By on May 23, 2012

Reports of a next-generation Cadillac Escalade, due in 2014 after a brush with the Grim Reaper, have us asking the all-important question; what was GM thinking in trying to kill the car off in the first place?

The Escalade is, without a shadow of a doubt, the Cadillac brand. Sorry, the CTS-V isn’t it, and the XTS is destined to become something that you ride in the back seat of when you get dropped off at the airport.

The SRX may just be a generic GM crossover with Cadillac styling, but the Escalade is even more cynical. It’s just a Yukon with a few plastic Cadillac bits. And yet, it is the core product of Cadillac, offering irresistible profit margins and peerless name recognition.

Why GM wanted to kill it off is an utter mysery. Even with gas prices at record highs, the Escalade could still have lived on as a status symbol for the vulgar and ostentatious. GM claims that the margins on the Escalade were too fat to walk away from, but let’s be real for a second. Killing off the Escalade would mean that Cadillac would flounder, Lincoln-style, with a bunch of product that can’t quite hold its own next to the foreign competition that Cadillac is so desperately trying to fight.

The fact is that Cadillac needs this truck in the same way that it needs to stop trying to sit at the same lunch table as the cool kids. The Escalade, awful as it may be, is American luxury. Big, bold, over-the-top, profligate and firmly in opposition to everything the cap-and-goggles throttle-steer crowd stands for. Beyond that, the Escalade is an important halo vehicle for a lot of buyers reared on hip-hop music, many of whom are the target customer for the ATS (hey, even MCA of the Beastie Boys was pushing 50). Kill it off and what’s left? The SRX? Well, I’ll let ODB tell you what I think of that one (NSFW language)

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68 Comments on “GM Decides Not To Kill Off Cadillac’s Best Known Product...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Escalade – the last REAL Cadillac?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Ok, I’ll give on everything except equating MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock with the Escalate set. Or anything to do with Cadillac. At all.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    I didn’t realize that they were actually thinking of killing the Escalade. Holy cow what a bad move that would have been!

    Derek, I completely agree with you about this vehicle being The Cadillac. I’m not a GM fan, but a black Escalade always looks expensive and big and ostentatious to me. That’s what a Cadi should be. You can’t buy anything like this from any competitor.

    • 0 avatar
      someclevername

      Range Rover? LX570? Merc GL, or even G?

      All of which are arguably far superior cars to the Escalade.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Depends on your use. The vehicles you mention are generally more expensive and based off of platforms geared for third world usage. As such they arent generally as plush and are somewhat more complex. As a Land Cruiser owner I can tell you they are fairly maintenance intensive and said maintenance is far from cheap. The others you mention are even worse. If I just wanted to cruise to the mall I’d look at the Escalade over those you mention.

    • 0 avatar
      Caboose

      I know it’s “only” a sedan, but the Chyrsler 300c, particularly in Luxury Edition (or maybe SRT8) trim, is my vote for BBW Car of the Year.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    In terms of brand image, I think GM should have killed this off. For me, it’s an echo to “old” Cadillac. Big showy cars with a “bling” factor, in this instance. Cadillac today are trying to compete with German luxury cars (i.e Luxury cars with a sporty bent, to them), while Buick are taking on the Japanese luxury cars (i.e luxury cars geared towards comfort). If Cadillac want to pursue this brand image (and why shouldn’t they? It’s a good image to have), then, I feel, the Escalade would bring the image down. They would be better off scrapping the Escalade and design a new SUV with a sporty twist to it complete with the edgy styling Cadillac offer on the CTS, SRX and ATS*. Kind of like an SRX that’s just had some growth hormones.

    However, from a pure economics point of view. If the vehicle is still selling in sufficient enough numbers at an ample profit margin….then carry on making the bloody thing! Brand image is important, but big, fat profits are VERY important!

    * = On a related note, does anyone else think that Mercedes-Benz are copying a lot of Cadillac’s edgy styling? Put a C-Class and a CTS side by side and tell me I’m not going mad…

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      It’s tricky, you know? Sometimes you have a brand image that you want to present, but your best-selling product is presenting a different image. That happened to Acura in the nineties: the Integra/RSX was selling gangbusters, but Acura was supposed to be the luxury car competitor to Lexus and the Germans, and not the import sport tuner crowd’s car. So they got rid of it, and the NSX halo sportscar while they were at it, focusing fully on luxury sedans. Now Acura is, well, not doing so great.

    • 0 avatar
      Aqua225

      But I think the point of the article was that the Escalade is its own product segment. The Japanese or the Europeans have nothing to match it.

      Why eliminate all your easy profit, and attempt to do what you haven’t done very well in the past — duplicate German &/| Japanese luxury cars?

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      The current C-Class and CTS were launched around the same time, so I doubt any copying happened.

    • 0 avatar

      Wait till you see an ATS and a C-Class side by side.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      No offense, but fuck competing with the Germans. Everyone and their mom built their luxury brands on that 3/5/7 garbage and only the Germans are really winning at it. Caddy needs to go left

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    “The Escalade is, without a shadow of a doubt, the Cadillac brand. Sorry, the CTS-V isn’t” – With that statement, you should have a place on the GM Board of Directors. You have proved that at least SOMEONE knows what Cadillac means. The Escalade is the new Fleetwood Brougham or De Ville convertible, which formerly meant Cadillac.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    What were they thinking? There are enough NFL players, NBA players, Rappers and drug dealers to sell at least 10,000 of these a year. I’d buy one if gas were $1.25 a gallon.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    It’s a no brainer to keep these alive. There is almost no R&D investment, the chassis is shared with GMT900 across the board and the net margin on each one sold has to be OBSCENE.

    I wouldn’t buy one – given the Yukon Denali shares the engine, driveline and chassis, and the interior is ALMOST as nice, with a $10,000 savings.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    If I were 6’10”, I wouldn’t think that the Escalade is so outsized. It has its niche. I agree it would be stupid for GM to discontinue it or even to fail to freshen/redesign it.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Since you can get the exact same thing with a Chevy badge, I’m thinking this is, in some ways, the 21st Century Cimarron.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      The Cimarron wasn’t a terrible Cadillac because it was a Chevy. It was a terrible Cadillac because it was an economy car.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The J-Car was hardly competitive with a contemporary Honda Accord, and Cadillac was attempting to pitch its version against a BMW 3-Series.

      • 0 avatar
        "scarey"

        @Dan- No. It was a terrible Cadillac because it was a Chevy. Chevvies are not Cadillacs, and Cadillacs are not Chevvies.
        No one faulted the XLR for having Corvette bones because it was a Cadillac everywhere else.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        They did fault it for being slower, uglier, and costing twice as much as the Corvette.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      You cannot get the same thing from Chevy – the frame is the same – that’s about the end of it. Sheet metal is not shared, engines are not shared, transmission, AWD system and transfer case is not shared, interior bits aren’t shared…

      • 0 avatar
        LectroByte

        So it’s a rebadged GMC instead of a rebadged Chevy, a distinction no doubt lost on many people. The point remains that the perception is out there.

  • avatar
    geeber

    GM is between a rock and a hard place.

    On the one hand, the Escalade sells, and it is generally the first vehicle people think of when the name “Cadillac” is mentioned.

    On the other hand, the Escalade reinforces the notion that, if you scratch a Cadillac, you’ll find a Chevrolet underneath.

    The real problem here is that Cadillac’s passenger cars haven’t made much headway in redefining the brand, and are still ultimately also-rans in their respective segments. The CTS certainly isn’t a bad car, but I doubt that it has gotten many people out of their BMWs or Benzes.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      (says a silent prayer asking for forgiveness for defending an Escalade)

      You may indeed scratch this and find a Chevrolet underneath, but not a Cruze, or, yeesh, an Impala. You’ll find a Tahoe or Suburban.

      The Escalade is as cynical as they come, but that’s because Cadillac has fallen far while Chevrolet (Truck division) has risen.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Don’t know how you can call a tarted up Tahoe “the cadillac brand”. You want luxury in a BOF truck, order yourself up the much better looking LTZ Tahoe. Not only it is void of the tacky chrome accents, gaudy bling and homely front end but you also lose the the mileage robbing AWD and gain a real 4WD truck with a transfer case that offers a low range. Take the money you saved and go buy a boat to put behind it. After all the these GM vehicles are built to tow and if your aren’t hooking something up to the back of it on a regular basis you have no business owning it. I can’t think of a better vehicle for GM to kill.

  • avatar
    86er

    Linked article also mentions that Lincoln will bring out a new Navigator “mid-decade”.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    As long as they’re selling in decent numbers it really doesn’t make any any sense not to continue to update and sell the Escalade. Typical GM nonsense, eliminate a model they’re making money on. Wonder why the Escalade is the only Caddy model with an actual name?

    While the imports have long established alpha numeric names all Cadillac and Lincoln have managed to do is confuse people with their model names.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    If the Escalade is Cadillac, GM is in worse trouble than I thought it was.

    They desperately need to build luxurious (not sporty, not German, not economical) sedans. The sedans need to be big enough to seat 5 comfortably and have a big enough trunk for five suitcases or five golf bags. No more leather seats, you wouldn’t put leather furniture in your living room. No more climbing up a ladder to get in like the Clade. No squatting and diving to get in like most modern cars.

    Build it from the inside out. How about moveable pedals and enough leg room for the driver to stretch his legs. Hire a spinal surgeon to make sure that there is enough lumbar support, and that everyone can sit up comfortably. Oh yes, and vision, lots of vision all around. After you get the inside right then do the rest of the car.

    Motive power should come from big, vibration free engines. Straight sixes and V12s. It should have enough power to drive without strain on American roads. Unlimited speed Autobahns are not a factor, but even on the East Coast, you sometimes must be able to out accelerate a semi on a hill. Dual mode hybrid is OK, but fuel economy is a secondary consideration.

    Like power, the suspension, handling, and tires should be a source of security and comfort. They should not be built for hoons or autojurnos who think they are hoons. Your customers do not hang the rear ends of their cars out on turns, do high speed chases, or lap race courses. Lots of electronic nanny is good. Low profile or low resistance tires are bad. Communication with the road is to be discouraged. Roads never have anything intelligent to say. Comfort is important, road feel is not.

    • 0 avatar
      BobAsh

      Trunk for five dead hookers, not golf bags. You use dead bodies to describe the size of a real Cadillac’s trunk.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        That is sick.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Whole or in pieces? It’s a lot easier to pack your dead hookers if they’ve already been broken down than to cram them in whole..

      • 0 avatar
        BobAsh

        You buy a Cadillac so you don’t need to cut your dead hookers up. For transporting them in pieces, you can get a BMW…

      • 0 avatar
        Patrickj

        Better still if you can put the five bodies in the trunk and the rear end stays level with the front.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        It is sick and unamusing. Beyond that it reveals an affinity with the “hip-hop” and “gangsta” mentalities that are a marketing dead end for any company wanting to sell luxury items to upper class customers.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @ Robert Schwartz:”That is sick.”

        Absolutely right!

        People who’ve never had real contact with gangsters or gangstas have no idea how repulsive they are.

        Even if you are trying to make a tongue-in-cheek joke, there’s not a d*mned thing to emulate by their actions.

      • 0 avatar
        BobAsh

        @Robert Schwartz: You are boring, square and have no sense of black humour.

        And besides that, measuring trunk capacity is not hip-hop or gangsta thing. You don’t put dead hookers in the Escalade, because there are windows in the back and it would stink inside.

        You put dead hookers in the Deville or Eldorado. And I doubt anyone today would avoid a car because it’s associated with types like Sam “Ace” Rothstein from Casino…

        Cadillac just needs to make its customers an offer they can’t refuse.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        “@Robert Schwartz: You are boring, square and have no sense of black humour.”

        That is what my children tell me. Black humor (please note the correct American spelling) is not useful in trying to understand marketing issues.

    • 0 avatar
      rwb

      Wait, what’s wrong with leather furniture?

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        Pick up a high end home decoration magazine, or talk to a high end home decorator. The fancy living room or parlor has cloth upholstered furniture. Leather upholstered furniture is for the family room, library, or other less formal room.

    • 0 avatar
      Darkhorse

      Robert: You nailed that one. Those are the Cadillacs I remember growing up in the 50s and 60s, the cars that doctors drove. Even our local parish priest had an all black 1960 Sedan deVille. I can remember he’d pick up four or five of us boys and take us for a ride in the country. Wait….wait… I need a hypnotist..

  • avatar

    I’m a little confused as I thought they were keeping the Escalade, but shifting it to the Lambda platform. I assume that a Lambda-based Cadillac is still on the way, but that it will now be called something else.

  • avatar
    areader

    I doubt that anybody who buys an Escalade feels they’re overpaying for a tarted up Chevy. The Yukon Denali is a lot closer in features, but it’s not a Cadillac. What confused me was awhile back when GM announced they were killing the Avalanche but might continue the Escalade EXT. That would really be nuts. But maybe I just can’t even imagine how profitable these things become with the Cadillac badge.

    http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/best-cars-blog/2012/04/Chevrolet_Avalanche_Discontinued_After_2013/

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    If anything, Cadillac should kill every model BESIDES this and maybe the CTS-V.

    This is the last remaining true Cadillac.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Kill it, not kill it. when I think of Cadillac I think of Sedan deVille and Coupe deVille. Or I think of the 1920/1930’s Cadillacs.

    Vehicles like this just don’t interest me, which of course means in 10 years I’ll probably be driving something like it.

    Regardless, I don’t think these killing this is a wise move only because it’s showing a good profit. Hopefully the new product coming from Cadillac (ATS, next CTS, forget the XTS) will help to redefine the brand in a new direction.

    They really need attention to detail and also fit and finish to lead the segment not be middle of the pack and they need to do that for years not just hit and miss the way they are now with different models.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    The hating on the Cadillac brand is mostly all done by those who would never buy one anyway. Although I have never bought a NEW one, I have had 2 De Ville convertibles and a Sedan De Ville. I WOULD buy an Escalade. CTS does not say “Cadillac” to me.

  • avatar
    Terry

    Hello all! I realize this is a different time, but as a child of the ’50s, the name “Cadillac” conjures up, to me, visions of ’50s-’60s Sedan DeVilles, Coupe Devilles, and Eldorados.
    Back then, Cadillac represented the very best America could produce. Their own Cadillac-specific engines and features not found in lesser GM carlines.
    So I have to ask..does today’s Cadillac represent the very best vehicle this country can produce?

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    I love the exhaust note of the Escalade the Tahoe and Yukons do not sound that good.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “The Escalade is, without a shadow of a doubt, the Cadillac brand. Sorry, the CTS-V isn’t it”

    You’re absolutely right. However, GM runs the risk of marginalizing the brand if the market decides to punt on the mega-SUV. There are already signs of this change being underway, and it wouldn’t be wise for the company to leave all of its luxury eggs in one very limited basket.

    Cadillac has a real slog ahead of it. I’m not quite sure what I would do to differentiate it, but I do know that copying the Germans is a losing game that GM can’t possibly win.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    As much as I like the idea of being able to ferry around 8 & have a huge car from time to time (my wife has a large family & my own family is growing quickly…), the whole rap-hip-hop-star thing is off-putting. With that being said, my dislike for the “image” the Escalade brings is NO reason to kill it off. If it’s a money-maker, by golly KEEP IT GM.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      In Mexico the preferred Vehicle for VIP drug lords is a black or white Escalade. Usually with pimped wheels and tinted glass so dark that you could use it as a welder’s eye protection.

      You are absolutely right, the image of the Escalade is associated with some lowlifes

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        I’m not sure if it was an Escalade, but sometime in the last year or two there was a mistaken identity case where a rival drug dealer rammed an SUV off the road & killed several teenagers who were lost & trying to get home.

  • avatar
    ronbo56

    I had Yukons and Suburbans for years until I ran into a perfect storm of incentives and got an Escalade for about the same cost as a Denali. I liked it! Out here in the burbs it had lots of company and didn’t stand out at all – you should have seen all the elephants at school drop-off.

    All of these cars had enormous tow/haul capabilities: I used to tow my race car on an open trailer and could fit two sets of tires, four gas cans and all my tools inside. I once caught myself doing 80 with the trailer behind me – I was towing 5,000lbs and forgot! Also, I admit it was fun to show up at the track with my ratty 944 and an Escalade.

    I didn’t replace it because I didn’t need all the room, and I’m happy to spend less at the pump, but I never regretted driving it or any of its Suburban-based brethren.

  • avatar
    NN

    An Escalade has presence like historical Cadillac’s did. A Tahoe/Suburban also has presence, but not like an Escalade. That is what it is all about, and that is what Cadillac needs. Yes, the presence comes from the chrome, how sharp it looks in black, the higher quality interior, and the exhaust sound (which is phenomenal). A black Escalade EXT has gobs of presence, more than any other SUV on the road save the extinct Hummer’s. It’s like the SUV version of an S-Class…it might not be best in class, but there is something about it that oozes money and success and it will never get old unless they truly let it go to crap. Have you been in one of these? They are huge, they are clearly American, and they are undeniably unique and cool. Who cares if it gets 12mpg, so does a high powered German car, and they serve a similar purpose (presenting their owners as having status).

    Cadillac would be stupid to kill or or downsize it. If anything, just try and differentiate it more from the Suburban with some higher quality bits (maybe try real chrome instead of plastic)

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    Hey Cammy. I see plenty of cars besides Mercedes that have ripped off CTS STS styling. Everybody from the Germans to the Koreans have done it. My 08 STS doesn’t look dated because many newer cars used the same styling cues.

  • avatar
    ezeolla

    When I valet, I love when one of these pull up. It usually means an up-front tip (because they want it parked somewhere nice) and it is just so much damn fun to drive around even at extra slow parking lot speeds. It’s just so satisfying to drive one.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    The Escalade is nowhere on my list, even though it may best represent Cadillacs of the past, presently.

    I for one, would love a CTS-V wagon. (Really, any variant of the CTS) I just recently picked one up at the local Wal-Mart, in 1/64th scale.

    It’s about all the closer I’ll get to one for some time to come…

  • avatar
    Dr. Claw

    The continuous swipes at “hip-hop” and even insofar as trying to dissasociate the Beastie Boys with the brand (hello, they are a hip-hop group, no matter their ventures outward from the genre) above are about as awful as the author believes the Escalade to be as a vehicle in today’s market.

    That being said, I agree with the author in that the Escalade is about the closest you’ll ever get to being as bombastic as the Cadillacs of old once were. Yes, the Escalade is cynical. Yes, its origins are rather humble. But you can’t deny that it is effective.

    I much like the new direction of Cadillac’s passenger vehicles, and am excited to see them make truly unique and identifiable products. But it will take much time for GM to lean on them as the main attraction.

    We live in a time where a blasted SUV or CUV is required motoring for every brand (even unfortunately, Lamborghini and Bentley. If Ferrari makes one, I’m logging off for good). Cadillac makes the only one in this class to really challenge the Range Rover for ubiquitous status symbol. The other “big” SUVs just don’t have it (not even the G-Wagen, which I find superior to every other one — or the Cayenne).

    I sort of like it this way. The Cadillac cars of now are hidden jewels, and with each further iteration, Cadillac seems to “get it”. They’re certainly a far cry from the Cadillacs of my youth, which though they might have a good deal of “unshared” parts, you still could see the GM family resemblance much more clearly than you can today’s models.

  • avatar
    alluster

    Kill the Escalade and you are going to lose a lot of high income customers. The Escalade is the preferred mode of transport for all the snobby, uppity soccer moms in Greenwich and New Canaan CT, two towns that are most likely the richest. These women wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan, let alone one made by Honda, Toyota or Chrysler. Lately, I am seeing a lot of Acadia Denalis too.

    Since 99% of its customer base never off-road and wouldn’t know the difference between BOF or Unibody, Cadillac would be wise to build the next one off the Lambda platform, but keep the SUV like styling and throw in the e-assist with a bigger battery for much better fuel economy.

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