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Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen expands on brand's future

And he has some off-beat theories on why people aren't buying sedans

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Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen chatted with journalists at a recent roundtable, expounding on everything from domestic racing to Chinese manufacturing. The brand's been doing a slow burn on rolling out new products and increasing sales, but admittedly, there was a lot of work to do. After closing out last year 0.8 percent down in the U.S., the domestic luxury brand is more than 5 percent up so far this year, thanks to healthy double-digit bumps for the ATS and Escalade, and increased fleet sales. Globally, the brand's doing 21 percent better.

The XT5 still outsells everything, though. Asked about slow sedan sales, de Nysschen cited a few reasons, one of them "energy prices," which are low enough to fuel the crossover craze. You can also read that as another admission that Cadillac doesn't have enough crossovers to please the crowds, a fact the XT4 will soon address. Yet de Nysschen also pegged the sedan malaise on "younger consumers who really are less tuned into dynamics and handling and all of those things that used to excite enthusiasts. It's more about the way cars complement and enable their lifestyle now." He topped that with a take on U.S. roads, saying, "I also have to say it may also be influenced a little bit by the decay of America's infrastructure. When roads no longer support high-performance sport sedans and ultra-low-profile rubber, people are going to respond to it."

Those latter takes seem wide of the mark. Yes, BMW is the established leader, but the Munich carmaker sold 8,806 3 Series' so far this year in all variants, compared to 2,543 ATS coupes and sedans. Mercedes-Benz has sold 8,366 C-Class models so far in all variants. As for infrastructure, yes, it's a mess, but AMG sales rocketed up nearly 50 percent in the U.S. last year, nearly 10 percent of overall Mercedes sales, and the Three-Pointed Star expects that to rise again this year. People are buying sedans and performance models. They simply aren't buying enough of them with Cadillac badges.

Cadillac has no plans to go racing in Europe since the brand doesn't have the kind of presence there to justify the investment. De Nysschen said they'll stick with the Daytona Prototype International formula in the U.S. domestic scene, and continue with the tech transfer from race to road. We're not sure what that means for the V and V-Sport brands, but the company president said we will see more of the V: "Not all Cadillacs will feature Vs [in the future], but certainly a far broader part of the future portfolio will see this sport and V-Sport execution." Since every sedan save the CT6 already gets a V or V-Sport model, anyone up for an XT4-V?

As for a Chinese-built Cadillac after the short-lived CT6 PHEV being imported to the U.S., the brand chief said that ultimately, "it stands to reason that global OEMs would like to integrate their global manufacturing footprint including China into their global supply chain." In other words, if a China-made car is legal in other markets, why not have the option of exporting it wherever needed? Regulatory schemes don't support that concept on a large scale right now, nor do outsiders' perceptions of Chinese manufacturing. But it's somewhere over the horizon.

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