By on July 10, 2013

Cadillac Ciel

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.

Cadillac Sixteen

Cadillac Sixteen

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.

Cadillac Cien

Cadillac Cien

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.

Lincoln Continental Concept

Lincoln Continental Concept

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.

Continental Mark IX concept

Continental Mark IX concept

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.

Continental Mark X concept

Continental Mark X concept

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.


Packard Predictor, Studebaker National Museum, South Bend

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.

Please visit Cars In Depth for full photo galleries of the Cadillac Ciel, Cadillac Cien, Cadillac Sixteen, and the Packard Predictor.

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

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33 Comments on “Yet Another Cadillac Flagship that Won’t Be Produced...”

  • avatar

    Did you include the Lincoln concept cars just to make Sajeev and all other LM fans sad? I’ll need Zoloft and Paxil if you put pictures of the Lincoln concepts next to pictures of the current Lincoln lineup. I feel that Abilify black cloud sneaking up on me already….

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I hate, despise, loathe, and f*rt in the general direction of Gubmit Motors, but man, both the Ciel and Cien are stunning.

  • avatar

    The XTS has the best interior on the American made market.

    If Cadillac wants to compete with the A8, and Sclass:

    #1 add an optional V8
    #2 make the upcoming Twin Turbo V6 STANDARD. (Lincoln should do the same).
    #3 add powered headrest and waterfall thigh cushions instead of the manual bullsh!t you currently have.
    #4 increase the processing speed of CUE.
    #5 add heated/cooled seats in back.
    #6 add massaging device for driver and passenger

    #7 optional- build a plug-in hybrid version.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The Cadillac XTS does not have the pedigree to be a flagship along the likes of the A8 and S-Class (remember: at its root, it’s a stretched Malibu), nor is it imposing enough. It’s still a luxury vehicle, but it competes in a quiet-comfort luxury class, alongside the Lincoln MKS, Acura RLX and (ancient) Volvo S80.

      • 0 avatar

        Poor S80, they should have done more with it. I agree the XTS is a pretender in the heavyweight class. It competes in the quiet-comfort class with 3 other cars (which few purchase).

  • avatar

    I think the time is ripe for a Cadillac Cien using the new CTS design language. The CTSV Coupe is awesome but it’s too tall and not wide enough.
    I remember driving the XLR. It was a piece of poo compared to the Cien.

    I’d be happy in a car looking like the CIEN even if it only had the new TTV6 instead of the LSA.

  • avatar

    This is the right move. They need to put ALL of their focus into making a lineup that’s competitive with other luxury makes.

    If they wanna work on a one-off project, make a 6-Series Gran Coupe/CLS competitor, but more importantly, they need to work on and complete a BMW 7 / S-Class competitor, the LTS.

  • avatar

    As much as I would like to think that I might buy something like one of these should they ever be produced I have to reluctantly admit that, because of my inner cheapskate, the best I can probably hope for is that some of the features and/or design elements trickle down to other cars. To that end it makes little difference to me if they stay as show cars or actually make production.

    Cadillac should be aspirational but not totally out of reach. Something like the 16 would be priced so high that only conspicuous consmers could afford it. Fill the showroom with stuff like that and I won’t even bother about thinking about the brand.

    • 0 avatar

      But what about the aspirational aspect? Isn’t that what a halo model does – induces those to choose a lesser model and dream about “someday” owning that top-of-the-line car? I agree with others who say a full lineup of models is needed, but like a baseball team’s pitching rotation, adding an “ace” to a group of competent pitchers turns a competitive team into a championship team. In engineering terms, the halo demonstrates the company’s chops, and the pattern to follow is to trickle down the technology the the rest of the lineup. Isn’t that how Mercedes and BMW built their reputation?

    • 0 avatar

      I think of a totally aspirational halo vehicle for Cadillac along the lines of the ’57 Eldorado Brougham that cost more than a Rolls Royce. They didn’t make very many, and lost more money on each than Ford lost on each Continental Mk II but they made a statement about the brand that reflected on the regular Cadillacs and while Cadillac sales were down slightly overall in ’57, sales of the more expensive Fleetwood models were up significantly.

      They sold only 400 Eldorado Broughams, but sales of the 60 Special Fleetwoods went up 7,000 units to 24,000.

  • avatar

    The Sixteen is the best looking of the bunch.

    My gripe about concepts is that they push the boundaries to the extreme. You would never see any of these in production as shown.
    We commoners have to live with the damn things and USE them.. Sorry, but ridiculous 22″ and up wheels is just not reasonable for everyday use.

    Why can’t a concept be simple in form and have a strong image that encompasses many needs/tastes within a class? Putting out a concept like the Sixteen or the Cien is great for visual impact but beyond that.. Meh..

    Give me something I can see as a possibility.

  • avatar
    The Soul of Wit

    Yet another new model year of the fabled “Cadillac Chimera.”

  • avatar

    Disappointing as it sounds to the commentariat who could never buy one, it is probably the smarter decision in the long run – a production Ciel could very easily turn into a sort of Maybach for Cadillac; vastly more expensive than the big-German-car competitor with a bunch of unique parts and little sales or moneymaking potential. If the upcoming RWD car (about damn time!) is good enough, a production Ciel of some kind may be doable off of that one, especially in the LWB form that is possibly already being developed concurrently for China.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    When I was a young Co-op student at Oldsmobile, one of the engineers made a comment that struck me and stayed with me. He said, “General Motors is not in the business of making cars…..” I started to reply, “of course they are”, when he completed the message, “We are in the business of making money.” Every car maker is about the same thing, making money. Bloggers ideas of what they would like are incongruent with the fleet of new vehicles consumers actually buy.

    I wouldn’t write off a very high end Cadillac above the upcoming sedan, just not the one previously under development. It will have to pay for itself, at the very least, by enhancing the brand image, which, in the end is still all about money.

    • 0 avatar

      When I had the opportunity to work for GM as a co-op I was insistent on product development. The HR lady told me, “GM is a manufacturing company”. Sorry, I don’t want to be a UAW baby sitter.

      Obviously product development isn’t important to them? Or they weren’t interested in young kids with new ideas for product development?

      Anyways, GM hasn’t been in the business of making money for as long as I can remember.

      • 0 avatar

        Ed Cole was the last GM executive who understood that making great cars was how money was made. And he never made it to the top job—because he was a car guy and not a finance nerd. Instead, the shareholders got Roche, Gerstenberg, the two Smiths and Wagoner. Never was a coporation more richly deserving of its demise.

  • avatar

    good, the ciel looks fine at a Concourse, but in real life, outside sportsmen, i think few people with real money would plunck it down for something that came out of a batman film. Tighten up the excesses in the 16 and it looks like something much more viable.

  • avatar

    Even I, someone who pretty much hates all things Detroit, loved the Ciel. I think it would have sold well (for what it was). Maybe I’m prejudiced by the South Florida auto scene. Down here people will buy anything as long as it’s completely unique, regardless of cost.

    Of course few commenters can afford $100k cars, and if I had $100k to spend on a car, it would go to the Tesla Model S.


  • avatar

    The only production four-door convertible luxury car made in a long while was the Maybach Landaulet, which wasn’t even a full convertible, and Maybach is dead. With that in mind, I reiterate my past comments on this subject:

    1.) While I’m sure many people were hoping the Ciel would see production, I’m not aware of anyone at GM ever confirming that it would see production. Therefore, I never had my hopes up. The Ciel was a nice concept, like Mercedes’ Ocean Drive, but that’s all it ever was to me: a concept.

    2.) Cadillac needs to focus on getting their REAL flagship sedan, the S/7/A8/LS competitor, as perfect as possible, as soon as possible, and into showrooms.

    For years and years the Standard of the World has lacked a true player in a segment in which nearly 50K units were sold (S/7/LS/A8/XJ/Equus) last year, and more than 50K will be sold this year, in the US alone, to say nothing of China/Russia. They NEED to snatch a piece of that pie, YESTERDAY.

    If that means diverting resources from an extremely low-volume halo car I never thought they’d build anyway, so be it.

    tl;dr? I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE CIEL…and neither should you.

  • avatar

    I really wanted the Lincoln MKR and Ford Interceptor concepts to make it into production. Such fine looking automobiles.

    • 0 avatar

      Instead we got the MKS and Taurus.

      The Lincoln lineup needs the MKR/Mark X as well as the Continental. Its not like they don’t have stuff in the parts bin. Ford spent plenty of years paying for, and giving product to luxury brands they purchased. All the while, Lincoln tured into a nicer Mercury.

  • avatar

    For everyone crying about a certain Cadillac (or any other brand, for that matter) concept car not seeing production, I have one question: How many of you, assuming the car reached production, would actually go down to the dealer, reach into your wallet, and buy the car? New off the showroom floor, not four years used?

    I didn’t think so.

    • 0 avatar

      I would buy the Lincolns. I’m assuming the prices would be no different than the current crop of vehicles. If a Mark X based sedan was priced like the MKZ, and had the Coyote V8, I’d order one from my local Lincoln dealer tomorrow.

  • avatar

    The main overriding theme here is fuselage design… Bring back the fuselage look! It’s unique, in your face American, and so much sharper looking than the whale-on-wheels S-class and such.

  • avatar

    Vellum Venom: Cadillac Sixteen. GO!

    All of these loved concepts have the same essential side profile. Plain and slab-sided, firm belt line, sharp swoop downwards at the rear corner.

    With those headlamps, the MarkIX could have easily been a Cougar (with a Sable-y front).

  • avatar

    Sounds like a good decision to me.

    The Ciel is a fantastic looking concept car, but any commercial derivative is likely to be a good bit less exciting and would not sell in any significant numbers, considering the high price point.

    Isn’t this exactly what a concept car should be: Instead of putting enormous wheels, snazzy lights, and a trick-but-unrealistic interior in a near-production car and calling it a day, err, concept (looking at you, BMW), they’ve created a great and exaggerated concept that sets the tone for the actual lineup. The excitement that the show car has generated is thus not wasted, but channeled towards Cadillac’s overall sales. Of course this doesn’t work if a company is putting out great concepts and not following through with good product (Saab, Lincoln), but Cadillac has been on quite a roll for the last few years.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    A shame Lincoln did not get more use out of the LS aka DEW98 platform. They could have used it as a basis for more models; coupes, convertibles and sport sedans that would have been competitive with Cadillac, BMW, Audi, and Benz as well as a Town Car replacement. Ford could have saved a lot in development costs while keeping Lincoln a distinct brand, not an upscale Ford or Mercury replacement.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m all for halo vehicles to boost brand image, but Cadillac has a few more steps to go before that happens. It needs a broader portfolio, and one that gets the same respect as the competition. When even Mercedes-Benz is going to have a tough sell with its Bentley-fighting S-Class coupe and cabriolet models, it’s a bit much for Cadillac to think it can go ultra-luxury in no time. I have no doubt that such cars will be viable in the future from the crest-and-wreath brand.

    Besides, the money is in the volume products.

  • avatar

    who cares. none of you critics would ever buy one. you’d just mock it as another allante. they already have a monster of a car in the CTS-V

  • avatar

    It was a wise move by GM/Cadillac.

    Development of the Omega Cadillac flagship is well underway and there has been talk of a “4-door coupe” variant as well as possibly using the Omega platform to underpin a large CUV.

    With the Omega flagship, Cadillac can just do what Mercedes is doing with the new S Class and offer an ultra-luxury trim to compete with the lower end Bentley and Rolls.

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