No. 976
December 12, 2018

Follow Autoextremist





Editors' Note: If you have a comment, please include your name or initials (AND YOUR HOMETOWN TOO, PLEASE). We do not print email addresses. If you want to read previous issues, click on "Next Entry" on the bottom of each section (we do not save emails from previous issues, however). Thank you.


On the road to oblivion.

I sure wouldn't call those “bailouts” money well spent. They all got bailed out. Don't let them fool you with those stories about the “heroes” that “saved” the big 3. There are no heroes in a story that ends this way. The big 3 have been devoid of new product since this century started. If the C6 or whatever that so-called Cadillac is the best they could do, they need to go back to the drawing board. I worked on higher tech crap in the 1980's. GM 99 comes to mind. The Cadillac “Solitaire”. That was a real fucking Cadillac. You know what? They should demand that all of these genius's that “manage” the big 3 pay back all but $150,000 per year going back to the beginning of the century. I was laughing at the picture of those three “genius's” that run that autonomous division of GM and I was thinking that between the three of them, they couldn't tune up a car let alone design one. And to think that they think that they are going to design a car that drives by itself? Were these idiots actually drug tested? Did they use the hair test on them? And what's with the blue jeans? The main problem with the big 3 is Human Resources. A complete waste of money, they are the prime reason why NOBODY with any brains wants to work for the big 3. GM solved their problem of high engineering overhead costs. They are going to rely on “engineers” with no drivers licenses in China to design and engineer tomorrow. Almost fifteen years ago Ford decided to get out of the car business and contract the whole thing out. Chrysler? Relying on 20- or 30-year-old product is no way to turn a profit. So what killed the big 3? Endless stupid decisions. Like Ford using seven different software's to engineer a car and having 35 different rear axle part numbers for one vehicle. Like GM kicking CATIA out in 1987 and then relying on junk to engineer their cars for 30 years. Like FCA making the same mistake as GM, dumping CATIA and then packing middle management with a bunch of losers. Then we have the endless cancelled vehicle programs, each costing well over one billion each and they ALL do it. At least its obvious how they are going to solve this mess that they have created for themselves. To who? I have NO idea...

Highland Park, Michigan

Hydrogen? Notgonnahappen.

Well I was with you all the way about Cadillac's failures, but at the end you changed topics and said “hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered electric vehicles will supersede the BEVs planned now” And I simply must respectively disagree.

The cost of building an infrastructure to support plug-in vehicles is staggering, but it's dwarfed by what it will take to make hydrogen viable. Plug-ins benefit from many being able to charge at home — allowing them to be usable even if they don't have a fast charging facility readily available. Until the money is spent to build the hydrogen stations, fuel cell vehicles face a far worse range anxiety issue than BEVs.

Hydrogen facilities require expensive storage tanks, expensive fueling equipment. And to fill those tanks, the hydrogen has to come from somewhere. It could be generated locally, but that's got the same problem plug-in refueling has — the electricity supply. And if it's not generated locally, there's going to be a need for a huge fleet of hydrogen tankers.

But the biggest reason hydrogen vehicles won't happen very quickly — if at all — is much simpler. People are stupid. A bad design, a poorly written document, an “oops” at the controls and a resulting conflagration or two will turn a lot of people off of hydrogen. Unlikely? Consider what happened with electricity from nuclear.

Winter Haven, Florida


How about no?

Cadillac would have helped the CT6 a bit more if they gave the thing a real name. Where the Germanic masters of the car universe have a distinctly techno-engineering vibe, and are thus suitably described with robotic identities, Cadillac has made its name on a romantic vision of luxury. Escalade, Eldorado, Sedan DeVille… they all hint of balmy nights in a beachfront paradise. And here they give it a moniker befitting a model of a washing machine. Will you ever learn, Cadillac? Before it's too late?

Jay Scott
Wellington, Florida

“I see dead people. They don't even know they're dead.” 

And so it goes for Cadillac, who's only current claim to fame is the Escalade until the market/oil shifts and that will be dead too. Write down “Self-inflicted wound” as cause of death – sure it took 40-50 years for the decades of “luxury” crap they foisted on us to sour the pot, but Cadillac hasn't been anyone's idea of an aspirational brand since my dad's generation (WWII vets). Starting with the quality plunge of the '70-'71s, you could go through the succeeding years and easily find 8-9 fatal blows.

The only thing going for GM is their trucks. Dear God don't let them blow that one too.

Dave M.
Houston, Texas

Chinese CT6?

Any word if GM is still going to produce and sell the CT6 in China? I would not be surprised if they do. And if it were not for the uncertainty of tariffs under the Trump administration, I am sure they would not mind exporting a few to the US for those customers who would want one. Yet another major consequence of stupid tariffs, less choice.

Jeff W.
Albany, New York

Not much hope.

Another epic failure for Cadillac. You are absolutely correct in that Lexus and Infiniti understood how to ramp up into the luxury segment. Cadillac never got it. The new XT-4 continues with the stupidity. The full tech models sticker north of 55K. My wife's Identically equipped Lincoln MKC is 43K. Not holding out much hope for the future.

Steve M.
Lecanto, Florida

New tactics.

I have to say that as a car guy, I too was blindsided by the SUV/CUV revolution. Even though I live in an urban area, I still love canyon carving when the opportunity arises. I'll never buy a SUV but at the age of 75, I'm beginning to understand their appeal to most people. I stay fit so I have no trouble getting in and out of my BMW 3-series but I have noticed people almost half my age grunting and groaning as the climb in and out. These are the same people who say; “You still drive a stick?” Being a dinosaur who refuses to age gracefully is no fun. Now that I have developed my see-around-them tactics on the road, I find that I have to use those skills all the time. SUVs are here to stay.

South Orange, New Jersey


So there.

The CT6 illustrates the worst thing about Internet Car Enthusiasts. ICEs wail and cry and demand car companies make them their perfect unicorn “better BMW than BMW” performance sedan, and when the car arrives the ICEs sneer “eh, I don't like the color,” or “no diesel? FAIL,” or (my favorite) “the gauges look cheap.” Then they go off to brag how they'd never buy anything newer than 3 years old (if they can get their mom to co-sign the loan) because depreciation is for suckers.

You want car companies to make vehicles you like? then put your money where your mouth is and BUY THEM. They're not obligated to lose money making un-sellable vehicles just so you can complain about them on the internet.

Jim Z.
Detroit, Michigan


It Was Never Special.

 Once again PMD nails it on the head. General Motors spent literally DECADES pushing mostly garbage while their competition from Japan and Germany (mostly) ate their lunch. At various times the cars were rusting-out when they left the dealer lot, styling was awkward and uninspired, and quality was simply atrocious. They allowed their brand equity to erode to the point of irrelevance. Starved of product, quality and market relevance we see the path of destruction today. Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Hummer and Saturn – gone, and with it billions and billions (and billions) of dollars. Today's Rant mentions the marketing and awareness campaign costs – also mostly wasted money and opportunity – but the engineering and manufacturing costs are simply staggering.

And no brand was more serially abused than Cadillac. If GM management had WANTED to destroy Cadillac they couldn't have done much worse than they did. Uninspired, often ugly styling, overpriced, poorly marketed (if at all) and terrible, terrible quality – for DECADES – rendered Cadillac merely a shadow in the luxury automotive landscape.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz and BMW gobbled up market share, producing desirable vehicles that accurately – and honestly – reflected each brand's positioning. And upstart brands such as Lexus, Infiniti and even Acura did the hard work of building their brands the old-fashioned way – by producing unique vehicles that presented a specific, planned, (often) logical reason for customers to come and take a look. Genesis today is following the same exact playbook, but benefiting smartly from the examples provided a decade (or two) ago.

Meanwhile, GM/Cadillac launched the CT6, an uninspiring vehicle with an uninspiring name, uninspiring styling, from an uninspiring brand with the unenviable reputation for at-best mediocrity value/reliability, all presented to the world with an uninspiring marketing campaign. The only thing breathtaking and noteworthy of the CT6 was the pricing.

In other words, the CT6, like most of the rest of the Cadillac lineup, was uninspiring. It wasn't special, and being special was always what made Cadillac, well, special. Cadillac management's problem was that they spent too much time chasing other carmakers, especially BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. They did a decent job figuring out what THOSE companies were all about, product-wise, but obviously not enough time figuring out who and what THEY were. Instead of tilting at German windmills and proclaiming they were just as good, Cadillac management should have dedicated themselves to making the best CADILLAC they could make, pricing it in a way so as to say to prospective customers, “We humbly ask that you see what we've come up with. We think you'll love it.”

Instead they said, essentially, “The ‘first ever’ CT6 is as-good as those German brands, because we said so! And we're gonna rip your heads off when you buy it. If you don't like it, then F--- YOU.”

Hey GM, here's some advice from an old product planning guy: Stop looking to Germany or Japan for inspiration. Look at your storied history, listen to your customers and respect the fact that you'll need to work your collective asses off to earn every one of them. They already like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and the rest. You need to give customers are reason to like Cadillac, and that starts with making Cadillac special again.

Motown – for now…


Excellent question.

Are these mobility/BEV experts the same people who could not foresee the demise of the sedan just three years ago? How can I believe their prognostications this time?

Kevin Kelly
St. Louis, Missouri



That the CT6 was dead on arrival wasn't a surprise to me. The reasons are myriad but here's a few: Meaningless alphanumerics and not a name. Since when does “6” signify top shelf? In all things automotive premium starts at 8. It wasn't the Sixteen.
What's more troubling is how GM will dump boatloads of cash into a product just before killing it. While other projects that desperately need revisions sit on the shelf until customers can't tell if it's new or an off lease from the used car lot.

Examples that stand out to me: 2nd gen Pontiac Fiero, Oldsmobile's Aurora “relaunch”, The European Saturn, Pontiac Solstice, Pontiac GTO and G8, much as I hate them, Hummer, and now the “Flagship Caddy” (who am I kidding? I want an ATS Coupe).

Honestly, I'm wondering if this C8 Corvette will make it to the showroom? They've spent all this money on R&D, if it doesn't podium at Le Mans? Let's just pull the plug and sell another SUV. A Corvette SUV! shudder

Btw I'd love to get my wife a Regal Tour X, preferably with the Avenir trim (not available), did you know Buick makes a proper station wagon? You wouldn't know it from their commercials.

Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania 


Hopelessly hopeless.

You hit the nail dead center on the head with this week's GM rant. I have said almost the exact same thing in discussions with car guy friends. GM is hopelessly hopeless. They can't stop making stupid product decisions and they can't get a clue about how to market the good product they have.

This rush in to e-cars and AI cars that need no driver is way too soon in the market and doomed to fail unless gas prices skyrocket into the $4.50 per gallon range or higher. But that is only half of the problem for GM. No matter what they bring out it will be 3/4-baked and out of sequence with consumer tastes. Add to that their inability to market anything effectively and you get abject failure guaranteed.

It makes me sad having been a loyal GM customer since 1972 when I bought a new Cutlass 442 for less than $4k out the door. Man, that was a great car even with it's reduced compression/ power.

Now I have found nothing appealing at GM and I'm on my second FCA product that I am very pleased with. Not that the quality is better than GM but the design, appeal and marketing sure the hell is. GM could get me back but I doubt it. I am fine with ICE power as long as gas is affordable. I did drive a 2016 Volt recently and was impressed with it other than its abysmal interior. So there it is. We agree completely on the mess that is GM. I feel so bad for the great engineers who have to have their talents wasted on building the wrong products.

Mike M.
Whitmore Lake, Michigan


Perception rules.

As I step back and look at what is going on in the industry, I am struck by the fact that Honda and Toyota, (and Nissan) are not exiting the sedan market. I think that Ford has made a mistake in exiting the sedan market entirely, and I think that GM is making a similar mistake. I cannot argue against killing models that are not selling, especially if they are long in the tooth & require significant reinvestment. I would, however, question a decision to kill profitable models, and models that are relatively young, but have not been successfully marketed. In the case of the CT6 I believe that no one blunder killed it. It is the combination of the stupid alphanumeric name, price point too high to make people think twice about buying German or Japanese, styling that stopped a little short of the Cadillac show cars that made everyone take notice, and the piss poor marketing. The Escalade has presence, the CT6 is attractive and inoffensive, but lacking in the presence that the Escalade has. It also lacks a proper name! I am saddened (stunned?) that with all of the high paid geniuses at GM, they are unable to grasp how perception must be considered to market their products. Their arguably very good products. It sickens me to think about all of the effort and hard work that went into producing that vehicle, and it is all for nothing. And regarding the plant closure announcements – couldn't that have been handled better? Maybe announce that 1 or 2 are closing for sure, and products are being studied for the others, and then stagger those closings to lessen the blow to the workers, communities, and GM? It makes me question the value of graduate degrees...

Bloomfield, Michigan

Sad Cadillac.

Well you hit the nail of the head, as did EVERYONE who wrote in regarding this weeks Rant. No that is sad! SAD!! Each person identified various reasons as to why Cadillac never succeeded and all pretty much spot on. I have been a Cadillac owner for years, V-Wagon (my favorite of all time), CTS, and Escalades in various shapes and sizes. That is about all they have now and Lincoln is eating their lunch with a drop dead competitor. Does anyone really understand the value they “had” with the Cadillac name? Seriously, GM has wasted so much with so little return (marketing anyone?). I actually think Lincoln is now far ahead of Cadillac in marketing and in design. I wouldn't have ever dreamed of saying that just three years ago. I digress... I went to my local Cadillac dealer last week to look at the XT4 (not sure what genius picked that name) and it is soooo disappointing. And so over priced. $56K for the one I wanted?? I don't think so! Not sure where the future is for Cadillac, but for the first time ever I am looking and waiting for the new Lincoln Aviator. So sad Cadillac.

Highlands Ranch, Colorado


Living years.

During the 60s of my youth most families with more than two kids would have a station wagon parked in the driveway. They were practical, but road like their sedan cousins and had a certain cachet among the up and coming set that suggested, “We're successful.” We would see professionals, management and blue collar types driving their family wagons everywhere.

In the 70s nearly everyone either owned or desired a “personal luxury coupe”. As in two doors. It started with the Japanese coupes from Toyota and Datsun. Before long everyautomaker was forced to offer two door versions in every line of cars, no matter what size or price point. One of the more popular aspirational cars of that time was the Olds Cutlass Supreme Coupe. Imagine driving up to the disco in your bell bottom suit in your white over red Cutlass Supreme! Trucks were becoming more popular, but they remained a vehicle mostly for farmers and construction work.

Then 80s witnessed the introduction of the minivan that changed everyone's notion of what a suitable family car should be. That had such momentum it lasted into the late 90s. I should know, we purchased two Mazda MPV vans! But during that same time the SUV made its first inroads, but they were not exactly common. But the improvements in the family four-door sedan by Honda, Ford and Toyota made them thechoice for young urban types. Of course this was fueled by the burgeoning popularity of BMW and Mercedes saloons.

The 90s saw the general acceptance of the large SUV. As in the Suburbans, Expeditions, etc. They became the de rigueur conveyance at the country club. But still, the sedan continued to reign supreme. Until... Mercedes rolled out its first SUV – the ML 320. Literally overnight I started seeing at least one of these every time I drove. Were they outstanding vehicles? Not really. Slow, prone to break, cheap interior materials, but dammit, it's a MERCEDES!

Now, I drive my car around in an ocean of SUVs and trucks. I know people like them, but I still cannot understand why. Bigger, more expensive, clumsy to drive, less fuel efficient. Yeah, more interior space I guess. (How much do you need? Why do you think you need to be seated “Up high”? Can you really see better? Don't think so. I've seen you try to park that beast. How much did it cost to fill that thing up?)

What will be the Big Thing for automobiles in another twelve years? I dunno. Maybe an electric Edsel 6×6 wagon.

Jim Jones
Cole County, Missouri

GM runs.

Automotive News reported that Chevy Cruze sales YTD have been 135,127 through November. That might not be a huge number like F150, Silverado, or Ram truck, but significant nonetheless, and the Cruze is in the Top 10 best seller list YTD for passenger cars. Now, after this announcement, Cruze sales will tank, and GM execs will pat themselves on the back and tell each other about the wise decision they made to drop those slow sellers. If Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai can do well in passenger cars, GM should be able to do the same, rather than run away from the market.

John B.
Houston, Texas

Good on GM.

To be fair, the CT6 is a good car. Even with bad marketing it still outsells a number of competitors. But good on GM for not doubling down on bad planning (aiming for BMW circa 1995 in 2015). Now, where's the XT3 and XT6? Hurry! P.S. Concerned about the future of ANY Cadillac sedans — no reason to believe that the CT5 will do better than the CTS and ATS — not enough sales to keep Grand River running (Camaro not setting the house on fire either).

Jacksonville, Florida

Sad, II.

Regarding the CT6. I agree with you, Peter, and the most of the posts on the mistakes GM made with this car. Although, the surprising fact to me was how well the car drove. In my test drive I felt the ride and handling of the CT6 was superior to the German competitors. It weighed several hundred pounds less than the 7 Series and a comparable S-Class, combined with a very innovative chassis design made it a enjoyable car to drive in the curves. Sad indeed.

Steve C.
Knoxville, Tennessee

Editor-in-Chief's Note: The sad thing is that GM has had a history of abandoning good products, and it stinks. The time, money and effort invested in the CT6 is staggering; and having it live on only in China after all of the money expended here is criminal, once again pointing to the fact that GM can't market its way out of a paper bag. -PMD

 Ask the man who drives one.

WTH? Hydrogen infrastructure hard to build? But BEV charging infrais structure not hard to build?

You can deliver H2 like gasoline, sort of, and put tanks and compressors alongside existing gasoline stations. The power required to make H2 is centralized so we don't have to lay cables that will lay waste to half of the Sierra Nevada in the next fire.

Now, in my State, Calimexistan, the Pinnacle of the Green World, we are unable to provide power reliably as it is. We have power lines that create monstrous fires and destroy entire towns. We have prices higher than in France and still have rolling blackouts because the Environazis running Sacramentograd won't allow more power stations.

And you want to put 100 Mw power lines all over the place to feed BEV charging stations? There goes my AC when the temps go over 85F. And if I lose my Netflix and my cold beer I'm gonna take a gun and start shooting every Tesla I see plugged into a garage. And there are lots of Teslas in Tonysville.

Nope, man. Wholescale BEV charging won't work until we figure out how to make nano magnetic containment fusion reactors. Until then, just be happy that using LED light bulb$$ in CA you can drop your power cost below 200 bucks a month. In the winter. Gas is sort of cheap (over four bucks a gallon of Commie 87 octane) and H2 is fun to drive and still free, subsidized by my neighbors who drive F350s. (Hey, I got a truck too, sort of, a nice V6 Ridgeline Black Edition… so I'm into gasoline too).

Then, you get the logically invalid boogie man notion of an H2 tank explosion. OMG. Never mind that gasoline is actually much more explosive than H2 and we have somehow created technology that keeps it from turning the cabin into a flash convection over when cars get into high speed crashes.

I'd rather have that H2 tank than pulling a 787 when the batteries start to heat up…

Did you know that the reason the Hindenburg went so bad was because the stern was heavy and it sank tail first? That created a chimney effect through the central passage way and took the fire to the remaining gas cells and it made it very hard for people at the bow to get out at from a reasonable height. I don't think that's gonna happen in a FCEV.

Oh Cadillac. Jesus, what a waste. My wife likes those “Cadillac” margaritas at our favorite Mexican restaurant. They are excellent, using the best. I guess I'll have to rename my version of the Cadillac Margarita - which I make with Cointreau, fresh limes from the yard and Hornitos. “Escalade margarita” just doesn't sound right, huh? Better buy that white El Dorado convertible and the Mid Century house in Palm Springs soon.

Is it hard to smoke a cigar in a large American convertible car?

Fire Extinguisher Station, The OC, Calimexistan


Chinese paradise.

I might point out to Mark R., that if and when the public supports AV-EV in mass quantity, it will, in the land of the “Luxury Shopper”, still demand an exterior and interior design that stands out in the crowd, and is worth the money. Like maybe something between the head and tail lights, besides a battery. Also Mark, thanks for reminding us that even dogs can get to heaven, if China is your idea of paradise, that is.

Boyne City, Michigan


GM's self-destructive behavior.

Not shocked about the CT6. I thought it was about three cars cobbled together when I first saw it, getting progressively blander as it went rearward. When I saw one on the street I thought it was nice looking but honestly had to check that it wasn't a CTS (which IMHO is better looking.) I'm sure it will sell well in China where brash cars aren't the thing.

The ironic thing is that Cadillac has the answer on what to do in their own stable: Escalade. Do they think that thing sells because it's the best truck out there? The most reliable? The best value? Hell no, it sells because from it's grille the size of a dining room table to it's tailights taller than some public buildings it says “Fuck you, I'm a Caddy and get out of my way if you know what's good for you!” Why do they think shorthand for bad-a$ in the movies is a black one?

Three stunning concepts in a row, with names, and a line up of bland-tastic cars with numbers and they wonder why…

Tom Pease
(AE's L.A.-based correspondent)
Beverly Hills, California

Real bad.

Read your most recent article about the abysmal GM Cadillac CT6. I like to consider myself a “car guy”. But while reading your article… even I had to Google image search a CT6 and a XT4. Because I wanted to make sure that I was actually picturing the correct car and SUV. Then I thought. Wow. That's bad. What was once the standard by which all other luxury car brands were measured against throughout the world. And I have to Google image search the Cadillac brand model range because I can't recall what its halo car and/or entry level offerings look like. That's not [just] bad. That's really bad.

New Richmond, Wisconsin


They won't write songs about AVs either.

I cannot see The Blasters remaking “Long White Cadillac” as “Long White Escalade” but, just maybe, they'll have to when there are no Caddy cars around anymore.

Phil Hackett 
Los Angeles, California 


Not. Very. Good. Is it?

I know this is off-topic a bit (but maybe continue evidence of GM having lost its way in many regards…) but have you seen the abomination that is the new Chevy HD Silverado? Are they trying to design themselves out of business? Only a company that would green light the Aztek could make this. Ford can slash their F150 ad budget and just run a 30-second spot with nothing but a picture of this followed by something like “You really want to be seen in this??”

I can only imagine what goes on in those halls... but it ain't good…

Tony W.
Mount Joy, Pennsylvania


Great car. Dumb name.

The CT6 is truly a greatly engineered car if you really dig in and learn about it, it's also one of the dumbest car names in history. Also, if Caddy is going to brag that they are as good as BMW or Mercedes, they need to work on the quality of their vehicles. The Escalade is consistently rated poorly for quality. You want to be the best, build the best. Another point, to the naked eye, I'll bet that someone would tell you that all three Cadillac sedans (was 4) look too much like each other. The other thing auto companies have been doing is not making changes for so long, that people lose interest. Ford Taurus, and Fusion come to mind. It will be interesting to see what happens, but I think dumping car production will be a big mistake. It will be interesting to see how Honda and Toyota sales do since all the competition is leaving.

Doug Smith
Kunkletown, Pennsylvania


CT6 Silver Lining?

As I am watching the festivities/dignitaries (?) in today's event, all is not lost for the CT6. It makes a beautiful hearse! I wouldn't mind being planted out of that...
Lake Holcomb, Wisconsin

Editor-in-Chief's Note: Actually the Presidential hearse was based on the Cadillac XTS. -PMD

Suburban reality.
My job takes me in an endless circle through the better-best towns in the NY Metro Area. (Bergen, Westchester, Nassau and Fairfield...) Here in the Green Leafy Burbs, Cadillac penetration has never been vast. The Escalade has a footing, but only the new model… I don't know where the last generation ever goes-Florida ? Flyover? A Mystery... There are a few SRX-XT5 making the school run - those tend to be kept. The ATS is around-cheap leases-the CTS is almost never seen past the second generation, and the CT6? I have literally seen more McLarens in the wild than CT6. I haven't seen enough third-gen CTS to confuse them with the CT6...

Sad, GM really needed to go big, but somewhere in the design, the committee that makes sure GM products are 90% right before they go to market worked on these as well, in a world where 100% execution is expected. My next car is a Benz...

Casey Raskob, Esq. 
Green Leafy Burbs, New York City

The Cadillac image.

It amuses me how frequently you still hear, “the Cadillac of…(insert product here.)” Isn't that funny. People unconsciously still measure items against the perceived notion of Cadillac being the Standard of the World. Except that it's not anymore. Old habits die hard.

When I was a kid, people aspired to own a Cadillac. Our doctor drove a Cadillac. The lawyer in town drove a Cadillac. My old man only had a Pontiac, and mumbled under his breath about the “rich SOBs” in their Cadillacs. It was a sign saying, “I have arrived. I am successful. I can afford a Cadillac. Screw you.”

But there was more to it than just price. Back in those days, most lesser cars did not carry much for options. Crank windows and manual seat adjustment and open-window A/C were the norm. Only the true luxury cars had power windows, power locks, A/C, power seats etc. Lincoln, Caddy, Imperial/New Yorker, maybe the biggest Buicks and Mercurys might also. But having a Caddy meant that you could afford all the fancy toys that mere mortals could not. That has greatly changed nowadays. Even the most plebian cars usually have standard power options and A/C. You have to go out of your way to find one without. This has greatly degraded the allure of the luxury car. Who needs a Caddy when you can get all the creature comforts in your Focus or Cruze, or even a pickup?

And of course, the elephant in the room, and which was the death toll for Cadillac, was quality. In the 70s, that decade of automotive hell, American cars were crappy. That's when the German and Japanese imports appeared and to everyone's surprise, were not all junk and offered the same comforts along with better ride and handling and economy and sometimes quality – and that's all she wrote. Wasn't long before the Germans and Japanese were soon perceived as the “New Standard.”

Fast forward to today. Cadillac is building some nice cars. But they have to compete against other nice cars. Other nice cars which have become the New Standard. So how to compete? With equal pricing and capability? No, not good enough. To compete you have to give more, for less. Caddy has to have a better (or otherwise unique in some way) product and sell it for less to re-establish the brand.

Somebody else said the reason the Escalade sells well is because it has this huge honkin' grille the size of a semi-truck and taillights as tall as buildings. They're right. It's all about IMAGE, baby. The Escalade has it in spades. The cars do not. I think that for Cadillac to come back, they need to bring to market a model or two that are so OUT THERE, so far off the beaten path, that people stop dead in their tracks to gawk and say, “What the Hell is That?” People want to be noticed. Maybe it means Chrome out the yin yang. Maybe it means tail fins. Maybe it means a bubble top, or gullwing doors or six wheels or whatever. But it has to be brash, wild, remarkable, and grab people by the lapels and yell “I'm Cadillac, and you damn well better look at me!! 'Cause I"m special!!”

Image, baby. Remember that.

Dave G. 
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Editor-in-Chief's Note: In my many columns about Cadillac, I have stressed repeatedly that the on-the-road "presence" and the image of the cars is critical. I have also stressed that GM needed to stop chasing the Germans with Cadillac; and to let Cadillac be Cadillac. The brand has suffered from the countless mistakes perpetrated by those tasked with the stewardship of the brand. And it's beyond unconscionable. Cadillac can be revived - the new Escalade on the way is sensational - but I'm afraid it won't be here, as GM operatives have decided that the Chinese market is more important. -PMD

From the "Run For Your Lives!" File.

If your readers really want their minds blown, they should read the “Rethinking Transportation” report by futurist think-tank RethinkX that you posted a link to in “On The Table”. It's a free download, and if what they predict even partially comes true it will decimate the auto industry as we know it along with every business that relies on producing, selling, or servicing today's combustion engine powered vehicles! And they're not talking far off in the future either, they're talking in the 2024 – 2030 time-frame!! It's downright scary if your livelihood today depends on this NOT happening the way they predict it could, so read at your own risk!

Waterford, Michigan


From the "PR Nightmare" File.

GM, once again, a PR nightmare. They are presenting themselves as losers, during good times. They are also acting as if once again their decisions didn't bring them to this place.

Product planning failure, combined with mediocre styling and poor marketing. You mean to tell me, five years ago they didn't know the Malibu, Lacrosse, Cruze etc, should have been SUVs. That would not have helped because, the styling of their Crossovers and New Pick Ups are horrible. Ok, maybe not horrible but boring (new Blazer)


Detroit, Michigan

Cadillac just being...

It's funny to see so many state that Cadillac needs to quit trying to be BMW or Mercedes and be Cadillac. Audi didn't realize the success it has today (in the US) until it stopped trying to be BMW. I did some work with them a decade and a half ago and remember my admonition that they needed to be AUDI and stop trying be BMW. If someone wants a BMW, there's already one out there. Be yourself. What ever that may be.

And let me add, having spent the better part or the last five years telling anyone over 35 that Cadillac didn't want you as a customer didn't help either. I can tell you that no one under 50 (and not too many over) cares about Cadillac. In any shape or configuration. (Rappers with Escalades excepted.)



F1's feeble sound.

Totally agree with your take on F1. My sons and I attended our first F1 race this year in Austin and the sound of the engines in person is no better than what you hear on the TV broadcast. Lots of comments from other fans we spoke with shared that opinion. We go to Road America several times a year for IndyCar and IMSA races and the sounds from either of those series are much more music to our ears. The Corvettes in particular have a deep rumble that is not mistaken for anything else and the Aston Martin group have a distinct note as do other marques. You included some E-series updated info as an FYI, and like you I have no interest in that either. Maybe the next generation (if they even follow racing) will embrace it but I need the sound of a real petrol powered race engine in competition to hold my interest.

Shoreview, Minnesota


Bringing Back the Scream.

The “scream” could be brought back to F1 with a few pen strokes. No more turbo/super chargers. All engines naturally aspirated. 2.5 Liter displacement limit. Anti-lock braking allowed but we need to think about adaptive suspension systems, adaptive aero, etc. F1 should be about who's the best driver and who builds the best race cars--not about who has the biggest microprocessor on board.

Wilmington, North Carolina


Perfect storm and H16s.

I see the perfect storm converging about my hundredth birthday in 2049. Only a handful of my descendants out of perhaps 9 billion people will take note of my centenarian achievement, but by then the norm will be subscription-based, OEM-owned and controlled AV/AI transport. Today we have a warp nine rush to get level 4 & 5 AV-equipped vehicles on the road, testing and deburring the tech so as to get along with the human operator-dependent traffic. Level 5 autonomy is defined as: the vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under all conditions, the driver may have the option to control the vehicle. I’ll go one beyond to a “Level 6”: there is no operator provision, all on board are passengers. Enter the delivery and shuttle services that are also being formed with three-comma budgets, going no-huddle to get the fleet to the street, and likewise vehicle subscriptions. While subscriptions may be laughably expensive now, they are there to get the public thinking about not owning the vehicle. The perfect storm as I see it calls for the AV/AI to be prohibitively expensive, actually or strategically, for most all consumers to afford. Privately owned cars will have a market about the same size as corporate jets. Dealerships will fade away along with their consumers and everyone rides in an 8-10 seat shared module, upgradeable to personal nonstop. All those billions wasted on floorplan, customer and dealer incentives, brand image will be sooo turn-of-the-century. On a happier note (literally), search out “BRM H16 sound”. An adrenal auditory meld of V8 roar and V12 shriek that is exponentially greater than 16 cylinders. Close the door and crank ‘er up.

Chris Blanchard
Prescott, Wisconsin

The sound is essential.

Absolutely agree with your fumes column. The aural aspect of F1 has all but disappeared. One need only sit in the stands at Eau Rouge, at SPA, or stand at the fence in thunder valley at Road America to understand.

Lecanto, Florida

Loud racing cars? Yes, please.

Did you ever hear those Audi turbo diesel racing cars? Did you? I didn't. With the ear plugs on, I can hear and feel the big motors going by but the Audi's went by as a grey ghost.


Now they have these Formula E cars. Are they going to put playing cards on the wheel spokes so we can hear them? Maybe the “Pioneer” cars can have big speakers that sound like a V12!

Honestly, I love the way the EV cars drive on the real world, but they are boring to watch as a race car.

LoudGarage, TheOC, Calimexistan

Future of the Automobile.

I read with great interest the paper on the Future of the Automobile that was reviewed last week. This tome to the shiny happy people had a number of interesting points to it, but conveniently did not mention several others.

Let's start with the massive change to the auto industry. A minimal number of privately owned cars coupled with massive fleets of company owned vehicles that are providing Transportation as a Service (TAAS). According to the study's authors, the auto industry will become 70% smaller than it currently is. To say that laying off 70% of the auto industry with the lock-step layoff/closing of suppliers, dealers and repair facilities will cause nothing short of an enormous economic depression the likes of which would make 2009 and 1929 appear like picnics is putting a good spin on it. I'm sure there'll be a chorus of “Oh, we'll retrain all of these people for other jobs”. But there's no mention in this report of what those jobs might be. Given that the projection is that these vast fleets of cars will be autonomous, we won't need taxi drivers, we won't need Uber drivers, we won't need Lyft drivers. Given that all of these people are now unemployed, they'll have no money to go shopping for any of the usual discretionary items which will lead to layoffs and/or closings in consumer goods industries not to mention retail outlets (Or will we all get jobs at Amazon and UPS?)

As Peter has pointed out, it is nothing short of terrifying that these same automakers are charging headlong towards the abyss that is autonomous cars and TAAS.

The auto industry built the world economy and adopting this autonomous stuff wholesale is going to bring much of it to a screeching halt.

Maybe we can get jobs building new (coal fired?) generating plants to supply all of the electricity these new shiny cars are going to need.

, Ontario, Canada


More scream!

Couldn't agree more!

Formula 1 finally owned the most unique sound track in motor racing right up until the rules shift to “hybrid power units.” Until that moment, F1's hair-raising scream, complements of a normally aspirated engine turning 19,000 rpm, was not found anywhere else in motor racing. When the rules changed, many remarked how the spectacle had indeed lost something important and previously thought integral to F1!

Nowhere is racing's sound track more obvious (by its absence) then when watching a Formula E race. Or for me when I was at Sebring watching the Audi diesels win (almost as silently!).
Formula E has its challenges. The sounds of gear whine and tire noise which were always there, are when unmasked, largely unpleasant! But maybe it's a generational thing. The whine of drones after all, seems to have its devotees.

Me? I'm an old timer. I fell hard for the resonating howl of the F1 Matra V12 cars being hammered on to the Glen back straight during those halcyon USGP days. Today that aural signature may be even more important going forward because we've entered an age of nearly silent electric passenger vehicles.

To fully satisfy, a global open wheel racing series like Formula 1 must be everything tomorrow's driving and passenger vehicles are not! That means for starters, the aural score is going to have to match the opera!

Yes, bring back the scream!

Phil LePore 
Albany, New York



Matra V12, 'nuff said:

Cleveland, Ohio


A (well-deserved) Porsche slam.

Whodathunkit? The best selling Porsche is also the cheapest? Too bad it's not an affordable, entry level roadster to inspire the next generation of sports car enthusiasts.

Nien! The 911 must be the ultimate Porsche! Exceeded in price only by hand re-built classic Porsche (available exclusively through Hemmings and other auction houses) that under sperform a modern Civic.

If you feel like slumming, we also offer a Cayman/Boxster that we will handicap so as not to upset “the order of things”!

But far be it from us to channel the industrial might of the VW group to release a small, lightweight, under powered, manual, rwd, stylish runabout for the recent college graduate to commute in until he needs to sell said car to get something with baby seats. We'll just skip that step.

Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania


Shiny Objects for Digital Disciples.

The future is bright for the visionaries – as long as it progresses according to their grand plan. There will be many hurdles, massive snags and inevitable system shut-downs that will impact many, leaving the ‘digitally-stranded’ wishing for their autonomy returned via gasoline fired through points and steering via gears and a wheel… But the world and our environment will indeed become autonomous – better and faster and cleaner, so it is good to focus on this future golden shininess. But also with concern for us humans.

Guttenberg, New Jersey

From the "Horrible Bosses" File.

It is perhaps no surprise that, as described in a recent Wired article that Elon Musk behaves badly and that his treatment of employees is endangering Tesla's future. The tech industry is full of examples of badly behaved bosses whose sheer will propelled their company but also endangered it. I've worked at companies where executives didn't like bad news and that fostered all sorts of pathological organizational problems. When the history of Tesla is written, will it resemble Steve Job's Apple or Elizabeth Holmes' Theranos?

Boston, Massachusetts


So, what?

You've written that you know how auto company executives think, and after following your column for several years, I would agree. But what is the right bet to make in AVs?

Consider what happened to feature phone makers like Nokia, or even the first smartphone, BlackBerry. Consider what happened to Duesenberg, Packard, and AMC. All of them were left behind, or absorbed, when a game-changing technology came out and they were not prepared.

If a company — say, Ford — does NOT have an entry or presence in the AV space at the start, then playing catch-up is difficult and expensive. If a company — say, VW group's Audi — has the first viable AV and a partnership with Google, then playing catch-up for others becomes impossible. One can still make purchases on, but everybody knows that Amazon is setting the trends.

What is the right bet to make, to avoid being too far behind in 2022?

Dale E.
Chelsea, Michigan

Editor-in-Chief"s Note: Yes, it's obvious that Ford and GM have to prepare for the future; but if you're asking me what will happen, go back and read what I wrote several weeks ago in my "Runnin' Down A Dream" column. -PMD