Since its early 21st century reboot, Cadillac’s biggest weakness has been its tendency to constantly benchmark its cars against BMW and Mercedes. While the Escalade successfully built its own identity, the brand’s cars have struggled to set themselves apart from their European competitors. As a result, it appears Cadillac is beginning to have second thoughts about its sedans. The CT6, once the poster child of a revitalized Cadillac, is now a pariah. And pretty soon customers will only be able to find one in the CPO lot because it’s officially dead in America.
Originally touted as the new face of Cadillac, the CT6 was supposed to be a big deal for GM. It was the first full-size, rear-wheel drive sedan from the brand in over twenty years. But the car never really gained any traction. It’s possible there’s nothing Cadillac could have done to save the CT6, as the car was well reviewed, at least when equipped with V6 and turbocharged V6 engines. Nevertheless, the car itself still represents a huge misstep for GM, as the company decided to spend billions on the Omega platform and utilize that architecture on a sedan instead of an SUV. To make matters worse, the Blackwing V8, perhaps the most promising aspect of the program, is itself an orphan, as it cannot fit in any other Cadillac at the moment.
Super Cruise also found itself inextricably tied to the CT6. Like the CT6 itself, the automated driving technology was well reviewed. But it’s only been available on the sedan. It will enjoy an extended roll out this year. What took so long? Perhaps Cadillac thought CT6 sales would crater if they offered it throughout the lineup. The more likely explanation is that GM didn’t want to spend the extra money outfitting Super Cruise in other vehicles until they were scheduled for a significant refresh or redesign.
In some ways, the CT6 is a victim of circumstance. It also represents how strategic errors made in the past can have ramifications for the future. And it quite possibly demonstrates the need for Cadillac to forget about sedans altogether. After all, if the brand built a three-row unibody crossover off the Omega platform instead of the CT6, Cadillac could have fielded a dynamic entry in the segment years before the 2020 Lincoln Aviator arrived. But they didn’t. And the losses incurred by Omega likely resulted in GM’s decision to base the XT6 on the same transverse front-wheel drive platform as the Chevy Traverse.
And even though the new CT4 and CT5 are based on the same platform as their predecessors, their development costs could have plausibly prevented Cadillac from investing more money into other vehicles or technology. But they’re not the only luxury brand struggling to sell sedans in today’s market. Acura, Infiniti, Lincoln, and pretty much any company not named BMW or Mercedes is facing the same problem. The Europeans aren’t doing too hot either. The Tesla Model 3 is eating everyone’s lunch.
Ultimately, the brand isn’t in danger of imminent collapse. China is Cadillac’s most important (and lucrative) market now. The XT6 isn’t a game changer but it’s a solid three-row that will likely win over a substantial number of customers. But the CT6’s cancellation in America cannot be talked about without discussing the missteps of a brand that has continually failed to define itself in its home market, even when it has the necessary ingredients to make that happen.