DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — This week in Dubai, Cadillac unveiled its latest luxury SUV, the 2017 XT5. Again.
The Motown classic had shown reporters the posh crossover months ago in New York, but that was via a late-night helicopter flight over the Hudson. Crazy publicity stunt? Check. Except that angle high above the river made it tough to get a clear view. (Sure, that was the point. But still.)
So the Public School 2016 Pre-Fall Collection runway show that was held in the Dubai Design District offered the first time occasion in which people could touch and feel XT5. You read that right: A Public School fashion show in Dubai served as the car's real debut. Crazy publicity stunt? Checkmate. Presumably the Middle Eastern locale raised a stir over there, where Cadillac plans (hopes) to sell lots of XT5 SUVs.
The six-cylinder vehicle is important. As successor to the brand’s best-selling SRX, it is the first of Cadillac’s new XT- named crossover series. It is built on a totally new chassis that is 278 pounds lighter (and more efficient) than the current SRX. It's also 100 pounds lighter than main competitor, the Audi Q5, even though it's seven inches longer. Total power is 310 horsepower on an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The vehicle represents a critical part of Cadillac's plan to dominate foreign markets, which Cadillac head Johan De Nysschen has repeatedly stressed in conversations about the brand. Last month, Cadillac sales worldwide rose 16.9 percent (to 23,250 units) over the previous month, with sales in China up 23.4 percent, sales in Canada up 46.5 percent, and sales in the Middle East up 15.3 percent month-over-month. (U.S. sales rose 13 percent in the same period.) Total Cadillac sales globally have risen 4.5 percent for the year thus far.
To celebrate the launch, Cadillac and Public School made limited edition "#CADILLACxPSNY" shoes, sweatshirts, hats, and bags. It may seem an odd pairing, but the connection isn't too far-fetched.
"Public School’s street-style is an expression of the Cadillac bold and sophisticated mentality" is the line you'll get from any number of Cadillac executives, if you ask about it. Cadillac is an old American brand with plenty of money and not enough street cred. Public School is a young American brand with plenty of street cred and—with the right financial backing—plenty of room to grow.
Cadillac has hosted Public School shows at its new headquarters in Manhattan's SoHo and has a multi-season partnership to present fashion shows in connection with the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
This particular show is a big stunt and probably won't much move the bar for either brand. It does show that Cadillac's heart is in the right place, as it were, in currying favor with younger buyers in foreign markets. The company knows it needs to listen to creative minds from non-automotive fields in order to relate to today's luxury buyer, and this proves that the brand is willing to pay lots of money to do so. More than just marketing, the Dubai event reveals the mentality of those running the show at Cadillac's offices down in SoHo.
We can expect much more in this vein during the months to come. So far, so good.
The XT5 will launch early next year. Cadillac has not yet announced pricing.
By Hannah Elliott; editor: Chris Rovzar.