The United States is still the largest market for GM’s luxury brand, Cadillac. Even optimistic projections don’t show international sales surpassing domestic sales until the end of the decade, according to Cadillac’s VP of marketing, Don Butler.

According to Automotive News (subscription required) Cadillac will sell some 150,000 new vehicles in the United States this year, but only 50,000 to the rest of the world. Despite extensive development and  testing in Germany, Cadillac expects to see its biggest growth in China, far from the European market.

Is that a sign that Cadillac has an image problem in Europe? Actually, it’s a content issue, and as GM CEO Dan Akerson explained to Automotive News, “To go to Europe without having right-hand drive or diesel is, in my estimation, premature.”

Conceding that Cadillac had work to do before it could successfully grow its presence in Europe, Akerson justified the push into the Chinese market as a matter of numbers. By 2020, China is expected to account for 40 percent of the world’s luxury vehicle sales, and more shoppers equal more potential unit sales.

Even today, China is a significant market for Cadillac. Of the previously mentioned 50,000 units Cadillac will sell internationally this year, roughly half will go to China.

Success there isn’t guaranteed, and Akerson sees Cadillac as having to push to firmly establish the Cadillac brand as a premium luxury marque. Should Cadillac succeed in China, Akerson then sees the company as being well positioned for further global expansion.

For Cadillac at least, the road to Munich takes a detour through Beijing.