No. 1002
June 26, 2019

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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By Peter M. DeLorenzo 

Detroit. The amount of hand-wringing that has been expended by GM operatives over the future of Cadillac over the past five years has been prodigious. Legendary even. People in this business are continually shaking their heads over the fact that the $12 billion committed to yet another rebirth of Cadillac hasn’t translated into much. Yes, the True Believers in GM Design and Product Development have done some superb work on behalf of GM’s luxury brand, but the net-net of it all has been decidedly lacking, and Cadillac is not even close to where it should be, despite a few product successes and the notable inroads into the Chinese market.

The concerted effort to push Cadillac into the future at all costs - to the detriment of its historic past - has been painfully obvious to even the most casual of observers. There is something that has been seriously lost in translation, despite the fact that GM Design has put together three of the most stunning concepts in the industry over the last decade in the Ciel, the Elmiraj and the Escala. One of the mysteries of the modern industrial age is the fact that GM operatives didn’t capitalize on the dramatic impact of those concepts. GM insiders insist that the CT6 captures the impact of those vehicles but they’re lying through their teeth. The CT6 has a front end that is “kinda-sorta” like those concepts, but the rest of the car is uninspired and ordinary, and there is no amount of squinting that will make it right. 

Ask the casual observer on the street what Cadillac means to them and they will say “Escalade.” Yes, the True Believers at GM who churned out the “V” cars are to be commended because they are truly excellent machines, but let’s face it, a few enthusiasts who gravitated to the “V” cars do not constitute a movement, and Cadillac’s street cred is the visual impact and sheer on-the-road presence of the Escalade.

Cadillac finds itself at a critical juncture at this moment in time. The recently departed Johan de Nysschen’s remaking of GM’s luxury brand in Audi’s image has now officially run aground. The strategy sounded good and looked good on paper, but the vehicles were handicapped by being ridiculously overpriced right out of the gate. Again, the Escalade is the exception, but the rest of Cadillac’s lineup is desperate for traction. The XT5 is doing decently in an SUV-crazed market, but the new XT4 is decidedly lackluster, so it remains a giant “we’ll see.” The ATS is going away but the High-Octane Truth is that the CTS should follow it out the door. And the XTS, which Cadillac operatives refuse to acknowledge and dismiss as an embarrassment and an afterthought, is still the best-selling Cadillac car. So what does that tell you?

The next Escalade is dramatic and will make the Navigator look like yesterday’s news, but Cadillac operatives also have an opportunity to put stunning, memorable bodywork on that wonderfully-executed CT6 vehicle architecture and reestablish Cadillac as the design and luxury leader. But will they do it? Or maybe the better questions is, do they understand why they should do it? Let’s just say I have serious doubts.

Which brings me to the bottom line in this discussion. Some people have gotten the (very) wrong impression that I simply want to mire Cadillac in a nostalgia play that would be woefully irrelevant in today’s market. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. Cadillac deserves better than that. Much better.

Do you realize that the power of the Cadillac brand is still seared in the American consciousness? Let’s think about that for a moment. The moniker, “The Cadillac of…” is used by any number of businesses – big and small – because to this day it connotates the top of the line. And this is in spite the fact that Cadillac, through serial ineptitude and strategic mistakes, has been marginalized for years. Yet Cadillac still has such resonance and power as a brand that it is simply staggering. (Don’t forget that it wasn’t all that long ago – pre-Escalade of course – that the Chevrolet Suburban was referred to as the “Texas Cadillac” in Texas.) 

It’s clear that the aforementioned energy and hand-wringing expended to “fix” Cadillac haven’t accounted for much. And the reason for that is that GM operatives and marketers have simply forgotten what the true essence of Cadillac is. And what is that, exactly? The words that best describe what Cadillac should be are: Seductive. Luxurious. Powerful. Distinctive. Memorable. Right now, there is only one Cadillac that even comes close to those words and that is, of course, the Escalade.

I cannot stress enough that if Cadillac is going to return to its rightful place in the pecking order of American automobiles, then it must create vehicles that ooze those descriptive words mentioned above without exception or excuse. Authentic vehicles worthy of the Cadillac name and reputation that exude the essence of the brand.

GM operatives must let Cadillac be Cadillac. Not facsimiles of a Cadillac. Not “kinda-sorta” Cadillacs. 

They can start by getting back to building the Cadillac…of Cadillacs. 

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

The Cadillac Ciel.

The Cadillac Ciel.

The Cadillac Ciel.

The Cadillac Elmiraj.(GM)
The Cadillac Escala.