By on February 11, 2019

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.”

Image: GM

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]

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21 Comments on “Cadillac Boss Not Outwardly Terrified of Brand’s Transition...”

  • avatar

    The brand has been in decline since the mid ’70’s. Some good to great cars here and there along the way, but not enough to reverse the slide. I really don’t think it’s possible to get their good name back.

    • 0 avatar

      If they can turn it around, it will take another 50 years. From the standard of the world to a do or die existential crisis of their own making. It makes you want to scream

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “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.”

    Worldwide – almost universally – it seems bombast is winning the day for politicians. People rarely vote for centrists anymore because they appear to stand for nothing.

  • avatar

    For nearly forty years the mantra has always been “product, it has to be the product, the next generation will lift us up” yet in how many generations of product now the brand has continued to sink. Product didn’t save it then and it won’t save it now.

    ““We have to electrify transportation.”

    No, you really don’t. You choose to kowtow.

    “we have confidence in the technology”

    So that’s why Volt and ELR were culled right?

    “there are early signs we’re turning the brand around.”

    Really now, what are those again?

    • 0 avatar

      The ELR was stillborn. Volt’s architecture is ancient and space inefficient. It would have been nice for GM to have replacements ready, but ultimately these cars had to die one way or another.

      GM has definitely earned some scrutiny and skepticism, but I think you may be taking it too far. The Bolt is a pretty good effort outside of its price, and a big step in the right direction. The main hurdle is the 50 years of mediocrity and crap to wipe from the public’s memory.

      • 0 avatar

        “but I think you may be taking it too far.”

        It is pretty big jump to go from “The Bolt is pretty good” (although sales are still relatively weak and falling) to “Cadillac EVs will save the brand or change the world”. Toss in GM’s history and that virtually every other luxury/premium brand also has EV CUVs on the way and I think big-time pessimism is warranted.

  • avatar

    We’ve all had to accept that many of our personally cherished aspects of America can no longer be and the icon called Cadillac is just one more.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Um, Cadillac is just GM rolled in sparkle, y’know. This electrification plan sounds potentially sacrificial to me. If it works, GM makes money. If it doesn’t, Cadillac is shunned and then hanged. I don’t care, either way: I like my V and I’ll continue driving/fixing it for the foreseeable future. 220,000 Kms on it and it still pulls hard.

  • avatar

    he’ll lose more sales and share, then be gone like the last guy.

    this fella has no more clue than a parking attendant.

  • avatar

    Well, they tried being BMW, that didnt work. Now they’re gonna try to be Tesla. Even Tesla sucks at being (the hyped) Tesla.

  • avatar

    I wish GM and Cadillac every success with their brand plans. May they leverage and utilize all their electric expertise from the Volt, Gen 1 & Gen 2 plus the Bolt and whatever else is in development. Perhaps there will be enough margin in their production cost (and the famous GM cost chiselers reined in) to create a formidable and imminently desirable vehicle.

    Things like quick charging, no range anxiety, a full recharge on the fly feature perhaps using a serious Cadillac engine, extra value warranty, stunning top notch interior, all the things you would expect the way it should be to done to be in the correct Cadillac style.

    And GM management committing to the models, not building up a hugely loyal customer base as they did with the Volt before throwing them to the curb.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, GM’s had a habit of ditching their most loyal enthusiast followed marques like Saturn, Pontiac, Volt, Corvair.

      My take is that the Cadillac name needs to go away, except maybe in China, and be replaced by Corvette, as the Autoextremist has suggested.

      Then reduce prices, extend warranties, and concentrate on performance sedans and crossovers, plus promote the heck out of Super Cruise.

      A little softer refresh of the front end styling wouldn’t hurt either.

      An EV focus will be a fool’s errand.

  • avatar

    never going anyway unless the marketing is radically altered.

  • avatar

    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.

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