Cadillac CT4 & CT5 – A New Philosophy

The new Cadillac CT4 & CT5 have been teased, but is the new philosophy enough to save Cadillac? It’s no secret that the company has been sort of lost as of late. Recently, they brought on a new CEO, announced their new mission to focus on SUV’s and then released two new…Sedans. I mean, it’s not all bad, but the numbers don’t lie.

Since 2013 Cadillac’s sales and market share have been on a steady downward trend. Data pulled from Carsalesbase.com shows that across all models the sales decline has been consistent over the last five years.

Year Cadillac
All Model
Market
Share
2018 154,702 0.89%
2017 156,440 0.91%
2016 170,006 0.97%
2015 175,267 1.00%
2014 170,750 1.03%
2013 182,543 1.17%

The big question everyone in the board room at Cadillac should be asking themselves is, “how could this happen”. I mean, Caddies were once the cream of the crop. Every mobster dreamed of owning one. Mary Kay gave one away and they were sort of the crown jewel of American luxury, despite Lincolns best efforts.

Well, I hope those clowns are reading this because class is in session.

Lesson 1 – Keep Your Enemies Closer

Cadillac CT4 & CT5

The Godfather, Michael Corleone, laid it out when he said “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” and Cadillac should take that to heart.

By friends I mean GM and by enemies I mean the Germans and now Koreans. By trying to create operational synergies they went too far. They became more and more dressed up GM’s rather than Cadillac’s and this is a huge problem.

While the other luxury automakers were busy tuning their offerings on the Green Hell, Cadillac was dickin’ around with GM executives trying to figure out how to use one chassis for every model.

Then the sneaky Koreans came in with some serious luxury offerings like the K900 and G90 and suddenly Cadillac wasn’t really anything special anymore.

As a last ditch, they created the ATS which had a shining example of a chassis that rivaled the CTS, but it was too little. The interior was cheap and the infotainment center was mickey-mouse at best.

When you play around with the big dogs you gotta get off the porch. If Cadillac was smart, they would have spent less time playing grab ass with GM and more time ripping apart what the competition was doing right.

Lesson 2 – Economics 101

It’s been said that economics is essentially the study of incentives and GM clearly slept through this lesson. Steep discounts and unbalanced dealership incentives created a market where Cadillacs couldn’t hold their value.

When you are willing to take huge dollars off the price tag in an attempt to sale as many as you can it is a double edged sword.

First, the market gets flooded with cars that were sold far below their perceived value. Eventually, the perceived value drops to match the prices being paid. Then, consumers catch on and they start waiting to buy new ones when they can easily snag a used one for over half off. This perpetuates the need to offer discounts as new inventory sits dormant.

Large supply and low demand for the price forced Cadillac into a situation where they had to dust off the Econ book. They looked at the graphs and said: “Oh shit, we better lower our prices”. And that made the situation worse.

Instead of correcting their pricing, they should have corrected their product. I have written before about luxury cars and perceived value and the importance it has on a brand. If they had incentivized buyers with more premium products rather than lower prices it would have created a way different perception.

And that brings us to lesson 3.

Lesson 3 – Image Is Everything

Do you know why people want to drive luxury cars? It’s not just how great they drive and how well they feel to be in. No, it’s something more. It’s the feeling of having “made” it when you pull it out of the garage. Neighbors ask questions, people wonder, and you feel really good about yourself.

Once you flood a market with cheap vehicles that don’t compare to the other luxury offerings in the field they lose all prestige. Inevitably, the only people who want them are, ironically, the ones wouldn’t be able to afford them if this situation hadn’t happened in the first place.

This is the final stage and it is currently where Cadillac rests today. When I was car shopping I found great examples of used ATS and CTS sedans that were well equipped in the sub 20-30K range. Anyone with decent credit and 500 bucks a month can afford that with nothing down.

In order to charge a premium you have to be premium. Somewhere, Cadillac forgot this and as a result their brand image suffered serious damage.

Cadillac CT4 & CT5 – First Impressions

GM has an unhealthy obsession with making every car look like the Camaro and I’m just not sure it works here. The exterior is a mix of the classic vertical headlights and taillights integrated with the Camaro-like horizontal headlamps.

The side profile is more Sportback than sedan, almost like they are trying to hop on the Audi S5 bandwagon. And inside is basically a rip off of the older BMWs with the gear selector looking so similar to a 3-series it’s almost annoying.

Its Infotainment screen is pretty much a bigger version of BMW’s horizontally focused screen as well. The gauge cluster is finally something worth looking at with a mixture of analog and digital in the middle…just like the Germans.

The backseat looks ultra cheap and shitty with two center-mounted vents that look like they are from a 1987 Bronco. Overall the interior look’s kind of like a Malibu.

Cadillac CT4 & CT5 – Engine Options

The CT4 replaces the ATS and the CT5 replaces the CTS. While being shorter in length, the new cars have longer wheel bases in an attempt to more closely align them with their competitors sizing.

The base engine is a 2.0-Liter four-cylinder that was in the 2016 CT6. So you know…just a four-year-old four-banger. It makes the same 237-hp and 258 b-ft of torque. Basically, they just took the worse part of the CT6 and thought, “They’ll love it!”.

In the CT5 there will be an optional 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that is good for 335-hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. This way you can spend the same as an Audi S5 for less performance and less luxury.

All engines will be paired with a 10-speed automatic.

Cadillac CT4 & CT5 – Trim Options

Alright, here we go. Trim options in order of cheapest to most expensive:

  • Luxury trim = base
  • Premium Luxury = base + extras with chrome accents
  • Sport = base + extras with black accents
  • Platinum = best, depending on whether you like sport or not I guess

Inside the door panels are still not wrapped in leather or leatherette, it’s that same plastic-like material and basically, the buttons still look cheap and kind of like they come from the Chevy parts bin. New for 2020 is volume knobs…thank God.

Seats are heated and cooled with optional massaging and a 10-inch touchscreen is standard. Driver screen is standard at 4-inches and can be upgraded to 8.

New is the design philosophy on smart phone integration which thankfully Cadillac has taken to heart. Wireless charging, a cord tuck-away, two USB ports up front, and a phone tunnel so you don’t have to leave it in the cup holder or your lap.

Cadillac CT4 & CT5 – Pricing

Rumor has it the CT4 and CT5 will be starting in the $40K range which I think is fair, but not helping Cadillac’s branding at all. They are now in Acura territory where despite making nice cars that drive well, they just aren’t viewed as a luxury anymore.

Conclusion

While all this sounds somewhat negative I think that Cadillac is on the right path here. For starters, they are now competing with the C-class, 3-series, and A4 in pricing. If they can deliver on driver engagement they are providing an awesome alternative to the common German digs that everyone drives.

Styling is more modern and they are clearly making an attempt to ditch the image of being a brand for old people. Interior-wise it really isn’t bad looking despite being somewhat of a rip-off of other brands.

That being said it seems like Cadillac is trying to pull younger crowds into the drivers seat and then get them to upgrade into the more robust offerings over time. This is a good strategy.

I have written before on why I think the CTS-V is a great car. I think if Cadillac can continue to make cars that drive well, but focus on branding and positioning themselves in the market a little better they will do fine. The CT4 and CT5 seem to be Cadillac’s way of hinting at just that.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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