By on March 14, 2019

Image: FCA

Cadillac’s decision to take the practice of boasting through badging into the future generated a fair bit of buzz yesterday, and no shortage of snark, either. Rather than go the time-honored displacement route, the brand choose to slap its upcoming models with a metric, rounded-up torque figure, thus allowing ICE-less electrics to get in on the game.

Is this the beginning of the end for fenderbragging … or the start of a new beginning?

While Fiat Chrysler remains the power badge king, few automakers host engines up to, and including, a 392 cubic-inch V8. Boast while you got ’em, I guess. It won’t last. The continuing truck wars promise years of Cummins vs. Power Stroke vs. Duramax badge dueling, too, as the presence of that engine type had best be made visible to outsiders.

For normal vehicles, though? With 2.0-liter four-cylinders seemingly powering half the world, there’s little exclusivity to be had in mentioning this fact.

Considering Cadillac’s glittering figures aren’t especially accurate and signify a unit of measure still unfamiliar to many Americans (no one wants to do math to figure out what they’re looking at), it would be easy to say this is a pointless effort.

Outside American borders, especially in markets Cadillac wants to make headway in (Europe, where Cadillac’s essentially dead, and China), it could be a different story. There, buyers aren’t used to seeing cubic inches emblazoned on fenders and trunklids; historical measurements like 351, 400, 427, 429, and 454 lose their significance once the plane takes off from JFK. Europeans soaked up decades of Mercedes-Benz metric nomenclature for decades before the strategy started to go pear-shaped.

But Chinese customers gravitate towards American luxury more for the vehicle itself, and the heritage that comes with the brand, than output. It’s looking like Cadillac came up with this new badging strategy simply to have tinsel to place on future EVs. We’ll all be driving them soon, dontcha know?

I’d argue that the most enviable figure an EV maker could slap on the outside of their vehicles is range — not horsepower, torque, or acceleration times.

So, what do you think, B&B — does Cadillac’s badge strategy open up a new world of on-car marketing, or is it just another part of the sad decline of vehicle brashness and individuality?

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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66 Comments on “QOTD: The End of Braggadocious Cars?...”


  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    Fake news spreading from airwaves to highways.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    If a car drives the way I want it to, I could care less what number they put on the thing, as long as it’s not ‘666.’

  • avatar
    seth1065

    It really does not matter, my guess is if you took all the cars in the USA and read the back of the car or side less than 50% WOULD have a number that is correct in a old school way, we have 4 cy MB E class and BMW 3 series that the number assigned to them mean nothing. You used to be able to see the number and know the engine, no more it is all just marketing now.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      Right. I got passed by a BMW 440i yesterday and thought, “That has a 4.0 liter engine?” Nope – apparently the 430i has a 2.0 4-cyl and the 440i has a 3.0 6-cyl. And apparently 4-series means “2-door 3-series,” which they made almost as big as a Camaro so they had to invent the 1-series, which never caught on so now they call it a 2-series.

      Also, get off my lawn.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        The funniest part of this silliness is that Mercedes has held firm on “600= 12 cylinders” so the V8 S-class is slowly creeping up from S500 to S550 to S560 and eventually they will run out of room.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Actually, they’re probably going to stop making V12 engines altogether. Mercedes-Benz recently announced the death of the V12-powered AMG S 65 and AMG G 65 models. That leaves the S 600 and the Mercedes-Maybach S 600, which probably don’t justify the continued existence of the V12.

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            I’d be surprised if they made the conscious decision to drop it completely. Being forced to by emissions or fuel economy standards is one thing, but I have to think they would be careful not to do anything to purposely upset Maybach customers.

            The 65 I see as appealing to a different and less traditional customer who would be just as happy with a 63. The writing was on the wall for the 65 as soon as the V8 cars became faster.

            Then again, I’m nowhere near the market for a 12 cylinder luxury sedan so this is all just me guessing.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Sorry Matt, was just admiring your lawn – since I live in a van, down by the river.

      • 0 avatar
        ravenuer

        And don’t forget my favorite….the 4 door “coupes”….

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      As I recall the Cutlass 442 stood for 4-barrel, 4 on the floor(although many had 3 or 2-speeds!), and dual exhaust, so sure, stick whatever number you want on there.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    Pathetic on Cadillac’s part but the general buying public probably doesn’t care. Why doesn’t Cadillac stick with a good riding, luxury-like interior, and powerful engine? There was a time when the word Cadillac was mentioned, that is what came to mind.

    I’ll hand it to Dodge, they embrace their big engine, in your face styling and attitude with the Challengers/Chargers. I suspect we are seeing the last of this type of automotive bravado. Everyday I think about trading in my Sienna on a Scat Pack Challenger, if for no other reason than to flip the automotive equivalent of the middle finger to the rest of the SUV/CUV/Truck dominated world.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      Preach it, brother!

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      Do it! My ’18 Scatpack amuses me like no other car I’ve ever owned. When I went out Tuesday morning, I went to the dentist and then to a couple of stores and every time I thought about it, I realized how happy I was to have it. My ’10 R/T was only about half as much fun as the Scatpack is, and it was a fun car too.

      But be warned, people will want to talk to you about it, and it’s rare not to get at least one thumbs up from other drivers per trip to anywhere, each way. The looks on people’s faces as they walk past it in parking lots is mostly looks of longing for one. Men, women, and even kids will ask me about my car when I go into the grocery store or whatever. I’ve taken some people for rides just so they can see what they are missing. I feel bad for the old geezers who have a wife that won’t let them buy one, even though they have the money.

  • avatar
    mcs

    “I’d argue that the most enviable figure an EV maker could slap on the outside of their vehicles is range — not horsepower, torque, or acceleration times.”

    I think most EVs are bought for their performance, so torque and acceleration do matter. With EV range in the 200’s to 300’s and climbing, the distance between charges isn’t as big of an issue as it used to be. Especially when you’re only doing 20 to 30 miles a day anyway.

    A Nissan Versa has a 10.8-gallon gas tank with a 30 mpg EPA combined rating. That’s a 324-mile range. Not a problem now, but if you plan on keeping it into the latter part of the next decade, it might not be so easy to find a gas station. Unlike an EV where you can always plug in at home, with an ICE you’ll always have to find a gas station somewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      “Not a problem now, but if you plan on keeping it into the latter part of the next decade, it might not be so easy to find a gas station.” A rather dystopian prediction of the future. In my short 67-years I’ve heard several similar predictions which did not come to pass and I’ll just place this statement in the same file labeled “Not Gonna Happen” right between the End of the World Global Cooling information from the ’70s and the Extinction of the Polar Bears of the ’90s.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Bullnuke, However just think back on all the predictions that did come true. And all the innovations and technology and changes that are now ‘normal’ that we did not even envision.

        How many of us are living, working or spending our spare time in the same way that we did even 25 years ago?

    • 0 avatar
      theBrandler

      That’s hilarious. Sorry mcs, but I’ll make this prediction: “Barring some insanely dumb legislation banning gas stations or gasoline engines, you will easily be able to fill your car with dino juice in 2040.”

      Why am I so confident? It’s simple: it take 20 years to roll over 80% of the cars on the road. Electric cars make up ~1% of the new car market in America right now. Even if we rapidly progress to the point over the next decade to where EVs are 100% of all new car sales in 2030, it will still take another 20 years after that for all the left over gasoline cars to be replaced with electric ones.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Exactly. ICE cars aren’t going away – there are simply too many of them for that to happen, and unless there’s some magical way to charge EVs that are owned by folks who park them on streets or in parking lots, EVs won’t work for every buyer.

        That said, though, the market for EVs is going to keep on growing.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @thebrandler: Much of the earlier EV technology and charging infrastructure limited sales. Even if someone wanted one, they might not have been able to get one. With battery tech rapidly evolving 400 to 500-mile ranges will be more common around the middle of the decade. With oil companies joining Shell in adding charing to their gas stations, charging will be more available. Charging speeds are increasing as well.

        The other factor is that ICE cars will become associated with the elderly and working poor. Image is a huge driving factor and will be a major driving force in the shift to EVs.

        Maintaining an ICE will be tougher since cheap muffler shops will get scarcer and it won’t be easy to find an ICE mechanic. They’ll exist, but prices will be high. Gasoline storage tank replacement will be expensive and you’ll find many stations not wanting to deal with the expense of replacing them. You’ll see this happen in the major coastal cities first.

        It won’t take 20 years to drastically reduce the number of ICE vehicles. Keeping one on the road will get more and more difficult. Range anxiety far worse than we’ve seen on any EV will do them in much quicker. You won’t notice it at first. Maybe your favorite station will be out and waiting for a delivery. After that, the pump will disappear and you’ll have to do some hunting. At some point, you’ll have to do a bit of driving and maybe wait in a line. Range anxiety, coming to an ICE near you sooner than you expect. Good luck.

        Even without the EV factor, some stations are starting to disappear anyway:

        https://www.chicagotribune.com/77903381-157.html
        https://www.nysun.com/new-york/gasoline-stations-are-disappearing-from-manhattan/30892/
        https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/2014/10/san-francisco-gas-stations-replaced-by-apartments.html
        https://www.convenience.org/Media/Daily/ND0821133
        https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2017/09/17/editorials/gas-stations-disappearing-rural-areas/

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          360,000 EVs were sold in 2018.

          There are 253 million cars on the road in the US.

          Even if you double EV sales every year until they reach 100% of the market and remove no EVs from the road (both highly, highly dubious) you will have turned over less than 1/2 of the US fleet by 2030. I’m pretty confident my gas powered fleet will be able to refuel just as easily then as now.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I think you are very incorrect in your timeline and degree, but I guess we’ll see.

        • 0 avatar
          philipwitak

          plus, i would expect that fossil fuel consumption will, at some point – and sooner rather than later – simply be taxed out of existence, for all practical purposes.

          the days of ICE are numbered and diminishing as we speak.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            That happens *if* the people being taxed let it happen. I don’t see that as a valid political possibility at this point.

            I think the market will eventually turn away from fossil fuels, but it won’t be because of regulation or taxation – it’ll be market forces that do the trick. It’s already beginning to happen in electricity generation. Hell, even the Saudis are getting in on the act.

            When someone develops a workable fusion reactor – and I do think it’s a “when,” not an “if” at this point – watch what happens to energy prices.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            France is revolting, according to the MSM because of a fuel tax hike, if America did 25% of that fuel tax, politicians would be dragged out of their offices into the street.

            There are zero (0) practical purposes for levying taxes on fuel that is not related to infrastructure improvements.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          This is funny, you should tell that to the new Sheetz that keep popping up everywhere that gas powered vehicles aren’t long for the world. Apparently they didn’t get the memo.

      • 0 avatar
        redgolf

        theBrandler – did I hear “cash for clunkers, petro cars only!”

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      MCS,
      Not everyone has the ability to just plug in at home, so folks live in these things called Apartment buildings, you may have seen them if you visit a big city and they do not have a dedicated garage or charging station for every car, hell some folks park their car in a garage a few blocks away or two blocks over. Some other folks dwell in trailer parks and I doubt there are to many charging stations there, the US is a pretty big place and a range of 200 miles or even 300 miles is not that big of a deal in the mid west or west. Not to mentioned what happens if I have 4 cars in my house w 4 drivers, I hope we are not all planning on charging our EV’s at the same time. And all the EV’s will not tax our already POS grid system at all right.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “200mpc”= 200 miles per charge, can you imagine the kind of races that would result? Two EVs going neck to neck all day until one completely discharges

  • avatar
    redapple

    I see in the auto press that cars will change a great deal next 5 or so years. I want 1 more rear drive, fast machine before we are all driving pods (opps. almost typed POS).

    I think I need to buy a Challenger or a 300 before the end.

    Question. If gas is cheaper and more plentiful than ever, why do we have to stop using it?

    • 0 avatar
      mcoman

      Fossil fuels are a limited resource, each day they are less plentiful than the day before. The cost and our ability to collect them might change but the amount is fixed.

      • 0 avatar
        Robotdawn

        Although that’s is demonstrably true, they’ve been predicting we are going to run out of those fossil fuels ‘any day now’ for 40 years.
        My suspicion is fossil fuel availability will greatly outlast the demand for it.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          +1. In the end, renewables are the better mousetrap, and better mousetraps have a way of becoming popular.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            That’s why wind mills used their almost two millennia head start on fossil fuel exploitation to keep petroleum products a curiosity. There probably wouldn’t have been a boom in electrical generation powered by natural gas had solar cells been invented in 1954. Never mind.

            A hundred and ten years ago there were electric taxicab companies operating in US cities. People thought they were the way forward until the better mousetrap of the ICE car with an electric starter rendered them obsolete. If only those EV companies had invested in politicians instead of attempting to make an inferior technology competitive with ICE cars.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Technology marches on, you know?

            Otherwise, you end up making arguments using similar logic like “Computers sucked at word processing when they were first introduced, so they always will suck at it. Typewriters forever!”

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Does this mean you think word processors predate typewriters? Because otherwise, your analogy falls apart.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Call it “document production” or “business letter production” if you’re in a parsing mood – either way, when computers were first developed, typewriters were better at that job. Technology changed that.

            Renewables may not replace fossil fuels entirely – I’d be surprised if that happens – but they’re certainly going to eat into the market for fossil fuel-generated energy. It’s already happening. As the technology advances, that trend will accelerate. Same thing happened with fossil fuels, if you think about – coal was the original, was largely replaced with petroleum, and now natural gas is becoming ascendant. The driving force behind that was also technology.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Batteries, electric motors and electric cars had the head start on internal combustion engines and internal combustion engine powered cars. Batteries and electric motors predate ICE technology by decades. The internal combustion engine is the technology that rendered EVs obsolete. Wishing it were otherwise is indulging a fantasy.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “The internal combustion engine is the technology that rendered *the first primitive EVs, which worked like crap,* obsolete.”

            There, fixed it for you.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            You don’t think they work like crap now? Show me the car company that makes a profit by developing and building EVs with private capital and selling them to customers who buy them with their own money while paying their share of highway taxes and recharging expenses. I took a road trip last weekend. My friend pointed out all the empty EV charging stations installed in Virginia’s roadside rest areas. Someone spent my money on the idea of people hanging out at public toilets waiting for their cars to charge on my dime. That’s brilliant.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            So, we’re on to a political rant now. Sorry, not taking the bait.

            EVs stop, start, steer and drive just fine. That’s why hundreds of thousands of people have bought them. And the capabilities of these vehicles continues to grow.

            Whether companies make money on selling them is another question, but companies aren’t guaranteed a profit making conventionally powered cars either.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Electric cars aren’t good enough to exist without political coercion. That’s sort of the point. Force is the difference between business and extortion.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Is this really still a belief? It’s 2019 guys, for all practical purposes fossil fuels are an infinite resource and continue to replenish at a rate that is more than sufficient to maintain continued dependence for longer than anyone’s great great grandchildren will be alive. Assuming of course we don’t suddenly have an earth with 25 trillion people from the first world competing for resources.

        Doesn’t mean that technology doesn’t march on, but Jerry rigging a faux future vision based on producing millions of products that mainly consist of vapor ware is wishful thinking at best.

      • 0 avatar
        ravenuer

        But we haven’t reached that fixed amount yet. Every day we discover more sources and invent new ways of extracting those sources.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    PoorCadillac…such a rich name history…traded for alphabet soup.

    I admire what FCA is doing with Jeep and Dodge. They are producing quintessentially and unapologetically American vehicles, with braggadocious fender emblems, and people actually want to buy them! Many lessons for Cadillac there.

    Give the customers what they want!

  • avatar
    scott25

    I’d rather just see the return of 80’s Japanese decals on the fender that span the entire wheelbase of the vehicle. “DOHC INTERCOOLED 2 LITRE RS TURBO SPORT”

  • avatar

    I’d guess they will not return to the naming convention of the Chevy 490. Cadillac 75195 just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Its just a way to differentiate models. Most normal consumers, IE: not car people, had no idea those numbers in the past stood for cubic inches or displacement anyway. All they know is 4 > 3 and the salesguy told them the 3 is a joke as he pointed out how much nicer the 4 was. Whether its numbers or alphabet soup it just an easy way to up-sell the consumer. Numbers are easier and more logical then letters, for example is model A better then B? Or is model A the entry level and B an upgrade? Unless your a fan of a given brand and intimately know their history you likely don’t care. Plus (as already mentioned) many brands started breaking their own rules a long time ago, thus rendering the numbers worthless as a direct link to power. These days I bet more people care about trim levels then engine output or battery size anyway. Ohhh you got the leather and sunroof is a more common then ohhh you got the supercharged V8.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      How many people actually know what 4-4-2 stands or stood for. And even Oldsmobile kept that badging, revising it slightly to 442, when the original numbers/meaning had changed.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    As a model designation, not dead. I can’t see BMW or Mercedes ever abandoning this practice. As a brag about HP or big motors, it will probably live on for some American trucks and the few boutique performance cars which will remain in a few years (Mustang, Corvette, and possibly the Challenger and Charger if FCA bothers with a new generation). I don’t see HP or displacement otherwise being a part of future branding strategy

  • avatar
    dwford

    Once autonomous vehicles become a reality and everyone gives up car ownership for ride sharing, model designations will be meaningless. When we all travel around in rented gray box shaped autonomous EVs, who cares how much horsepower it has? It’s only going to go the speed limit anyway.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Adding a fender brag to a mommy mobile that didn’t have, and didn’t need, one before isn’t a symptom that I’d associate with the end of marketing brag.

    Or the beginning of marketing honesty.

  • avatar
    Challenjour

    I love the red ‘392 HEMI’ badge on my Challenger.Some others is my family drive Jeeps and I know they really like the ‘Trailhawk’ badge to accompany the unique bumpers, lift, and aesthetic that FCA puts on it.

    I especially like the unique logos for Hellcat, Redeye, Scatpack, 392. It really makes your car feel like its yours and not part of some herd.

    FCA is doing this right.

  • avatar
    NG5

    Car labels are rapidly approaching “computer graphics card” levels of genius.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Maybe I am in the minority but I could care less about badges–the less badges the better. The less chrome and ornamentation the better. Just need a good solid vehicle that serves my purposes.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I would bet most SUV owners don’t know the name of their vehicle, such is the marketplace power of the three letters S, U, V.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    As items which were once luxury continue to become more and more prevalent the need for badges becomes less necessary. Trim level designations being a prime example. It used to be a quick way to show that one person bought “poverty spec” while another bought not “poverty spec”.

    I appreciate that Mazda, with few exceptions, doesn’t really have trim level badges on their cars. Makes it so the only people who really recognize a Sport, from a Touring, from a Grand Touring are the people who are looking for the minor styling differences or lighting changes, or wheel size differences.

    Car shaming the poors is less necessary.

  • avatar
    jatz

    I shall craft and store my own artisanal electrons at home with cat fur and nylon combs. Let the revolution come!

    As for fender brags: roof height in inches.

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