Opinion: EVs Aren't Cadillac's Problem

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Cadillac once said it would be all-electric by 2030, but like other automakers, it has appeared to soften that commitment.

As we reported, it makes sense -- Cadillac isn't the OEM that made aggressive EV promises only to back off for a variety of reasons. While EV market share has grown, there are still hurdles for greater EV adoption. Inconsistent charging availability is one. Consumer preference for ICE vehicles or hybrid/PHEVs appears to be another.

Meanwhile, Cadillac sales have been dipping -- except for the Lyriq EV, which had a rough start last year but has sold much better through the first quarter this year.

Looking at the sales declines, the problem might not be powertrains.

Perhaps Cadillac has lost some of its luster, no matter what powertrain is being used.

Or, perhaps, it's perception?

I think it's a little bit of both.

Cadillac does offer some strong models. The Escalade isn't my cup of tea but it remains a strong entrant in the large luxury SUV segment -- and you can even give it the V treatment. The Blackwings are a blast. The CT4 strikes me as a nice alternative to a 3-Series or a Lexus ES.

But the XT4/XT5/XT6? I don't think they're bad vehicles, per se, but they don't feel special the way a Caddy should. They're nice, sure, but we're talking about Cadillac here. "Pretty Nice" is fine for Buick, since that's supposed to be entry-luxury brand bridging the gap between Chevy and Caddy. But Caddy is supposed to be a level above that.

The naming conventions probably don't help. Alphanumeric naming schemes aren't always bad. But I doubt XT5 moves the needle much with a young, well-off buyer who thinks of Cadillac as being this luxurious brand with models that have interesting names.

I don't want to be unfairly harsh here. Cadillac is, generally speaking, doing design well right now. Exterior styling across the board is attractive. And, again, the Blackwing models are on par with the competition. There are good things happening with the brand -- but is it enough?

It would help if GM finally learned how to differentiate luxury-car interiors from cheaper GM models. I've beat this drum before, but customers are smart and well-informed. People know that a Lexus ES shares a lot with the Toyota Camry but they pay more for it anyway in part because the interior looks and feels much more upscale. Sure, there are other factors -- luxury brands offer standard features that are either options or unavailable on the cheaper mainstream cars, and the dealer experience is generally much nicer. But in the end, it's the product that the owner lives with for two to five years -- or longer.

That was my biggest beef with the CT4, for example. The materials above the beltline looked and felt price appropriate -- but the ones below the beltline felt cheap. That shouldn't be acceptable on a Cadillac.

At least Lincoln finally learned to do a better job of not appearing to have raided the Ford parts bin. Cadillac needs to learn that lesson.

It is nice to see the Lyriq selling better -- and my very brief experiences with the Lyriq suggest that Cadillac is capable of interior design that matches the brand. Let's hope that lesson translates across the rest of the lineup.

If Cadillac can either ditch the alphanumeric scheme or at least make it make more sense to the average buyer, improve on interior design, and market its vehicles properly, the brand has a chance at a renaissance.

If it can do that, it won't matter much how the vehicles are powered.

[Images: Cadillac, © 2023/2024 Tim Healey/TTAC.com]

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Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 37 comments
  • Dr.Nick Dr.Nick on May 10, 2024

    The cars seem really expensive with tight back seats and Cadillac was on the list of the highest price gouging dealers coming out of COVID. I don’t understand the combination, shouldn’t they be offering deals if they are not selling?

  • Wjtinfwb Wjtinfwb on May 28, 2024

    Agree on Caddy interiors, except the Escalade, that looks the business. But the CT and XT ranges are bland, cheap and uninspiring. The exteriors could use some help as well. CT sedans look more like a Volvo or maybe Infiniti product than a high-end American car. Base powertrains leave a lot to be desired as well. CT5's base 2.0L 4 is rough, gravelly and not a very enthusiastic engine for a sport sedan. The V6 and V8 are astounding but drive the base price way up. The 2.0 is more acceptable in the smaller CT4 which is 12k less than the CT5 and the CT4 offers the 2.7L Colorado engine which should provide substantially more thrust than the 2.0 but may be even rougher. I've owned a couple Cadillac's in my life, neither were exceptional or left a longing for another one. Looks like the current lineup is more of the same.

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.