By on October 11, 2016

2013 Cadillac XTS CUE Cadillac User Experience

“The first-generation CUE didn’t even meet our own expectations.”
Johan de Nysschen, Cadillac President — Motor Trend Interview — October 10, 2016

What was Cadillac’s boss trying to say? It all depends on where you put the emphasis.

Perhaps Johan de Nysschen said, in a Motor Trend interview with Mark Rechtin published yesterday, “The first-generation CUE didn’t even meet our expectations.”

In other words: the Cadillac User Interface we designed for our cabins to take on Audi MMI and BMW iDrive and Mercedes-Benz COMAND, was expected to exceed the expectations of decision makers in the executive boardroom, but CUE didn’t even meet our expectations, let alone exceed them.

But it seems more likely that Johan de Nysschen, who for two years was the boss at Infiniti before joining Cadillac in 2014 and had previously led Audi of America for more than seven years, said, “The first-generation CUE didn’t even meet our own expectations.”

In other words, the first-generation CUE didn’t even meet the low expectations at Cadillac, let alone the expectations of the luxury consumer. Ah, those dang discerning consumers with their unrealistic expectations. Customers: can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.

Johan De Nysschen Cadillac CT6

We asked Cadillac yesterday to further explain de Nysschen’s comments: “Are, or were, Cadillac’s goals for CUE far too low?” Cadillac decided to allow de Nysschen’s comments to speak for themselves. But Cadillac spokesperson David Caldwell did point to recent CUE improvements.

“Cadillac quickly adopted Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across the range over the past year or so. We deployed 4G LTE WiFi faster and more broadly than any luxury brand. We have a new system (in the CT6 and Escalade) for rear-seat connectivity that is unique in the industry — enabling streaming video for passengers (only) i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Chromecast. And CUE system operation itself has continually improved — with more enhancements coming,” Caldwell told TTAC via email.

To be fair to de Nysschen, the first iterations of CUE — beleaguered by capacitive touch buttons that didn’t always respond to touch, an annoying volume slider, complicated sub-menus, a useless proximity sensor, and awkward steering wheel controls — were already installed in production cars before he even joined the company.

And to be fair to CUE, rival tech interfaces are far from perfect. In fact, some might even say, “All Infotainment Systems Suck.”

Nevertheless, the notion that Cadillac’s initial targets for CUE didn’t measure up to the expectations of consumers, that Cadillac aimed low and failed to meet even that low target, is both bizarre and troubling.

[Images: Cadillac]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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49 Comments on “With CUE, de Nysschen Acknowledges Cadillac Aimed Low And Failed To Meet Expectations...”


  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    “…to take on Audi MMI and BMW iDrive and Mercedes-Benz COMAND”

    See, that was their mistake, right there. If anything, they should have used UConnect as a benchmark. Not familiar with Audi’s or BMW’s systems, but my wife had a Mercedes with COMAND and that system was hateful.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      UConnect is part of why I’m seriously considering a 2015+ Chrysler 200. The rash of awful infotainment systems over the last ~5-6 years has put a lot of otherwise great cars on a “no-buy list” for me. Thankfully BMW, Mazda, VWAG and Hyundai/Kia seem to have escaped the madness

    • 0 avatar
      cognoscenti

      UConnect sucks too. They put far too little RAM in that Harman IHU to run the installed apps, and they partnered with Sprint, which was a total disaster. Sprint left them hanging and FCA had to pick up the pieces. Ask anyone who actually worked on the program – Chrysler has been riding the coattails of the first-generation UConnect system’s positive reviews for years.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        But the UConnect system continues to garner good reviews in current, recently released vehicles. And frankly, it hasn’t changed all that much from the first generation.

        The issue, I think, is that car reviewers don’t bother to link accounts and test the installed apps like Pandora, Yelp, etc. Admittedly, that bit is clunky: it’s inexcusable that Chrysler’s system requires a companion smartphone app to control Pandora when other manufacturers’ systems manage that connection seamless.

    • 0 avatar
      JRobUSC

      I’ve been in a 2016 Chrysler 300C rental for the past week, and was pretty disappointed with UConnect after constantly reading online about how great it was. Gripes include having to go into menus to use the heated/vented seats, the nav system search function being limited only to places right by your current location, just to name a couple. And the screen gets completely washed out in sunlight, which is a problem since it’s a touchscreen. BMW’s iDrive remains the best system of its type in my opinion.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I don’t necessarily think it’s more intuitive or more user friendly but the two best things about my uConnect are that it is comparatively responsive and it doesn’t crash.

        I personally hate the mouse/controller style systems.

    • 0 avatar
      duncanator

      I have a 2015 A3 and can confirm that the MMI system sucks. All I want to do is mirror my phone screen. Is that so hard to at least give me the option?
      I should be thankful that Audi doesn’t put control of other things in their infotainment system.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        Have the MMI in my Q7, after one gets past the learning curve it’s really not bad at all. The problem is with these journalists and their “Reviews” they drive a different car every week, that simply isn’t enough time to overcome the learning curve and get familiar with the system like a real owner would. Plus by time they do move on the next vehicle, they’re mentally still on the last one and so on- it’s a vicious cycle.

        Now the CUE system may not be EXCELLENT, but I suspect that for someone who actually lived with it for an extended period, it would be perfectly functional.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Whomever continues offering bountiful buttons and numerous knobs will keep my interest in newer cars.

    Honda has already lost the plot (removed volume knob). CUE is a joke, especally since GMs more pedestrian systems handily outperform it. MFT makes me sigh since origal button heavy Sync was simple and effective.

    Anyways. Sorry. Its an old rant.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      So say we all.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My Volkswagen, which is a 2015, has an excellently laid-out interface. The buttons you need are easy to find, including everything for the HVAC system. Unfortunately, the processing speed and size of the touch screen both suck, but glitches are few and far between (although earlier today, I found myself unable to change tracks).

      For 2016, VW has a nicer radio that includes CarPlay and Android Auto across the entire lineup save for the Touareg.

      • 0 avatar
        KevinC

        We have both a ’15 Golf TDI (MIB 1) and a ’16 Golf R (MIB 2). Having used both systems extensively, I can confirm that VW addressed all the issues with the first iteration in MIB 2. MUCH faster dual-core processor, larger (if not huge) 6.5″ screen, much higher resolution, far more responsive in every way. And it does everything so well, that I rarely use CarPlay, and then only for a change of pace, not because it’s “better”. I exported all of my music (AAC format) out of iTunes to an SD card and it performs 100% perfectly, including playlists and album artwork. And the “Fender”-branded setup (superior amp, though allegedly the speakers are the same as the base model) is plenty decent. Overall, a fantastic system. Shocking for VW I must say. They’ve been on the trailing edge of infotainment system worse than most makers until this point – no longer.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          True. The RNS-315 and the RNS-510 were both pretty lousy, until they were replaced with MIB II. Even the RNS-850 (Touareg, Cayenne, Continental GT / Flying Spur) is kind of subpar compared to other systems in those cars’ price ranges.

          My experience with MIB II was that earlier this year, I briefly dated a guy with a fully-loaded ’16 Tiguan. He was always drinking (part of the reason we stopped seeing each other), so I had to drive his car home from any given event. But his MIB II was much better than the MIB I in my ’15 Golf SportWagen TDI.

          I also have Fender in my car, but I didn’t test the base setup. It came standard on the SEL trim, so that’s why I have it.

          Also, I’m jealous of your Golf R.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “… didn’t even meet our own expectations.”

    You could say that about ~90% of what Cadillac has done since 1980.

    Releasing half-a$$ed stuff isn’t a Johan issue, it’s a GM one.

  • avatar

    For goodness sake, WHY is this so hard for manufacturers to get right? We’re not talking the engine or the transmission, we’re talking a tablet computer, essentially. Stop overthinking it, manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Good UI/UX design is hard. The problem is that it’s one of those things that most people don’t appreciate, and thusly don’t spend the effort and money on.

      Instead, it gets low priority because it isn’t powertrain, styling or cost accountancy.

      I’ve borne witness to this issue a few times, listening to frustrated designers who get exactly zero respect for execs, engineers and accountants despite that their work is often the first-touch a customer has with their product or brand.

      Apple is actually very much the exception in that they sweat the design details. You don’t notice it, normally, and you do notice the screwups because they stand out so blatantly against an otherwise exceptionally polished product.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Probably better to go back to buttons.

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          The companies that can’t do UI/UX with a touchscreen suck at doing it with buttons, too.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            How was it done in the past?

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            It was done with a ridiculous number of small, indistinct buttons and, if you’re lucky, a dot-matrix display that would eventually drop pixels once the warranty expired.

            I’m not saying it’s impossible to make a good user interface in a car; I’m saying that it’s often deprioritized and/or actively handicapped in the name of style.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            This. I got used to it, but the button-based interface for the climate control on my G8 was absolutely indecipherable to others in my car for any function except “change the temperature when already in auto mode.”

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        It is hard, and that’s why they should outsource it to companies that are great at it, namely Google or Apple.

        “Handling by Lotus”
        “Cummins turbodiesel”
        “ZF 8 speed transmission”
        “Infotainment by Apple/Google, etc”

  • avatar
    sirwired

    SirWired’s “Infotainment” wish-list:

    – Don’t integrate climate control in your fancy-pants touchscreen system at all. It’s much better served with buttons, knobs, and a little LCD. A touchscreen climate control system was not a problem that needed solving.

    – If most of your focus group members have to look at the manual to turn on and/or basic adjustments the radio, connect to a cell phone, or do anything climate control related (if you ignored my point above), or use your nav system, you are doing something very wrong.

    – If you can’t honestly say that your system is any better than Android Auto / CarPlay (Hint: It probably isn’t), you better be including those functions. (And, really, even if your system rocks, there’s no reason not to include those functions.)

    – That goes double if you want to otherwise charge a bazillion dollars for your crappy nav system. Face it; Google Maps is way better than anything you are thinking of selling. The appropriate price for a built-in nav (assuming you already have a touchscreen infotainment system anyway) is a couple hundred bucks. And maybe fifty bucks for updates if you insist on charging for them.

    – If you find yourself adding F1-like arrays of steering wheel buttons so users don’t have to use the touchscreen, perhaps you shouldn’t be relying on the damn touchscreen so much.

    – Capacitive Touch Buttons: Don’t do it. It works great on a touch screen; it’s downright terrible on buttons.

    – You should definitely include a hard-button marked “CAT FOLDER” in your car, like Hyundai does in whatever CUV I rented recently. I know that it refers to “Category/Folder” for playing music, but it’s hilarious to boast to your wife that your rental car is SO fancy, it includes a built-in Feline-Mangling device!

  • avatar
    jonnyanalog

    The real headscratcher here is how did this make it out into the public if it was so poorly received internally? That speaks to the poor quality of management at the helm. Its no wonder the perception of Cadillac isn’t better. It makes me wonder what else escaped into the public that was lack luster to say the least.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      It comes to: “We made a decision to go with a new touchscreen system two years ago, and we don’t have an alternative we can install and still make our Job 1 date.”

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      ding, ding, ding. Epidemic trend: the buck doesn’t stop with the CEO anymore in lots of companies—the buck stops somewhere down below in the bowels of an organization chart.

      Awful way to run a company, but the pay structures for executives are set up that tails they win, heads they win.

      As long as your company isn’t so awful that it can be raided by an activist shareholder, the living is easy. Index fund and pension fund shareholders rubber stamp anything that a Board of Directors does—-as long as it’s not outrageous.

    • 0 avatar
      cbrworm

      The thing is, until very recently, they were all different levels of horrible.

      Personally, I liked the old UConnect and most I-Drive iterations since about ’08

      Today, infotainment technology is one of the most dating pieces of a near modern car. A perfect 2004 car is just fine, assuming you don’t need good bluetooth. A perfect 2012 car with bad infotainment integration is insufferable.

      Sometimes, getting into an older car with buttons, knobs, and well lighted easy to see controls is so awesome.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Ford had a similar public discussion surrounding MyFord Touch, including a story of how CEO Mark Fields punched out the screen on his Edge (SYNC3 is far better).

    As for CUE, which stands for Cadillac User Experience, It is fundamentally based on the same operating system that powers one of the versions of MyLink / IntelliLink, which is found in the Impala, Silverado, Sierra, Tahoe, Suburban, Malibu (2016 -), Cruze (2016 -), Regal (2014 -) and so on. However, it has a custom Cadillac skin, a capacitative touch screen, instead of a standard one, and a few more functions. I find it incredibly frustrating.

    I hear the version in the new XT5 and CT6 is quite improved.

  • avatar
    Fred

    The only thing I like about these systems is the screen, it is easier to read than my phone. To that end I’m thinking about upgrading to Android Auto.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    **raises hand**

    Why do we need infotainment systems in cars period?

    Even a kids phone has satnav now, and it’s way faster searching for stuff in Google Maps then any in-car UI could practically match. Put a wireless charging mat and full household power panel in the car w/a casual dual zone climate control system in the instrument panel using a *button controlled* radio/aux/etc and have done with it .

    Carmakers aren’t software engineers*. What’s the point when 90% of customers will only use the radio submenu and make the passenger whip out their smartphone for GPS Nav anyways?

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I’ve always thought that the manufacturers “have” to provide integrated infotainment because then they won’t be accused of promoting cell phone use while driving.

    • 0 avatar
      duncanator

      Yeah, relying on factory nav is the worst decision one could make. Two years ago, Google maps accurately guided my family to a campground. On the way back, Honda nav took us down a one lane, gravel logging road. Also, it doesn’t even have a highway completed 8 years ago in its most recent map update (that they charge for). So yeah, Honda nav really sucks.

      • 0 avatar

        Update support varies a LOT. My 03 BMW, which, when new, was great hoo-ha with a DVD drive for the maps, is now primitive, but…it still works well, and BMW sold update discs for both the OS and actual maps. I’ve got 2014 maps and an updated OS in it….The 2010 Caddy on the other hand, has updates, but I was basically told by dealer mechs “does it work ? Yes…”Well, just leave it alone”. The Acura has maps, but they are quite expensive to update. I just go with the entertainment value of watching the computer try to resolve my location when I use “new” highway on ramp exchanges.

        The BMW computer, the oldest one, is still the best of the lot for daily use…but, WAZE beats them all when there are multiple routes somewhere and the mileage difference isn’t meaningful; like when I need to get to a NYC airport. Also, “police reported ahead” is mostly useless, but the photo camera icons are 100 % correct.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I think there was a time recently where there was a magic balance between buttons and screen. You had the modern option of touchscreen, but also redundant buttons on the wheel and dash to match. Before this time, the tech wasn’t there yet, and afterward it tilted too far in favor of the screen.

    And I think this magic time was 2007-2011.

    • 0 avatar

      No, I don’t think so. I think you saw companies go full touchscreen/button crazy during this time before learning that that wasn’t actually good interface design. Think about what Ford, Lincoln, Cadillac, Honda, etc. have been doing, and how they’ve veered more back towards physical buttons since then. 2007-2011 was a golden era for Infiniti, not everyone.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        So your argument is that current cars have less screens and more physical buttons than 2007-2011.

        Ok.

        • 0 avatar

          Yes, that is my argument, except I said nothing about having fewer screens. Ford/Lincoln and Cadillac both went nuts in that period introducing touch-sensitive buttons, before they figured out in 2012/2013 that touchscreens+touch buttons was rubbish interface design. Some manufacturers have now figured this out. BMW, Audi, Mazda, Toyota, Nissan, Kia/Hyundai, Ford, Chrysler, GM, etc. all have a good mix of on-screen functions and physical buttons to do things, and many have improved since they first started implementing touch-based systems.

          Only the Japanese, and I single out Infiniti, Lexus, and Honda/Acura here, have gone downhill since this time. Too many screens, too many features accessed only by touch (either screen or button), and an odd/complex combination of old infotainment systems and grafted-on new elements. Just a mess. Generally, I would say most manufacturers have learned a lot in the 4 years and that the offerings are much better balanced/usable than they were in the period you highlight.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Now that you’ve explained, I agree with you. Perhaps with the partial-exception of Audi, who seems like they’ve got the same interior button/screen layout now as they did at that time on upper level models. I checked some pics of the A6 and A8 then and now, and there’s not much difference.

            Honda has absolutely gotten much worse.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        My 2008 LS460 gets the touchscreen/buttons balance just right. All I’d want to add to it is the USB input from the 2010-2012 models and sharper graphics.

        I don’t find the 2013+ “mouse” to be as much of a disaster as some reviewers, but it was a step back in terms of usability.

  • avatar
    gasser

    2016 Hyundai Genesis for me. Radio has one knob for on/off and volume; one knob for tuning. Seat heat and cool are separate switches on the console. Temperature and fan have separate switches NOT via the Info system.
    No turbo, no CVT, no start-stop system, 6 cylinders not 4,
    At 70 I don’t want to wander ANY further into the 21st century than this.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    As if the competition is any better. COMAND is an huge pile of steaming dog dirt. I agree that all infotainment systems suck… except Uconnect. UConnect is in a league of its own. Its good enough to sell cars on its own.

    • 0 avatar

      IMO, UConnect is great but Chryslers have so many caveats that it’s not *quite* great enough to sell their cars. For those of you who haven’t tried it, MyFordTouch3 is also really excellent. Fast, fully featured and intuitive. I already like lots of Fords products, but it convinced me further.

  • avatar
    bd2

    The initial edition of CUE stunk, but it has been improved (still needs work).

    But let’s remember that there was a lot of criticism/frustration with the early versions of BMW’s iDrive system.

  • avatar
    plee

    My 2011 Taurus Limited with factory Nav has been problem free. There are still buttons to control the heated/cooled seats, sound system, phone without having to go into the Nav screen. The voice activation works reasonably well, other than that, I am glad that the car does not have MFT. If I stick with Ford/Lincoln vehicles, I will be sure to get Sync 3 next time and bypass MFT altogether.

  • avatar

    There are three types of system:

    Acura MDX. Buttons, buttons everywhere. You need to look at the buttons, but no menus to speak of for any commonplace function. Press. Once you know where they are, pretty easy. Takes up a lot of space, though, OK for a truck, harder in a small car.

    Pre-Cue Caddy. Everything is a simple button. The radio is simple, on/off, tuning, etc. The only menus are for tweaking the sound fields, but normal use is simple buttons. Likewise, pre-I Drive BMW, all controls are simple and intuitive.

    I-Drive. I’ve always liked i-drive. The original was the best, with limited (no ?) buttons, and one knob. The Knob changed how it responded depending on what you were doing, and as a friend with a 7 series pointed out, if you can run a computer, this isn’t tough. The haptic interface is intuitive after a short time. Notably, there is still a volume knob for the radio…. I drive allows you to do most everything, by feel, without looking for a button or ***taking your eyes from the road***. We rented cars in Germany a few years ago and both had I drive. I got ipods working in 5 minutes, both cars-it’s a great system.

    In Car electronics are being overtaken by the smart phone. My “dumb” 03 BMW has a $40 bluetooth button and by using the smartphone, has full voice command, hands-free telephone-and you can even dictate texts. Car makers are literally falling all over themselves to give you something…meanwhile, a $250 aftermarket radio will beat the vast majority of OE radios, but since the DIN hole has been obsoleted, you are stuck paying $1500 for $200 worth of kit maybe, and an interface from heck.


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