- Cadillac has dropped plans to build a $100,000-plus flagship sedan.
- The decision could lead to the development of a range-topping coupe or sports car, possibly with an unconventional powertrain.
- The prospective Mercedes-Benz S-Class competitor was under review for several years, but the business case for the high-end Cadillac sedan didn't add up, insiders said.
DETROIT — Cadillac has dropped plans to build a $100,000-plus flagship sedan, a decision that now could lead to the development of a range-topping coupe or sports car, possibly with an unconventional powertrain.
The prospective Mercedes-Benz S-Class competitor was under review for several years, but the business case for the high-end Cadillac sedan didn't add up, insiders said.
"It was more than a study, but less than an approved production program," according to an industry source who is familiar with Cadillac's future vehicle plans and asked not to be identified. General Motors management determined "this idea isn't working and (decided) to rethink what the product" should be, the source told Edmunds.
For now, the 2014 Cadillac XTS will remain the brand's top-of-the-line sedan, with prices ranging from $45,000 to $65,000.
A person within GM who is familiar with the program told Edmunds, "It does not mean that we are punting on the idea of a flagship. All it means is that one particular niche/specialty car maybe is not going to make it. There is an awfully good chance that some other idea will come around and take that spot." He asked not to be identified.
A $100,000-plus flagship has been on Cadillac's wish list since 2002. The midengine, 12-cylinder Cien concept was introduced at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show. A year later, Cadillac introduced the Sixteen concept, a large, elegant sedan with a long hood and a 16-cylinder engine.
Before bankruptcy and after, GM executives had talked about adding a model other than the Cien or Sixteen with a price tag exceeding $100,000, possibly as high as $135,000, to rival Germany's luxury brands. But the issue with the six-figure flagship sedan that was being considered apparently was credibility.
The proposed flagship sedan "kept getting closer and closer and shared more and more with the Omega when somebody wisely said, 'this is a stupid thing we are doing here,'" the industry source told Edmunds.
Omega is the code name of GM's new rear-drive luxury platform. The first car that will be developed off that platform is a sedan that will be added to Cadillac's model line in 2016 or 2017. However, that car will carry a price tag that is tens of thousands of dollars less than the Cadillac flagship that was being considered.
"I have one cool car where I charge $130,000 and I have a nearly cool car that I will charge $65,000 for, and they look the same size and they are both four-door sedans," the industry source said. Conceptually, "it was getting way too close to Omega to justify the price they thought they could charge."
With the sedan scrapped, Cadillac is expected to turn to a different vehicle type.
"A flagship car can be a high-performance sports car the way Audi has used the R8 to be their flagship in North America. (Cadillac) could do that," the industry source told Edmunds.
BMW is developing the i8, a stylish, high-tech, plug-in hybrid coupe that is expected to debut in 2015 and become the brand's flagship model.
At one time, Cadillac considered a large, stylish coupe with a conventional powertrain. The brand early next year is introducing a smaller coupe, the 2014 ELR, with a plug-in hybrid powertrain that is derived from the one used in the Chevrolet Volt.
"There was a contingent (at GM) saying that a super ELR that uses a really leading-edge technology drivetrain could be a flagship, and they are right, it could," the industry source said. "I am not saying an ELR, but I am saying a fuel-cell car or whatever."
"Your options for a flagship are multiple," the industry source said. "You don't have to do an S-Class Mercedes or a (Rolls-Royce) Phantom. You don't have to do that car. There are other options."
Edmunds says: Will ultra-premium buyers be able to wrap their heads around a car — any car — with a Cadillac badge and a $100,000-plus sticker?