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The Globe and Mail

Less talk, more cars needed for Cadillac to compete

Let me take you back to 2006 for an interview I did with then-Cadillac general manager Jim Taylor.

I suggested to him that Cadillac should have a far, far broader lineup than it did in 2006. BMW, I noted, makes something like 18 versions of the 3-Series during the lifespan of that model – printing money all along the way.

Cadillac should have at least half a dozen or more derivatives of the CTS, I suggested: a coupe, a convertible, a crossover, a station wagon or estate, different power trains, pricey versions, inexpensive versions and on and on and on.

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"Why doesn't Cadillac do this?" I asked.

"That's a pretty good question," said Taylor, an engineer and product developer by training and in my experience a pretty straight shooter. "I'm not sure how to answer this without saying we don't comment on future product programs. Let me say it's a really good idea and we're looking at this."

He then went on to say making a whole bunch of CTV variants would be good business.

"Each subsequent investment is cheap compared to the first one," he said, noting that once the pricey engineering is done for a basic CTS platform, the rest is relatively straightforward.

Except, of course, nothing was ever straightforward at General Motors in its pre-bankruptcy days. Today there is, in fact, a CTS sedan, coupe, sport wagon and the high-performance CTV-V. We'll call that progress. But Cadillac still does not exploit the CTS underpinnings extensively enough. And the rest of the lineup is woefully thin.

Moreover, in Canada, Cadillac is not sold through its own exclusive dealer network, as is the case with BMW, Audi, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti. In Canada, if you want a Cadillac you'll need to walk around a showroom filled with Chevys and Buicks and GMC pickups. Taylor once told me, on the record, that Cadillac in Canada needed its own exclusive showrooms and he was roundly criticized within the company for doing so – for speaking the obvious truth.

Fast forward to today. Automotive News reports that a four-door Cadillac convertible could be on the horizon, along with a bunch of other Cadillac models. Clay Dean, the global design director for Cadillac, told the publication that anything and everything is open to consideration.

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He said so in Detroit this week at a media event to introduce the Ciel. It's a concept that suggests the styling direction Cadillac might embrace for a future flagship. Promises, promises.

At least the upcoming ATS is more than a promise. It's a compact, rear-drive Caddy due in the spring and aimed at the 3-Series. Cadillac, says Automotive News and other published reports, is also planning to launch the XTS, an all-wheel-drive sedan due in the summer of 2012. The XTS replaces the STS.

We know this: Cadillac needs a lot of new models and has needed them for decades. The urgency is most acute now, though. The DTS and STS have been phased out, leaving Cadillac with only the CTS lineup, the SRX crossover and the Escalade SUV. The latter looks like a dinosaur in our "green" world of today, doesn't it?

The current vice-president of marketing at Cadillac, Don Butler, told Automotive News that Caddy's thin lineup is a problem, but at least the Ciel suggests a future direction for what was once a proud luxury brand.

The fact of the matter is, Cadillac needs to deliver in the post-bankruptcy world – and fast.

"We've done a lot of talking," Dean told the publication. "We need to do a lot of work at Cadillac. We know that."

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Oh, yes, Caddy officials have done plenty of talking over the years. It's time to walk the walk, as they say. Taylor said as much to me many times during his tenure at GM. He could see the problems and the opportunities and the potential solutions.

Unfortunately, at least from my perspective, he's no longer with GM.

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