Cadillac debuts 3-row crossover XT6 to lure luxury buyers from rivals

Key Points
  • Cadillac debuted its three row XT6 sport utility vehicle on Sunday.
  • It is the latest answer to critics who have said Cadillac has been slow to develop faster-selling SUVs. 
The 2020 Cadillac XT6
Source: Cadillac

Cadillac debuts its three-row XT6 sport utility vehicle at the Detroit auto show on Sunday, filling out a lineup of luxury SUVs that many industry analysts say is long overdue.

In recent years, the brand once known as the "Standard of the World" has taken heat for being slow to respond to the shift toward crossovers and SUVs. With the XT6, Cadillac now has crossovers in three different segments, plus the full-size Escalade SUV.

The XT6 is a crossover, which blends elements of cars with a traditional truck-based SUV. It comes with a 3.6 liter V6 engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Buyers will be able to choose between one design option that emphasizes luxury, and another that focuses on performance.

The car will offer customers a blend of spaciousness, safety and convenience features, said Cadillac President Steve Carlisle.

Cadillac had a big hit with the Escalade in the early 2000s, but GM's premier brand later turned away from SUVs to focus on sedans and performance cars — just as the public was moving in the opposite direction. Cadillac suffered as rivals beefed up their SUV lineups.

Now, the brand is playing catch-up.

The 2020 Cadillac XT6
Source: Cadillac

In recent years the company has begun releasing a slew of SUVs meant to target these gaps, as the brand phases out slower selling sedans. Cadillac debuted the compact XT4 crossover at the New York International Auto Show in 2018, and the mid-size XT5 back in 2015.

Given how strong GM's other brands are — such as Chevrolet and GMC with SUVs and trucks — it is odd that Cadillac took so long to enter the SUV space, said Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting at LMC Automotive, a group that tracks the automotive industry.

The Escalade is a notable exception. It appeals to certain types of customers who either need an exceptional amount of space, or are buying the vehicle for its styling as a status symbol — or for the image associated with it.

As customers move out of sedans and compact cars, they are moving into vehicles just like the XT4, XT5 and XT6, which Cadillac is releasing years after rivals have already been in the market.

"I think the jury is still out, quite frankly, on where they go from here and how much they can accelerate within the premium segment," Schuster said. "They are not quite there yet, but they are doing what they can. They are getting the vehicles out, which I think is something they needed to do sooner and now we are starting to see them."

The XT4 and XT5, however, have been strong sellers in their segments, suggesting that Cadillac can play well in the market, even if it is late to the game.