New 500bhp mega-Caddy gets all-wheel drive, but possibly no right-hand drive
2 November 2007

An all new four-wheel drive, Corvette Z06-engined, BMW M5-baiting Cadillac CTS-V will become the flagship of the re-launched US brand’s line-up next year - but Autocar has learned that US bosses have yet to approve the car for right-hand drive production.The snorting 500bhp CTS, previewed by the CTS Sport concept shown at this week's SEMA show in Las Vegas, is still under development in the US. Over there bosses remain unconvinced of the financial case for exporting the super saloon to the UK, despite Cadillac bosses here fighting for the car to be imported as hard as they can. US bosses are worried that the limited number of cars likely to be sold in right-hand drive markets doesn’t justify the millions of dollars needed to engineer the car properly for them.If the new CTS-V is four-wheel drive, unlike any CTS gone before, the nature of its all-wheel drive system may make it all-the-more expensive to convert for right-hand-drive. All-wheel drive versions of Mercedes' C-class and BMW's 3-series, with a front-mounted engine and rear-mounted transaxle gearbox, require an extra driveshaft running forward from the transmission to the front wheels. In left-hand-drive models, this is routed through part of the front passenger footwell, and makes converting to right-hand drive prohibitively expensive. The same could be true for the new CTS-V.However, a decision to bypass the UK market with its halo CTS could still be interpreted as proof that Cadillac still doesn’t take Britain seriously, and given this week’s re-launch of the struggling GM luxury brand, that's exactly what the firm doesn't need.

Sales below supercar levels

Cadillac sales over the last two years have totalled “around 400”, according to new UK boss Jon Nash, whose has added the US luxury nameplate to his Saab UK responsibilities. This disastrous performance is a fraction of the 8000-or-so cars first forecast in 2005, when Caddy set-up in the UK. This year Cadillac hopes to sell around 400 cars, rising to 600 or so next year when the new CTS and BLS Wagon are added to the range, followed by sales of around 800 in 2009.Nash’s plan is “deliberately conservative. We’ve already over-promised twice, I don’t want to repeat the same mistake”.His control of Cadillac in the UK is, however, still a little remote. GM is continuing contracts with Dutch distributor Kroymans and UK dealer group Kroymans who have invested millions of pounds in dealers, parts warehouses and other back-up services. Nash, however, has control over marketing and brand strategy, which he now plans to concentrate 90 per cent of his resources on. “Get the brand right and we won’t have to struggle to sell cars, the sales will just come naturally,” he says.

Shaking off the Elvis connection

Nash has already been able to prune back the dealer network to five sites from ten, but there will be more in future, most likely operated by other dealer groups than Pendragon.One significant breakthough is a commitment by GM “for millions of pounds” — the exact sum remains confidential — for a solid advertising and brand marketing campaign to raise awareness of Cadillac’s current models in the UK.Knowledge of Cadillac among UK buyers continues to be dominated by historic links with 1950s pink Caddys and Elvis. “People just don’t know about the current models like the BLS and CTS,” says Nash.

Julian Rendell

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