"It takes several things to come together to revitalize the brand," Carlisle said while at the wheel of a CT6 sedan that sailed along Interstate 96 near Detroit. "If you've been off people's radar screens, as we were, they're moving on to other manufacturers. We have to get back on their screens."
The challenges are daunting. Cadillac is now in the midst of a new reboot at a time when Tesla's products and other electric cars become the standard for luxury cars.
In some ways Cadillac does not really compete with other luxury brands Cadillac buyers often trade in Chevys and Ford, rarely deal with German makes, and almost 40 percent of Cadillac buyers are over 65 , compared to 20 percent for Audi, according to Cox Automotive.
Mr. Carlisle, who gives a distinct look with a head of close-up, silver hair and silver goose, demonstrated another of the sales arguments he relies on: the Super Cruise Assistant system. Using radar and cameras, it is able to pilot a car on shared highways. Drivers don't even need to keep their hands on the steering wheel. As long as they look straight ahead – an infrared camera monitors the eyes – Super Cruise does the steering, braking and accelerating as needed.
Such systems can have wide appeal because they can make driving safer and can make long freeways less taxing.
As the Super Cruise system slowed down the CT6 to keep a safe distance behind a silver Chrysler, Mr. Carlisle ticked off what he saw as Cadillac's progress. In China, now Cadillac's largest market, sales are strong and growing, although car purchases everywhere are declining. Two new sports vehicles have arrived in the lineup and cover an urgent need.