China Keeps Cadillac’s Party Raging by Tim Cain April 24, 2017April 24, 2017 Share Comments Cadillac expects to see auto sales in the United States in calendar year 2017 fall just below 2016’s best-ever results, which GM’s premium brand considers a positive sign for the U.S. auto industry and Cadillac. While the decline reported America’s auto industry in March 2017 drew headlines because 2017’s first-quarter encompassed three consecutive months of year-over-year decline, Cadillac’s chief marketing officer, Uwe Ellinghaus, views the results through another lens. “What they call a cooling off I say is the best thing that has ever happened,” Ellinghaus told Automotive News. “We don’t see that the party is over. It’s continuing.” Cadillac? Party? Huh? As the U.S. auto market surged out of the recession with numerous premium brands setting all-time annual sales records, Cadillac’s U.S. volume fell 6 percent in 2014, perked up only slightly in 2015, and then fell to a four-year low in 2016. Yes, that 2016, the one in which the U.S. auto industry recorded its highest-volume year in history. Compared with 2005, when Cadillac’s U.S. volume rose to a 15-year high, sales last year were down 28 percent. During the same period, Mercedes-Benz volume jumped 40 percent, BMW grew 17 percent, Lexus was up 9 percent, and Audi volume shot up 153 percent. Fast forward to 2017’s early results and Cadillac, through the first-quarter of 2017, is down 5 percent in a market that’s down 2 percent. Car volume has tumbled 12 percent despite the addition of the CT6. Cadillac has added some 2,400 CT6 sales to its U.S. ledger in 2017 Q1 (compared with 2016 Q1) but the brand has lost more than 4,100 sales across the rest of its car lineup. Plus, Escalade growth has stalled. If this is a party, you don’t want to be invited–unless the party is being livestreamed from the other side of the Pacific. Last year, as Cadillac’s volume declined in the U.S., Canada, the Middle East and totaled scarcely measurable figures in the rest of the world, Cadillac’s volume in China jumped 46 percent. That drove Cadillac’s global volume up 11 percent in calendar year 2016, a three-decade high. China accounted for 26 percent of Cadillac’s global volume in 2014, 29 percent in 2015, and 38 percent in 2016. And through the first-quarter of 2017? 50 percent. Actually, 50.1 percent. More than half. Cadillac’s Chinese volume nearly doubled, year-over-year, in the first-quarter of 2017. Cadillac’s Chinese sales will continue to grow as the market drinks in luxury vehicles. Cadillac’s Chinese success hasn’t turned the brand into a worldwide luxury powerhouse. Global Cadillac sales totaled 27,406 units in March 2017, less than the totals Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus produced in the U.S. alone last month. The idea of Cadillac as a viable long-term luxury brand, however, is becoming increasingly realistic. The idea of Cadillac hosting a U.S. sales party, on the other hand, seems increasingly far-fetched. But maybe an after party.