Ballooning U.S. Cadillac Transaction Prices Hide a Not-so-silver Lining

2018 Cadillac XT5 - Image: Cadillac

In 2017, the average U.S. Cadillac buyer walked out of the dealership after signing over $54,488 for a new vehicle. That’s almost $6,000 more than the average sticker in the luxury field, placing Cadillac among the upper echelon of premium cars.

However, the brand’s skyrocketing average transaction price — up 25 percent over the past five years — comes as the brand weathers a sales downturn in the U.S. market. That lofty 2017 figure has plenty to do with the models customers aren’t buying.

It’s starkly clear that 2017 was a terrible year for traditional cars, and not just at Cadillac. The public’s rapid, ongoing shift to crossovers and SUVs meant 2017 sales of Cadillac’s lesser offerings — the ATS, CTS, and XTS sedans — declined by the order of 39.1 percent, 35 percent, and 26.6 percent, respectively.

Overall, the brand shed 8 percent of its volume last year. Those sales were 14.3 percent lower than 2013, Cadillac’s best post-recession year.

As fewer buyers took home a relatively low-buck ATS, volume of the high-zoot Escalade and long-wheelbase ESV variant remained strong, declining by just 2.6 and 5.1 percent, respectively, last year. The midsized XT5 crossover also remained strong. As it sheds sedan buyers, the greater presence of SUVs in Cadillac’s mix  is boosting the average transaction price. Now, all Cadillac needs to do is field more vehicles buyers actually want.

It’s working on that. As Automotive News reports, Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen is more concerned with the brand’s fiscal health than reaching arbitrary sales targets. On the retail side, his initially controversial Project Pinnacle dealer overhaul is “doing as it has been set up to do,” de Nysschen said recently in Detroit.

On the product front, this year brings a XT4 compact crossover designed to mine gold in a very lucrative segment. A larger crossover is in the works, as are two sedans strategically designed to replace the ATS, CTS, and XTS after 2019. GM’s chief financial officer, Chuck Stevens, expects a doubling of Cadillac’s profits by 2021.

The U.S. market isn’t everything anymore, so Cadillac’s hardly in dire financial straits. Chinese buyers took home more Cadillacs than American customers last year, with the brand’s volume in that country rising 50.8 percent. Outside of the U.S. and China, sales rose 10.1 percent. This makes for a 15.5 percent global sales increase for the 2017 calendar year, something any brand would be happy to see.