Cadillac is adding the 2020 XT6, a new three-row SUV, to its lineup to appeal to high-income buyers who want luxury and a sporty, day-to-day utility all in one.
"These are customers who are in the life stage of having an active lifestyle and they are CEO of everything," said Jim Hunter, Cadillac product manager.
Cadillac, General Motors' luxury brand, reveals the new SUV Sunday night ahead of the Detroit auto show. It is not releasing pricing for it yet.
Hunter said the customer demographics for the vehicle resemble those of the Escalade, Cadillac's full-size flagship SUV, which are: An annual household income of at least $200,000, 87 percent have a college education and most are in their 40s.
Cadillac designers designed the XT6 to be a "little brother" to the Escalade with the "stance and presence of a Cadillac, to be used for everyday life," said Andrew Smith, Cadillac's executive director of design.
"This fills the gap between the XT5 (five-seat SUV) buyer who needs something bigger and the Escalade buyer who needs something smaller," Smith said.
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Night vision technology
The XT6, which is powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, comes in a premium luxury model or a sports model. The luxury model is available in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive models. It also comes in a six-passenger or seven-passenger variant and has standard 20-inch wheels. Unique to the luxury model is night vision technology. The sport model comes in standard all-wheel drive.
Both versions are built around connectivity with two USB ports in every row, 15-watt wireless charging and 4G LTE WiFi.
Analysts have high expectations for the XT6.
“As Cadillac leans into building top-notch luxury SUVs, the resulting XT6 should be significant," said Brian Moody, executive editor for Autotrader. "As Lincoln raises its game, Cadillac will follow. Seeing two of America’s most luxurious brands compete is exciting for the business and excellent for consumers."
Cadillac is introducing a new or redesigned vehicle every six months through 2021, but it's focused on filling out its SUV offering as customer preferences have shifted from sedans to SUVs and pickups in recent years.
Strong SUV sales helped boost GM's third-quarter results. GM reported a net profit of $3.2 billion for the third quarter of 2018 before taxes, up 25 percent from a year before.
Reframing Cadillac's image
Cadillac launched the smaller 2019 XT4 compact SUV last fall. Industry experts said the XT4 is smartly priced, starting at about $35,000. In the fourth quarter, Cadillac sold 7,573 XT4 SUVs.
Smith said the XT4 has helped to "reframe" Cadillac's image from one of rappers and rock stars driving Escalades to young professionals. The XT4 campaign is heavily targeted toward millennial-aged women.
The marketing plan for the XT6 is still under development, said Hunter, who added that it will mix traditional advertising with social media and digital ads, similar to what Cadillac has done with the XT4's marketing campaign.
"Sedan buyers are a loyalty play, and this will bring in new buyers," said Hunter.
Hunter declined to say if Cadillac will offer an all-electric version of the XT6, but he said leadership will consider all options.
GM leaders told investors Friday that Cadillac will be GM's lead electric vehicle brand and the company will introduce the first model from GM's new electric vehicle architecture.
Cadillac needs new and better products. It ended 2018 with its sales down 1.1 percent to 154,702 vehicles.
Cadillac must improve quality, too. It ranked 27th out 31 brands in the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study released last year. It topped only Jeep, Fiat, Land Rover and Chrysler, which came in last. The study measures the number of problems per 100 vehicles original owners experienced during the past 12 months of 2015 model year cars.
Cadillac's boss Steve Carlisle is moving the brand's headquarters back to Detroit after it spent three years in New York. The idea is to be closer to Cadillac designers and engineers for better collaboration on its future vehicles.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Cadillac rolls out Escalade's 'little brother,' the XT6, at Detroit auto show