The CT6 is the most sophisticated, luxurious – and arguably important – car in Cadillac’s 113-year history.

Developed to beat the world’s most prestigious luxury sedans at their own game, the CT6 culminates decades of work and billions of dollars invested in re-establishing Cadillac as one of the world’s most advanced and desirable luxury brands.

On paper and on the road, the CT6 has what it takes, but this battle will be won in buyers’ hearts and minds. Engineering excellence, brand-building and sales strategy must mesh seamlessly for the CT6 to succeed.

“It’s the next stage in Cadillac’s development,” IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said. “It’s critically important. Cadillac is on a journey. It must get everything right to win high-end luxury customers’ interest.

“The CT6 is more about attracting the right customer than simple sales numbers. Cadillac must get on the consideration list of people who buy the Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series.

“Right now, those buyers don’t think about Cadillac at all.”


Until Cadillac convinces that creme de la creme, the brand will have a hard time getting top dollar for the rest of its cars and SUVs.

“In many respects, cars like this establish the image of entire brands: The grand, impressive sedans,” Autotrends analyst Joe Phillippi said.

Cadillac won’t sell huge numbers of CT6s. The Mercedes S-class, unquestioned leader among top luxury sedans notched just 19,049 U.S. sales last year. That’s barely a month’s sales for the Chevrolet Cruze, GM’s best-selling car.

The payoff in establishing Cadillac as a top-tier luxury brand is potentially billions of dollars a year for GM, money that will help pay for new factories and technologies that can improve every car and truck the company builds.

“Top luxury sedans are where every brand makes its reputation,” Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen said last week before the CT6 got its first test from journalists. “They are the vehicles whose style, luxury, technology and dynamics define the brand’s image.”

Translation: If the CT6 succeeds, GM will make more on every Cadillac, from the big Escalade SUV to the ATS sport sedan.


“Cadillac must execute this car flawlessly,” Phillippi said. That requires far more than a sleek body and high technology. The CT6 has both of those, but that barely scratches the surface.

“The doors must close like a bank vault,” Phillippi said. “The look, feel and sound must all be exquisite.

“The stitching, seams, gaps between body panels must all be smooth, straight and consistent. Everything must be user-friendly. You shouldn’t need a master’s degree to figure out the controls.”

CT6 development began in earnest in October 2010.

In contrast to the detailed set of goals most GM projects begin with, chief engineer Travis Hester had almost unprecedented latitude. He was told the car should use a brand-new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, have an advanced and lightweight body and structure, and compete with the best big luxury sedans. How to do it was up to him.

“This is a real commitment to build real large luxury sedans for a brand that needs them,” said Eric Noble, president of the Carlab consultancy. “This requires discipline by GM to avoid discounting. They need to launch it, hold the price and let volume grow naturally as people figure out how good the car is.


“That’s not something GM does well, but they must. They have to be willing to let the CT6 be a well-kept secret, the smart buyer’s choice. Demand will grow from there.”

That bone-deep understanding of luxury customers is the reason GM hired de Nysschen, who led Audi to unprecedented success in the U.S. and briefly ran Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand.

De Nysschen’s role includes transforming Cadillac from a company that chased sales volume – often by cutting prices and profits – into one that embraces a sense of scarcity where some of its vehicles are concerned.
“GM’s top management understands you can’t chase volume with a luxury brand,” de Nysschen said.

“The CT6 is a car that is worthy of being nurtured. It takes us back into the market segment where Cadillac was born: High-end luxury. We will not push it.”

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