GM's Luxury Brand Cadillac May Become Fully-Electric by 2030, Exec Says
Despite all of the talk from automakers about introducing electric vehicles to compete with the likes of Tesla, EV sales make up just over 2% of all vehicle sales in the U.S. Therefore, any new electric entries will need to be a hit with consumers to gain market share, something that GM's luxury brand Cadillac is betting on.
U.S. automaker General Motors may transform its luxury Cadillac brand to producing only electric models within the next decade.
Steve Carlisle, the head of General Motors Co's Cadillac luxury division, said on Thursday that a majority and possibly all of the brand's models would be electric vehicles by 2030, Reuters reported.
Carlisle said the Cadillac brand will phase out current models of internal combustion engines based on market demand. He expects an inflection point for electric vehicles for the brand to occur in the mid-2020s.
Cadillac showed a concept for a midsized electric SUV earlier this year which garnered much interest in Cadillac's potential future. However before that Cadillac plans to refresh its existing gasoline-powered models one more time over the next decade and then switch focus on the electric models, de Nysschen said.
"It's the end of the ICE age for Cadillac," Carlisle said, in reference to internal combustion engines.
EVs Might "Fuel" a Turn Around at Cadillac
In the meantime, Cadillac is looking to regain some of the market share it lost to Tesla and luxury imports from BMW, Mercedes Benz and Lexus. To start, GM's luxury brand will focus more on luxury SUVs and crossovers as traditional sedans, which were Cadillac's mainstay for years, fall out of favor with U.S. consumers.
Amid slowing sales in the U.S. and aging product lineup Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen was unexpectedly replaced by the head of GM Canada, Steve Carlisle in April 2018. Nysschen is now Chief Operating Officer at German automaker Volkswagen.
The move was an effort to turn things around for the luxury brand. Part of the reason for replacing Carlisle was that Cadillac had no small luxury SUV on the market, one of the biggest sectors in the U.S. auto industry.
While other automakers released new tech-laden SUV models, including BMW's X5 and the Audi Q5, Cadillac's only offerings were the XT5, a compact SUV criticized for its lackluster engine, and the full-size Escalade, a model on the market since 1998.
One of Johan de Hysschen's first initiatives was to move Cadillac's headquarters back to Detroit from New York. Nysschen moved Cadillac's headquarters to New York's trendy SoHo neighborhood in order to be closer to its Cadillac's "urban customers" in 2015. The move failed to generate any new sales for Cadillac.
Next, Nysschen focused his attention on the launch of the Cadillac XT4 SUV, which debuted as a 2019 model. The XT4 was a way for Cadillac to compete in the crowded compact luxury SUV segment dominated by BMW, Audi and Lexus and to win back customers.
The Cadillac XT4
Cadillac sales have been steadily increasing over the past several years. Cadillac sales in the United States were on track this year for their first increase since 2013, Carlisle said.
Carlisle also said Cadillac was on track for "low double-digit" sales growth in China in 2019, despite a drop in overall sales in the country.
China is the world's biggest auto market and an important one for Cadillac, as well as for other global brands.
GM's luxury brand also plans to introduce a compact electric SUV in China in 2022, with a companion model slated to go into production in the United States in late 2023, suppliers said to Reuters.
Carlisle also confirmed Cadillac would offer a large electric sports-utility vehicle (SUV) similar to the Escalade and that it could continue to sell internal combustion models alongside electric vehicles, depending on consumer demand.
GM expects to begin production of a full-size Cadillac electric SUV in late 2023 at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant, as part of GM's planned $3 billion retooling of the factory, sources have previously told Reuters.
A key challenge for electric vehicles is driving range and Carlisle said electric Cadillac models will need a range of 300 miles to be competitive with Tesla and others. Eventually, he said, "you need to be at 400 miles" with charging times in minutes.
Cadillac also will expand the number of models equipped with GM's Super Cruise semi-automated driving system, Carlisle said. Super Cruise debuted on the 2018 Cadillac CT6 and is GM's answer to Tesla's Autopilot automated highway driving system. GM is rumored to be working on a more advanced version of Super Cruise.
Despite Cadillac's stumbles, the brand is still recognized as a symbol of luxury and has a long history in the auto industry, something that GM can use to its advantage. Still Cadillac needs an image boost and becoming an electric luxury brand like Tesla may ultimately pay off for GM, as long as it happens sooner than later.
"None of us knows how quickly the transition will take place," Carlisle said.
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