Car enthusiasts seem to love to play the what-if game when it comes to their favorite concept cars that never made it to production. If only the suits would listen to our better judgment they’d be rolling in the do-re-me and we’d be rolling down the road in our dream cars. With certain brands, the same names keep popping up. Talk about reviving Lincoln, and 2002’s Continental concept is cited as being brand-true, along with the Mark IX coupe from the previous year and the later Mark X convertible based on the Thunderbird/LS platform. Now comes word in a story leaked to the Automotive News, that Cadillac will not be putting the Ciel show car, another high profile show car from a luxury maker that enthusiasts hoped would see production. Neither the Ciel nor any sedan derived from that open four door car will be made. People working on the Ciel based flagship have been reassigned to other projects.
The reason given was that Cadillac is currently developing a RWD flagship sedan intended to go toe to toe with the 7 Series BMW, S Class Mercedes Benz and LS Lexus starting in late 2016 and that the Ciel didn’t, in the words of AN “offer enough brand-building pizzazz to justify the investment”. One of AN’s sources said that managers at GM decided that the Ciel, which would have been easily over $100,000, wasn’t a big enough “departure” from the planned 7/S/LS competitor, already under development. Reportedly, styling elements from the Ciel will make it to the planned sedan, but then the new CTS already shows some of that influence.
Either that 7 Series competitor is going to genuinely astound people or the idea that the Ciel didn’t have enough pizzazz or wouldn’t be positioned far enough above that competitor is one of the bigger prevarications associated with the brand since they said the Cimarron was a genuine Cadillac.
They want us to believe that the as yet unnamed flagship sedan is going to bring so much awesome that a car that left nearly all observers waxing gobsmacked and/or poetic with it’s shear awesomeness was just not awesome enough to see the green light to production.
People didn’t just like the Ciel, even the article in the Automotive News describes its reception as drawing “raves”. The Ciel was a huge hit when it was introduced during the Pebble Beach concours festivities in 2011 and then again on the auto show circuit last year.
At Pebble Beach it sucked the air out of just about everything else on display that week. When people are talking about your car instead of nearby Duesenbergs and gullwing SLs (or more important, that people were not talking about the cars and concepts Cadillac’s competitors were showing), I think you’ve got some brand-building pizzazz.
No, it wasn’t about the pizzazz of the Ciel, or lack thereof, as with many such things it came down to cost. The suits couldn’t justify the Ciel in terms of dollars and cents ROI. Of course you can’t measure brand image in dollars and cents.
As with Lincoln, this wouldn’t be the first time in recent years that enthusiasts screamed “take my money!” while Cadillac (or the suits at GM, more likely) demurred. There was the centennial Cien in 2002 with a purpose built midship 60 degree V12 based on Northstar architecture. As stunning as the Cien was, a sports car, let alone a supercar, isn’t really brand consistent. What was brand consistent was the Cadillac Sixteen. Big, bold, and undeniably a Cadillac. Of course the V16 wouldn’t have made it in an eco-conscious age, but in terms of making a brand statement, the Sixteen still resonates.
Not just because it was one of the earlier expressions of Cadillac’s brand identifying Art & Science styling theme but because it was everything that a Cadillac should be, beautiful, bold and brash, but with a modicum of taste. As a matter of fact, even the Automotive News article putting out GM’s spin on the stillborn Ciel mentioned the Sixteen as a perennial suggestion for a Cadillac flagship.
This is nothing new. There are brand enthusiasts who insist that if the company had put the Predictor into production, Packard would still be with us here today.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS