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Leaving the nest: Cadillac will seek greater independence from GM, chief says

Since taking over the luxury brand last year, Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen has tried to improve its image by distancing it from the rest of General Motors. He moved Cadillac’s headquarters from Detroit to New York’s trendy SoHo neighborhood, but apparently that’s just the beginning.

By 2017, Cadillac will report its own financial results, and it will also soon have a dealer network separated from the rest of the GM brands, according to a new report from Automotive News. Speaking to Wall Street analysts at a recent conference, de Nysschen said Cadillac will soon achieve a “higher degree of autonomy and self sufficiency.”

The Cadillac chief — who previously helmed Audi and Infiniti — said the brand will focus heavily on distinguishing its dealer network from the rest of GM, including revamping incentives to focus more on brand building than outright sales performance. Even with that shift in focus, though, de Nysschen hopes to increase Cadillac sales from 263,697 units in 2014 to 500,000 by 2020.

Like many luxury brands that are divisions of larger, mainstream carmakers. Cadillac has had a hard time protecting its prestige. Models like the Escalade, XTS, and SRX are based on platforms shared with other GM brands, which makes them seems less exclusive and puts Cadillac at a disadvantage compared to German brands in critics’ eyes.

Related: Cadillac will add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to certain 2016 models

Cadillac has cultivated its CTS into a legitimate challenger to German sports-sedan mainstays, and recently launched the smaller ATS. A replacement for the aging SRX is expected soon, and de Nysschen has discussed simply scrapping the Chevrolet Impala-based XTS at the end of the current version’s lifecycle. The popular and profitable Tahoe/Suburban-based Escalade will probably stick around, though.

The 2016 CT6 will likely also play a big role in Cadillac’s quest to restore its reputation as the “Standard of the World.” The bigger four-door model was unveiled at the 2015 New York Auto Show, but its somewhat staid styling and interior may dampen enthusiasm for the CT6 when it actually reaches showrooms.

While Cadillac is still in the midst of revamping its lineup, the pace of new-model launches may soon slow. After the launch of the next-generation SRX, de Nysschen said Cadillac will hold off on other new products until 2018 or later.

Brand building can only go so far for a business whose actual function is to build cars, so hopefully whatever Cadillac has planned now will be able to hold the line for a few years.