Cadillac Boss Not Outwardly Terrified of Brand's Transition

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Were it not for his Canadian place of birth, Cadillac President Steve Carlisle might make an ideal centrist presidential candidate. On paper, anyway. Mild-mannered and cautiously optimistic, not prone to exaggerated doomsaying, Carlisle would either be triumphantly swept into power, or creamed like a bushel of Iowa corn.

Well, he’s not running, though he is couching the importance of his brand’s product turnaround in less apocalyptic terms. Unlike, say, GM President Mark Reuss.

While the GM prez ominously stated that Cadillac’s new role as GM’s electric car flag bearer is the brand’s last chance for glory, Carlisle has a more subdued take on things. Speaking to Wards Auto, Carlisle said GM’s EV investment can’t be wasted.

“I wouldn’t call it desperation,” he said. “We have to electrify transportation. We have an opportunity to change the world so let’s focus intensely on that, and we have confidence in the technology and there are early signs we’re turning the brand around.”

The brand boss admits that a pivot to electrification “does not occur without consequence, in terms of resource allocation, return on investment (and) return to the shareholders,” adding, “We won’t get a second chance to spend billions of dollars.”

GM revealed a conceptual, nameless electric Cadillac crossover in Detroit last month as a way of whetting consumer appetite, assuming it exists, for a futuristic Caddy. A production version should appear in 2021, but not before more profitable models come online. Those include the late-to-the-game XT6 and a revamped Escalade.

Carlisle seems to think that buyers of a Cadillac EV will choose to add a second, internal combustion Cadillac to their driveway. Speaking of early EV adopters, who tend to be younger and better educated, Carlisle said, “If they have an electric car, it is probably not the only car in the driveway. Take all those things into consideration, and it makes sense for Cadillac to take on the role as leader when it comes to electrification.”

For Cadillac’s sake, let’s hope that brand loyalty grows in the next couple of years. A 2018 Edmunds study shows an erosion of return Cadillac buyers over the past decade ( not at CarMax, though!), though the sudden spike in SUV and CUV popularity could account for some of this loss. As more and more buyers gravitate towards high-riding vehicles, a segment they’re not likely to vacate, car-heavy brands suffer. It’s another reason why products like the recent XT4 and upcoming XT6 are so important for Cadillac. In the short term, they’re far more important than any EV.

As well, considering profit margins for electric vehicles are generally slim or nonexistent, Cadillac will need the bread brought in by big, gas-slurping vehicles to fund its transition.

[Image: General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Buickman Buickman on Feb 12, 2019

    never going anyway unless the marketing is radically altered.

  • JLGOLDEN JLGOLDEN on Feb 13, 2019

    The 1992 Seville STS was supposed to reinvent Cadillac, then perhaps the 2002 CTS. Then there was confidence that the 2013 ATS would be a turnaround move. Each of these products has moved the "feel" toward an athletic image, but sadly none has brought lasting brand luster - beyond a few favorable road test reviews. High scoring performance is admirable, but image means even more. Now Cadillac wants to be reimagined with an EV push? Wow. Let's hope that all the eggs are not in one basket here.

    • Buickman Buickman on Feb 13, 2019

      it's not the product, it's the marketing. these people are stupid. B

  • RobbyG This sort of reminds me of a "better" version of the first BMW I3's that came out with a whopping 60ish miles of range in in a super compact body made of plastic outside and straight through into the interior. And BMW wanted $40k+ then.$34k for this is still double the price of where it should realistically be.
  • Lorenzo Are there any naturally aspirated engines available?
  • Jeff There was a time that all the major auto makers advertised there full size V-8 engine cars to be quieter than a Rolls Royce. Ford had ads up thru the early 80s showing the Ford LTD and the Mercury Grand Marquis being quieter than a Rolls Royce with a smoother ride. An ad for a the Grand Marquis showed how quiet and smooth riding it was demonstrating that even a rabbi could do a circumcision on a baby boy in the back of a Grand Marquis as it was being driven. Another Mercury commercial with a diamond cutter splitting an expensive diamond while the car was being driven. Most cars in the 60s, 70s, and much of the 80s were marketed for their quiet interiors and smooth rides. Now we have to add noise to a vehicle to give the illusion of powerful and fast. If I ever were to own an EV I would want it quiet. Saturday Night Live even had a parody on the Mercury rabbi commercial. Bris inside a Royal Deluxe II from Saturday Night Live › ... 1:25Bris performed inside a Royal Deluxe II in a Saturday Night Live skit.Vimeo · Adam Kegel · Jan 18, 2019
  • Lorenzo Six percent here, ten percent there, and pretty soon you've got a dead brand.
  • ToolGuy Tungsten trim? I am holding out for the Depleted Uranium trim.