By on November 6, 2012

For a number of years, Cadillac has been carefully cultivating its angular look, with cars like the CTS and XLR setting the tone for the brand’s designs. In America, the “Art & Science” look was greeted with enthusiasm. But Chinese consumers aren’t so receptive to it, and that’s bad news for a brand that’s pinning its expansion hopes on China.

The distaste of Chinese consumers towards Cadillac designs is apparently rooted in Confucian notions related to aesthetics, which Reuters explains below

 The preference for smoother, curvier cars stems from ‘Zhongyong,’ a Confucian concept that stresses harmony, according to Fu Liming, who teaches transportation design at Jilin University in northeast China.

“In cars, the Zhongyong concept translates into unified lines and curves,” Fu said. “Cadillac’s design isn’t soft, its angles and arcs aren’t smooth enough.”

While the SRX does well in a field where buyers seek out a distinctive design, cars like the CTS and the SLS (a Chinese market long-wheelbase sedan) are saddled with the dual burden of having the wrong design and thirsty engines. Apparently, pre-bailout GM didn’t have the resources or inclination to help Cadillac adapt to world markets, but things are set to change. First among them; a softening of the “harsh” angles currently employed by Cadillac.

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40 Comments on “Cadillac’s Angular Aesthetic Not Working So Well In China...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “First among them; a softening of the “harsh” angles currently employed by Cadillac.”

    Thank the good dude… I love how it takes the Chinese to complain before they fix the fugly.

    • 0 avatar
      dash riprock

      I do not know if it was the chinese market that is solely forcing cadillac to change. I would think that since they could not possibly make them more angular, the only road forward design wise is softening the look.

      Not defending the cimarron, but IMO the srx is the ugliest cadillac in my time. Have a friend with one and in picture or in person not for me yet they sell

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Naah, a few hours in a rock tumbler would fix the SRX. The CTS coupe, on the other hand, is a special, irredeemable kind of ugly.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        +1. A friend picked one up in black, hate the thing… my exact thought to myself when I saw it was “well at least its the right color”.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        The SRX “sells” because they’re discounted so heavily.

        I helped a family friend lease one and it was an AWD Luxury edition trim one, with an MSRP of 44k, and their lease payment came in at under $350/month with nothing due at inception.

        The actual transaction price that the dealer used for the sale to mark the lease was $33k and change, so that’s 11k off of sticker.

        I don’t find it as ugly as the Lincoln MKX, with its baleen whale impression, but the SRX isn’t exactly the prettiest crossover on the road. Then again, I think almost all crossovers are either boring or hideous.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        I don’t own a CTS, nor am I ever likely to buy one, but I find the CTS Coupe attractive in a strange 80s way …

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      That angular look started with the first generation ’66-’68 Eldorado, the last year of which I still think is a nice looking car. Maybe the designers need to go back and look at the proportions, especially the front clip. Other, classic cars had celebrated boat tails, but now Cadillac is pushing the battleship bow. It’s beginning to remind me of Bunkie Knudsen’s horse collar grilled Pontiacs of the ’60s and Fords of the ’70s: a fad too far.

  • avatar
    ott

    I guess Cadillac needs to brush up on their Feng Shui.

    • 0 avatar
      Advo

      I would guess that has a lot to do with how well the styling is received. It also doesn’t help that Cadillac’s is so polarizing. I’m more used to it over the year, but it’s still not my cup of tea.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    CTS = Good looking
    SRX = Horrible abomination that should never have moved beyond the drawing board. Proportions, cohesiveness, details, all wrong. Looks cheap and adolescent.

    Amazing how the same design language translates so differently between models

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I think this generation SRX looks suspiciously like the first gen Lex RX (at least in the above image), and those things sold very well when they first came out.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Devil must be in the details, because I’m not seeing the resemblance. I actually like the way the first-gen RX looks but cannot stand this SRX. Don’t much like the recent RXs, either.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Maybe I’m on crack but I see the shape from the A pillar back, although this SRX looks a bit longer than RX300.

        Now that I look at it 30-mile, I really think the grille/emblem combination is hideous with that front end, looks so cheap and afterthought. The grille itself looks like a 2 dollar piece of misshapen plastic and although I have never liked that duckless emblem, it looks especially obnoxious with that grille and fascia. A nice traditional cross hatch grille (think 90′s Fleetwood) or mesh (as with CTS-V) with the traditional crest and V underneath would do it wonders in the looks department.

    • 0 avatar
      sckid213

      They updated the grille on the ’13 SRXs with a much more intricate pattern. It looks much better IMO.

      I think the SRX looks best in dark colors (dark gray or black). I also think the headlights are too big which gives it a wide-eyed look up front. Nonetheless, these seem to be selling like CRAZY, even here in LA.

  • avatar
    BigMeats

    This elevates my opinion of Chinese consumers.
    I’ve always thought there was some Aztek DNA in these Caddys.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    No Caddy Bling in Beijing? Aren’t these both thirsty and slow?

  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    I think the ATS has hit a decent balance of sharp edges and relatively smooth curves. It’s distinct and doesn’t look like any other GM cars. If the ATS signified future Cadillac designs, I’d be alright with the changes.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    I really love the look of many of this generation’s Caddys, but damn that one in the photo is ugly. The overall body shape and proportions look pretty good. Unfortunately, the giant slash on the side is bad and the front end is truly puke-inspiring. You don’t have to be Chinese to find this design inharmonious.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    This is great!

    The Zhongyong concept, if the Chinese have any REAL influence on American automobile design, means my next Impala will finally have THREE tail lights for true design harmony…

    Being somewhat serious, does that mean they want Chinese GMs to look like mid-90′s Geo Prizms or seemingly all other jellybean cars of recent vintage? I hope not.

    As for as the huge front ends of cars, thank the government and safety regs that mean if a car hits you, you’ll just be killed instantly and not enjoying one last flight as you go sailing over the hood, roof and back end to land in the driver’s path that’s tailgating you, to be run over.

    For me, I love the sharpness of the SRX and wish I could afford one and the XLR was our dream car for a number of years. Keep the sharp edges, Caddy, please.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      “As for as the huge front ends of cars, thank the government and safety regs that mean if a car hits you, you’ll just be killed instantly and not enjoying one last flight as you go sailing over the hood, roof and back end to land in the driver’s path that’s tailgating you, to be run over.”

      Epic. About fell out of my chair Zackman. Thank you.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Me too, Zackman! I’ve been in love with the Art & Science Caddys since they were released. To me, they’re distinctive, not much else looks like them. I think it’s because they’re a blend of several cars that I loved first, one being the original AMC Javelin & AMX and the late 70′s B-body big GMs.

      My father’s first car after emigrating the the US was a (used) 1953 Caddy, and even though he later defected to Ford/Mercury ownership, that fact has always stuck with me. Even later in life, he compared his Mercurys with Cadillacs.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    I think it is mostly a pricing issue.

    Cadillac for the most part is imported and the Chinese government adds a huge tax. I believe it adds up to a tax of over 25%.
    Cadillac cannot compete effectively with other Chinese built luxury vehicles in the value department.

    Cadillac does not command the prestige of say a BMW to allow for an inflated price tag.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Indeed, the singular fugly element is the incongruous shape of the headlights. And it’s known that people everywhere can’t help but anthropomorphize about cars, and headlights are the ‘eyes’ of this face.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    They ought to love the XTS then. That profile could hardly be more vanilla.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I find all the Caddies fugly.

    And – one gets GM’s D engineering prowess to boot.

    As always, I concede my one exception: ‘Vette.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The one pictured above has too many shades of grey, too many textures and angle combinations, and too much adornment.

    I just realized how much I hate the SRX. Previously I just ignored it, but it’s willfully awful.

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    I guess I’m one of the few (perhaps only?) that actually liked Caddy’s recent razorblade design look. I even think that the SRX is quite nice looking. **Don’t hit me!!**

    But I’m open to improvement too so if they can come out with a nice design then I’m all for it.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    I wonder how the Cadillac Ciel was received in China?

    Not sure if it was even shown.

    But, if the Ciel represents the Cadillac DNA going forward, I think Cadillac will have alot of success going forward.

    Both the Ciel and CTS have gorgeous rear haunches that somehow blend wonderful bulbous fenders that tie into a razor sharp theme at the tai lights.

    The next Escalade hopefully gels the CTS/Cien recipe…

  • avatar
    suspekt

    This is what Cadillac needs to build. A flagship car modeled on the Ciel design ethos. I believe they need to build something close to this. A range topping V series with a supercharged 6.2 LT1 with 700HP wouldnt hurt either… However, the deign must be world class which the Ciel is.

    http://stwot.motortrend.com/files/2012/09/Cadillac-Ciel-sedan-rendering-rear-three-quarters-1024×640.jpg

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    Maybe China doesn’t want to buy products built in Mexico. I wouldn’t buy one either. Bad enough my American made GM trucks were crap, can only imagine how bad made in Mehico ones are.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    I thought Confucianism was officially banned by the Communists, since it advocates loyalty to the traditional Imperial system?

    Part of this could be that Cadillac is still essentially a new brand for the Chinese. Art & Science felt like a breath of fresh air for American customers, after we saw the marque hit such horrific lowpoints over the previous 2-3 decades, but for someone without that frame of reference to compare to, it might not look so good.

    The design language really seems to work better on some cars than others, the ATS and CTS are great, the XTS and SRX are seriously awkward. The China-only SLS seems to do an OK job of blending a few curves in with the angles, and the ATS actually looks like it’s returning to those themes.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    Awful looking POS but it took the Chinese to get it changed, these cars have been fugly from the off only eclipsed by licolns

  • avatar
    otaku

    Ugly Cadillacs finally referred to as ugly. News at eleven…

  • avatar

    I’m glad to hear this. Cadillac was getting close to releasing a monstrosity like the Pontiac Aztek…

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Few cars have had the owner satisfaction numbers the Aztek generated. It may have been ugly on the outside, but the folks who actually owned them, loved them.

      Hard to believe, I know.


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