* GM plans to beef up retail network for Cadillac cars
* Cadillac stores to total 200 by end of 2013
* GM breaks ground for a Cadillac plant in Shanghai
SHANGHAI, June 19 General Motors Co's
strategy to make its 110-year-old Cadillac brand one of China's
top-selling luxury rides went up a gear on Wednesday as the U.S.
automaker unveiled plans to expand its retail network in the
world's largest car market.
The company aims to quadruple its share of China's luxury
auto market to 10 percent, or about 250,000 cars, by the end of
the decade, with new Cadillac models leading the charge against
a strong field of competitors.
The Cadillac is crucial to GM's China strategy even though
the Detroit company has a long way to go before it can mount a
serious challenge to fast-starting European rivals such as BMW
, Mercedes and Audi, which
dominate the Chinese luxury space.
"We are not only expanding in tier-one and tier-two cities,
which would be pretty logical to Cadillac, but ... China's
high-growth areas could be in tier-three or even four," GM's
China operations chief Bob Socia said at a roundtable with
reporters ahead of a ground-breaking ceremony for GM's new
Cadillac plant on the outskirts of Shanghai.
The plant will eventually have capacity to produce 160,000
cars a year.
GM is aiming to boost Cadillac's annual sales in China to
about 100,000 cars by 2015, up from 30,000 last year.
Socia said the number of Cadillac stores would jump to 200
by the end of this year, from 69 at the end of 2011, as demand
for fancy cars spreads from big Chinese cities such as Beijing
and Shanghai to smaller regional centres.
GM also sells luxury brands Buick and Chevrolet in China,
but GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson has prioritised Cadillac as
the vehicle to take on competitors including Ford Motor Co
and Japan's Toyota Motor Corp.
"We'll bring in our high-end, premium products here, and
we're going to see how we run against our competitors in Europe
and Japan," Akerson told reporters in Shanghai.
Akerson has given GM five to six years to establish the
Cadillac brand -- once synonymous with classic American features
like extravagant tailfins and glittering chrome -- on the same
footing as more popular rivals in China.
Revitalised with new models, GM says Cadillac sales are
growing in the United States at a pace not seen since the 1970s.
But the edgy new designs, with sharp creases and flat planes
inspired by U.S. stealth fighter jets, have failed to impress
China's wealthy car buyers who have voted with their wallets in
favour of smoother-looking European rides.
Akerson himself has admitted that aspects of Cadillac
designs have been "ugly" and aimed too much at the North
For China, GM hopes to tap a refreshed version of the
top-selling Cadillac SRX crossover and local production of the
Cadillac XTS sedan in Shanghai, which began this year, to boost
Cadillac's China sales jumped 74 percent year-on-year by
volume in May, after nearly doubling during the previous month,
making Cadillac the fastest-growing among GM's brands in the
China has become a crucial market for makers of luxury cars,
with 2.7 million expected to be sold there each year by 2020,
overtaking the United States as the world's leader in the
GM plans to introduce more than 10 new or upgraded products
for its brands in China on average each year through 2016. GM
and its joint ventures sold a record 2.8 million vehicles in
China in 2012, up 11.3 percent from a year earlier.