Ciel provides clues to how Caddy will fill thin lineup

AutomotiveNews notes: Could a four-door Cadillac convertible be on the horizon?

Anything and everything is open to consideration, says Clay Dean, global design director for Cadillac.

Dean was at a press event to introduce to Detroit media the Ciel, a convertible concept that suggests the styling direction Cadillac might embrace for a future flagship.
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The design pushes the brand’s so-called art-and-science philosophy into a new stratum. Distinguishing fender lines run the length of the Ciel, and nickel-plated brightwork accents the body lines. The spacious interior seats four and features Italian olive wood plus nickel-plated accents.

“Cadillac is throwing out some ideas about size, configuration, form, color, interior technology — and seeing what people think,” Dean says.

In August, Cadillac disclosed plans for three future products.

With sales growth for General Motors’ luxury brand stagnating for the first time in two years, the spate of future-product news, and teases such as the Ciel, is probably no coincidence.

With the recent phasing out of its aging DTS and STS sedans, the brand is stripped down to just the CTS sedan, SRX crossover and Escalade SUV — brisk sellers all, but the ebb in product cadence has prevented Cadillac from seizing the momentum it generated last year, when a 35 percent jump in sales made it the fastest-growing luxury brand.

Don Butler, Cadillac’s vice president of marketing, acknowledges that such a thin lineup puts the brand in a difficult spot. He says unveiling vehicles like the Ciel — even if only a concept — is a reminder to luxury buyers of Cadillac’s bold direction.

“It kind of adds to the psyche of positive momentum with the brand, a future look at what it could possibly be,” Butler said.

The first drops of rain could fall on Cadillac’s parched product landscape by “late spring” when the ATS compact will begin arriving in showrooms, Butler said. The XTS large sedan is set to arrive later in 2012.

Dean says the Ciel is more than a dream car. A few styling cues will evolve into the next generation of Cadillacs.

For example, a vertical strip of light-emitting diodes is positioned at the Ciel’s front corners, composing the headlight and fog light treatments. The striking lighting treatment will be a major styling element of Cadillac’s future cars, Dean says.

The taillight treatment consists of a vertical strip of red LEDs. Look for that design element to evolve on the next generation of Cadillacs.

The four-door convertible’s rear doors are hinged at the rear, an arrangement often dubbed “suicide doors.” The last four-door convertible offered by the Detroit 3 was the beautiful Lincoln Continental in the 1960s.

Asked if a four-door convertible is under consideration, Dean teases: “A vehicle like this happened in the past. Why wouldn’t it happen in the future?”

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