving a Cadillac. That’s the real problem. With better ads directed to younger generations and creating a buzz, it will certainly help their long term perception and image.