Opinion: Cadillac is Making a Mistake With the Ultra Luxurious 2024 CELESTIQ, a $300,000-plus Liftback

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
opinion cadillac is making a mistake with the ultra luxurious 2024 celestiq a

As we just reported, Cadillac has just released some more information about their upcoming flagship, the elegantly named and always capitalized CELESTIQ. Set to arrive for the 2024 model year, Cadillac promises its new halo five-door will be unlike any EV ever built previously, and single-handedly restore Cadillac to its former “Standard of the World” status. I really don’t think so.

We reported on the Celestiq (we’ll use normal capitalization here forward) back in July when Cadillac unveiled pictures and very limited information about its new ride. At the time Celestiq was still considered a show car, but now the production-ready version has been unveiled. In yesterday’s PR release, the company breathlessly explained in lengthy prose how excellent the Celestiq will be.

“The Cadillac Celestiq is a handcrafted, all-electric, ultra-luxury flagship that reestablishes the iconic brand as the Standard of the World, while serving as the flagship for the brand’s electric future.” There’s that term again, Standard of the World. Something Cadillac’s marketing people came up with in 1908 to refer to reliability and parts interchangeability. Since then the brand has referred back to the slogan many times over. It was likely accurate for the last time circa 1955.

Amongst a tale of forward-looking EV design, legacy, personal luxury, bespoke builds, handcrafted quality, and several more uses of the term “iconic,” Cadillac gets down to explaining the core of the Celestiq. More important than the car itself is the experience promised in ordering one. 

Much like other ultra-lux offerings from the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce, the Celestiq will be “personally commissioned” like a piece of fine architecture. Cadillac ensures no two will be alike, which will certainly make trim replacements fun in the future. Customers of utmost wealth and provenance will take time from their management of mixed securities and equity instruments to work with a bespoke ordering sales representative at their local Cadillac dealer.

The sales representative will take time out from doing a four square on the CT5 and Escalade to assist the customer in realizing their unique vision for a Celestiq. It's stated that almost everything is made-to-order on the Celestiq, which makes for an almost incalculable number of combinations. 

As stated on these pages previously, Cadillac plans to ask a lot of money for Celestiq. When it enters production in December 2023, its MSRP will “...begin north of $300,000 and increase based on level of personalization.” But since all of them are made-to-order and the customer Has It Their Way, there won’t really be many sold at base price. The final paragraph says the Celestiq will be available by waitlist only. Want to go look at one? Tough luck. 

And that’s just the start of the issues for Celestiq. Though it sounds impressive on paper, I’m not quite sure there’s much of a case in the real world for Celestiq. While Cadillac is well-known for the Escalade (pretty expensive), the company’s other products (CT4, CT5, XT4, XT5, XT6) are far from the halo or ultra-lux space. Cadillac has decided to reach right past its colleagues, straight into the super lux territory of Rolls-Royce. We can’t include Bentley here, as Celestiq’s base price stretches well past that of the most expensive Bentley (Continental GT), which starts at $202,000.

I can see an immediate issue with such a jump. The sort of customer who’d order a Celestiq is very different from the sort who’d visit their local Cadillac dealership. The idea that such a customer would suddenly want to spend time with their Cadillac dealer, even if the experience comes with a separate concierge, doesn’t quite hold water. 

The Standard of the World tagline is over 100 years old at this point, and doesn’t mean anything to the majority of the populace. But behind the slogan is the “halo” effect: That the Celestiq will bring prestige back to the brand, and trickle such feelings down to the rest of the lineup (which will soon be full of EVs). But this isn’t the first time in modern history Cadillac has attempted a high-dollar halo vehicle.

In the late Eighties (1987) as customers fled the brand and headed to European marques, Cadillac introduced the Allanté. A halo convertible designed by Pininfarina and built in Italy, it was meant to compete with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz SL. A front-drive car, the Allanté was built on a shortened version of the very mediocre Eldorado platform. It was powered by the company’s 4.5-liter transverse V8 and was plagued by electronic issues, among other things. 

The build process was complex and convoluted and included custom-ordered jets to bring the Allanté bodies from Italy to Detroit. Customers saw the Allanté for what it was, and only domestic diehards purchased one. Over seven years of production, Cadillac sold 21,430 Allantés. And though it was canceled after 1993, Cadillac attempted a similar halo convertible a decade later with the XLR.

Another two-seat roadster, the XLR was designed and built in the U.S. alongside the Corvette upon which it was based. Cadillac used the Corvette platform and applied its own body and interior, though the two cars shared many parts. Cadillac skipped the Corvette’s excellent LT V8 and used the 4.6-liter Northstar (of ill repute) instead. Again, it was declared the halo XLR would bring customers back to the brand, and add excitement to the company’s 2000s lineup (CTS, STS, DTS, Escalade).

Again, Cadillac’s attempt at a halo was not successful. The XLR was produced between 2004 and 2009, but consumer interest waned to the extent that it took through 2011 to sell them all. All told, just 15,460 XLRs were produced. 

Both these prior Cadillac halos had several things in common: They were produced on a shared GM platform with their own bodies and interiors, they were both of the “luxury roadster” genre, and they both asked around $100,000 adjusted for inflation at the time of sale. And arguably, both of them were made at a time when Cadillac had more luxury credibility with the general public than it does now. 

Cadillac does not have an issue selling the Escalade, which asks between $80,000 and $105,000, and it’s arguably what has kept the brand afloat for the past couple of decades. However, the buyer of the $90,000 truck-based SUV is very different from the buyer of the $300,000 EV liftback. 

Attempting a halo is fine, and I’m not suggesting Cadillac should never reach for one. However, such a car should ideally be within reach of the brand’s usual customer, even if they have to stretch for it. Such was the case with the Allanté and XLR, as both were conceivably within the budget of the upper-end Cadillac customer. 

Further, both cars were readily available at dealers and appeared on the showroom floor amongst their lesser siblings. The only way a current Cadillac buyer would know about the Celestiq is if they found out about it online, or happened to see one of the few examples in the wild. And would that make them think “Wow, I want to go check out a Lyriq/CT5/Escalade now?” Unlikely.

The reverse, that some Rolls-Royce customer would want to suddenly stoop to a lowly Cadillac seems equally unlikely. I suppose time will tell, but I’d advise Cadillac to stick to a manageable, realistic halo vehicle. They already have it, and it’s called the Escalade.

[Images: Cadillac, Bentley, Rolls-Royce]

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2 of 93 comments
  • Michael500 Michael500 on Oct 21, 2022

    I'd buy that for a dollar! The handmade Cadillac will be made in Delta city after they bulldoze old Detroit.

  • ScuzzyII ScuzzyII on Oct 25, 2022

    Hey, the well-heeled who can afford this vehicle secretly liked the bubble-back windshield of the Monte Carlo, but they just couldnt dare be seen in it. Now here it is again - resurrected, with updated styling, luxo/boat dimensions for the wealthy. I think it will be a hit. Ya hur!

  • Jwee More range and faster charging cannot be good news for the heavily indebted and distracted Musk.Tesla China is discounting their cars. Apart from the Model 3, no one is much buying Tesla's here in Europe. Other groups have already passed Tesla in Europe, where it was once dominant.Among manufacturers, 2021 EV sales:VW Group 25%, Stellantis at 14.5%,Tesla at 13.9%Hyundai-Kia at 11.2% Renault Group at 10.3%. Just 2 years ago, Tesla had a commanding 31.1% share of the European EV marketOuch. https://carsalesbase.com/european-sales-2021-ev/@lou_BC, carsalebase.com changed their data, so this is slightly different than last time I posted this, but same idea.
  • Varezhka Given how long the Mitsubishi USA has been in red, that's a hard one. I mean, this company has been losing money in all regions *except* SE Asia and Oceania ever since they lost the commercial division to Daimler.I think the only reason we still have the brand is A) Mitsubishi conglomerate's pride won't allow it B) US still a source of large volume for the company, even if they lose money on each one and C) it cost too much money to pull out and no one wants to take responsibility. If I was the head of Mitsubishi's North American operation and retreat was not an option, I think my best bet would be to reduce overhead by replacing all the cars with rebadged Nissans built in Tennessee and Mexico.As much as I'd like to see the return of Triton, Pajero Sport (Montero Sport to you and me), and Delica I'm sure that's more nostalgia and grass is greener thing than anything else.
  • Varezhka If there's one (small) downside to the dealer not being allowed to sell above MSRP, it's that now we get a lot of people signing up for the car with zero intention of keeping the car they bought. We end up with a lot of "lightly used" examples on sale for a huge mark-up, including those self-purchased by the dealerships themselves. I'm sure this is what we'll end up seeing with GR Corolla in Japan as well.This is also why the Land Cruiser has a 4 year waitlist in Japan (36K USD starting MSRP -> buy and immediately flip for 10, 20K more -> profit) I'm not sure if there's a good solution for this apart from setting the MSRP higher to match what the market allows, though this lottery system is probably as close as we can get.
  • Jeff S @Lou_BC--Unrelated to this article but of interest I found this on You Tube which explains why certain vehicles are not available in the US because of how the CAFE measures fuel standards. I remember you commenting on this a few years ago on another article on TTAC. The 2023 Chevrolet Montana is an adorable small truck that's never coming to the USA. It's not because of the 1.2L engine, or that Americans aren't interested in small trucks, it's that fuel economy legislation effectively prevents small trucks from happening. What about the Maverick? It's not as small as you think. CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy is the real reason trucks in America are all at least a specific dimension. Here's how it works and why it means no tiny trucks for us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eoMrwrGA8A&ab_channel=AlexonAutos
  • Gabe A new retro-styled Montero as their halo vehicle to compete against the Bronco, Wrangler and 4Runner. Boxy, round headlights like the 1st generation, two door and four door models, body on frame.A compact, urban truck, Mighty Max, to compete against the Maverick. Retro-styled like the early 90s Mighty Max.A new Outlander Sport as more of a wagon/crossover to compete against the Crosstrek and Kona. Needs to have more power (190+ HP) and a legit transmission, no CVT.A new Eclipse hybrid to compete against the upcoming redesigned Prius. Just match the Prius's specs and make it look great.Drop the Eclipse Cross, I am not sure why they wanted to resurrect the Pontiac Aztec. Keep the Mirage and keep it cheap, make the styling better and up the wheel size. The Outlander seems fine.I like the idea of some sort of commercial vehicle, something similar in size to the Promaster City but with AWD.