GM to build new Cadillac at Detroit-Hamtramck

General Motors Co. will build a new, top-of-the-range Cadillac car — bigger than the XTS — at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant.

GM CEO Mary Barra is planning to make the announcement Friday, the company confirmed.

The automaker has been installing new tools and equipment at Detroit-Hamtramck for the yet-unnamed flagship car. Production is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2015, GM said.

The high-tech car is expected to be a low-volume model — at least initially. GM is not saying if additional jobs will be tied to production of the car, but the addition of new vehicles typically helps secure jobs at plants. The company and the United Auto Workers have been talking for years about adding a second shift at Detroit-Hamtramck.

“We’ve been told they’re going to (add a second shift),” UAW Local 22 President George McGregor said. He said he doesn’t know when it would be added or how many more jobs it might bring.

About 1,600 Detroit-Hamtramck workers on one shift build the Volt, plug-in hybrid Cadillac ELR, Opel Ampera, Chevrolet Impala and Chevrolet Malibu on one production line.

Production at the plant has been halted for retooling for the new Cadillac and other vehicles since mid-August; it is expected to resume in mid-November, according to UAW Local 22. The local represents hourly workers at the plant.

GM this year said it would invest $384 million into the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which straddles the border of the two communities, to build the next-generation Chevrolet Volt and make investments for two other cars it did not name.

The automaker and the union for several years have discussed the possibility of adding a second shift at Detroit-Hamtramck.

In April, Gerald Johnson, then GM’s vice president of North American manufacturing, said the carmaker expected that investments at the plant could lead to some hiring, but he would not say if a second shift would be added. Johnson then said that while GM “certainly hopes” to add a second shift, it would be driven by demand for vehicles.

The big Cadillac will give the brand an entry in a top luxury segment in which it doesn’t compete, helping to build Cadillac’s image and enabling it to reach influential new customers, said Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen.

The rear-wheel drive car is expected to go head to head with the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which have starting prices of about $75,000 to $95,000.

“People notice what brands successful people choose. And so if you can begin to position Cadillac there and draw them into your driver profile, then over time, then ‘halo’ cars like that help to develop brand image,” he said in an interview. “Because more and more, the brand is then associated with success, with affluence, with people who change the world.”

The new car will join a lineup of Cadillacs that have not sold strongly this year compared to the luxury competition, despite high acclaim.

Cadillac’s U.S. sales through August are down 4.7 percent, with sales of the ATS and XTS sedans each falling more than 20 percent.

New Caddy bigger

Cadillac’s Global Chief Marketing Officer Uwe Ellinghaus, in an interview this month, said the new model is bigger and more luxurious than the CTS.

“We don’t think the CTS, as great as the car is, is the end of our dreams, our aspirations if we really want to be an emotional brand,” he said. “Therefore, the company has decided to invest in a proper luxury sedan that will be … a top-of-the-range car.”

Ellinghaus said the new car keeps the design language of its redesigned CTS and will be the lightest car in its segment. He said the car will be shown early next year.

Last month, Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, said Cadillac was working on a large Cadillac sedan on a new platform that would come out in about a year.

New LaCrosse in works?

Some analysts expect the other car coming to Detroit-Hamtramck is the Buick LaCrosse and speculate that it could come to the plant in mid-2016. GM has not commented on what the other vehicle is.

The next-generation Volt will debut in January at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It will be a 2016 model and analysts say production could begin in fall 2015.

The new Cadillac will become the fifth model of that brand built by GM in Michigan. Besides the ELR at Detroit-Hamtramck, the company also builds the ATS, ATS Coupe and CTS in Michigan at its Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant.

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