How Exclusive Should Cadillac be?

In 2004 Cadillac had achieved a new beginning.  The new CTS, SRX, and STS were being produced in the new Cadillac factory at Lansing Grand River, and the DTS came out of the 90s Cadillac home in Hamtramck.  The XLR was produced in the Corvette factory at Bowling Green, on a separate Cadillac assembly line.  Sure the Escalades were coming from the huge truck factories at Arlington and Ramos, but Cadillac almost had retrieved some actuality of independence and uniqueness within General Motors.

Today the CTS, CTS-V, CTS Sport Wagon, and CTS Coupe all are made at Lansing Grand River (LGR).  The STS, taking its final bow for 2011 is also a LGR product.  The new SRX comes from Ramos, and the Escalade production has all shifted to Arlington, Texas.  The new XTS replacement for the DTS is headed for Oshawa, Ontario to be built in the state of the art flexible manufacturing facility.  The production home of the ATS to my knowledge has not been announced.  So all in all Cadillac’s home continues to be the LGR facility, although their best sellers come from Arlington or Ramos, and soon (hopefully) from Oshawa.

Targeting a single-factory home like LGR would make Cadillac more like an independent Automobile Marque.  It would also mean limiting total production that Cadillac would be capable of.  Should General Motors target a certain level of production in order to ensure exclusivity for Cadillac?  Or should GM continue to produce and sell as many Cadillacs as the Public can consume?  Limiting production would have the advantage of driving up residual values for leases, and it would tend to drive up the average retail transaction price for Cadillac Dealers.  The obvious downside is fewer sales and less overall profit opportunity.  If Cadillac is to compete on the world stage with BMW and Mercedes, they need to get sales back to 200K / year or even the days of 300K / year of Cadillacs rolling out of the factories.  The upcoming ATS Family alone, if it is to compete with the BMW 3-Series, will need to sell around 100K examples.

I for one am confident that the current Cadillac team has the right feel for what makes a Cadillac uniquely a Cadillac.  It does not matter to me which factory Cadillacs come from, as long as when they arrive they are proudly and fiercely Cadillacs — luxury and performance automobiles built to a standard of excellence without compromise.

2011 is a bit of a transition model year for Cadillac.  Early retirement of the DTS, retirement of the XLR without replacement, and the fading STS sales may make calendar 2010 and calendar year 2011 sales a recent low point in overall Cadillac production. Upcoming arrival of the new ATS and XTS in 2012 or 2013 should drive a rapid blooming of Cadillac sales.  Hopefully with the CTS Coupe arrival the Dealer network can prosper though the fallow time until the new models arrive.

Bird’s Eye View: Cadillac at Lansing, Grand River

Bit of fun with Google Earth: here are shots of the General Motors plant at Lansing, Grand River which produces the current Cadillac CTS, SRX, and STS:


GM Lansing, Grand River (LGR) bird's eye view aerial shot

GM LGR street level shot of entrance

GM LGR street level shot of entrance

The factory at Lansing Grand River (LGR) has around 1,600 employees, and makes the Cadillac CTS, SRX, and STS models. The XLR is made at Bowling Green, Kentuky at the Corvette Plant. The Escalade is made at Arlington, Texas and in Silao, Mexico (ESV, EXT).  The DTS is made at Hamtramck, Michigan.

The GM factory at Lansing Grand River (LGR) opened in 2001 and was at that time the first new GM assembly plant since the Saturn factory opened in Springhill, TN.  The new factory was built on the site of a former Oldsmobile plant.  LGR has been very successful, and the new CTS, SRX, and STS produced there have been in the top 5 in the world automobile market in initial and four year quality scores as measured by independent surveys.  LGR has been a terrific success compared to the somewhat more storied Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly (wikipedia) plant.

Apparently LGR does offer tours 2 days a week, so good idea to check ahead if you plan to be in Lansing.  GMblog’s FYI covered Lansing in 2006:

On the tour, visitors see examples of the plant’s flexibility to build very different products at one time on the same line. They see parts being delivered “just in time” to team members by a very automated system. Visitors also see safety as the plant’s first priority; bright lights, polished floors, musical Andon boards, team members in common clothing and warm welcomes. Throughout the plant they see examples of how teams are engaged in the business, working to eliminate waste, and focused on quality.

Here is the official plant photo for LGR:

GMs Lansing Grand River plant

GM's Lansing Grand River plant

I was hoping to be able to zoom in on rows of new Cadillac waiting to head to Dealers for sale, but here’s a stock image of one on the test track:

2009 Cadillac CTS

2009 Cadillac CTS