London- Christian Soemmer, managing director Cadillac Middle East, expressed confidence in the “Saudi Vision 2030” to diversify the local and regional economy. During an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, he said the visit paid by the company’s president recently to Saudi Arabia to lay the foundation of a Cadillac stand-alone showroom in Jeddah is a clear validation of this trust.
Soemmer says that the vision of Saudi Arabia is an ambitious undertaking that will see a host of new opportunities for the country as a whole and specifically in the automotive industry. He addsthat Escalade contributes up to half the sales of Cadillac in the Saudi market, while the new luxury sedan CT6 has become a popular choice in Saudi Arabia, raising Cadillac’s share of the segment to 11 percent.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
*What are Cadillac’s projections for 2017?
-The year 2016 marked the beginning of Cadillac’s product expansion and promoting the brand. The year witnessed the launch of the first-ever luxury sedan, the CT6 and the all-new midsize luxury crossover, the XT5. The CT6 has had an impressive debut in 2016 with a phenomenal reception across the region, designed with new unprecedented innovations including the world’s first Rear Camera Mirror. In 2017 we are determined to continue to elevate the brand and emphasize our slogan “Dare Greatly.”
*How is Cadillac doing in the Saudi market in terms of volume and ranking compared to other regional markets? And what Cadillac models are best sellers in Saudi Arabia?
– Saudi Arabia plays an important role for Cadillac’s plans to grow in the region. We continue to achieve impressive numbers, with our flagship model the Escalade contributing to 50 percent of our sales in the Kingdom, followed by our midsize crossovers — XT5 and SRX — accounting for over 15 percent. Our latest luxury sedan, the all-new CT6 also proved to be a popular choice for our Saudi customers, helping to raise Cadillac’s share in its segment to over 11 percent.
* Saudi Arabia has announced an ambitious plan for diversification headlined “Vision 2030,” does Cadillac see any challenges or opportunities in its future Saudi operations?
– The vision of Saudi Arabia is an ambitious undertaking that will see a host of new opportunities for the country as a whole and specifically in the automotive segment. As the Kingdom grows and diversifies, we are in a great position to further expand our presence in the market, as we bring our own vision to become a market leader in the luxury car segment. Our focus on the region and our confidence in Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision and the opportunities it represents were evident with last year’s visit by Johan de Nysschen, president of Cadillac and executive vice president of General Motors, for the groundbreaking of the new Cadillac stand-alone showroom to open in Jeddah in the near future.
* What future plans has Cadillac for alternative drive trains (e.g. electric; plug-in hybrid) and autonomous driving technology?
– We are always open to bringing electric or hybrid vehicles to the region. However, this will be dependent on various factors including customer demand, availability of infrastructure and suitable regulations in the market. As a brand we are already making huge strides in electric and hybrid models, we launched our first plug-in hybrid car. The CT6 Plug-In, offers exhilarating performance, exceptional efficiency and an overall range above 650km with acceleration from 0 to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds.
* How far has Cadillac achieved disengagement from other GM operations? How did this decision reflect on its operations in the region?
– I always say that it is vision and focus that are driving Cadillac’s reinvention. In the Middle East, we currently have a dedicated sales and marketing Cadillac team. This creates a more focused business unit that looks after building the brand and translating the global brand vision on a local level. This is also being reflected in all of our dealerships, with all our markets having standalone Cadillac representatives for our sales and service operations.
* The current economic climate in the region is unstable; how do you see this affecting the performance of Cadillac in the region?
– The fluctuation in the oil price was always going to present a challenge for the industry as a whole. However, as a brand, we believe that with every challenge comes opportunities. We believe in the quality of our products and so do our dealer partners in the region, as we can see from the level of investment in all aspects of the business, including people development, technology and infrastructure. We will continue to keep the customer at the core of everything and will anticipate upcoming trends to meet our customers’ evolving aspirations.
* What were the highlights of Cadillac in this year’s expos?
– We showcased the Cadillac Escala concept that previews the design and technical ideas driving the next phase of Cadillac’s design lines. The concept vehicle highlights our vision for all of our future models while keeping all the hallmarks of a Cadillac model and technology, including the next generation display and connectivity.
* What models would be launched in the region during 2017?
– We will see further product enhancements … However our main focus will continue to be on the recently launched CT6, which redefines the luxury sedan segment with advanced technology and design and the XT5, which brings innovative engineering, craftsmanship and driving experience to the crossover segment. We will also look to push our performance V-Series vehicles, a lineup that is bristling with expressive design and exhilarating performance.