The big electric car news out of Detroit these days is GM’s decision to make Cadillac their leading electric brand.
Starting in 2021, GM will be launching what they refer to as the “BEV3” platform as an all-electric long range Cadillac. The BEV3 platform (GM terminology, the Voltec Gen 1 & 2 being the Volt, and BEV2 being the Bolt) will ultimately form the powertrain of over 10 Cadillac models, likely rounding out Cadillac’s entire lineup. GM CEO Mary Barra identified 300 miles as “the sweet spot” in range that GM feels will make all-electric cars appealing to the masses. Although Cadillac hasn’t given a date for this transition to all-electric, they appear to be committed to this course of action, and are closely studying Tesla’s moves to gauge the best and most profitable way to phase in electrics and phase out gas cars.
There is reason for cautious optimism here; GM has followed through with past announcements concerning electrification, and there is no reason to believe that they will welch on this promise. That being said, GM hasn’t announced a clear timeline of the electrification of the Cadillac brand, and promising a car in 2021 doesn’t necessarily mean that Cadillac will become the all-electric GM brand overnight, or ever. It will be quite some time before no gas powered Cadillacs will be found on dealer lots, especially considering Cadillac’s lineup of large, heavy sedans and SUVs. At present, it’s hard to imagine what an all-electric Escalade will look like, but according to GM, it could be coming.
However, if GM does intend to ultimately make all Cadillacs electric, it makes sense. Cadillac ranked second to last in Consumer Reports annual reliability ranking and dead last among domestic manufacturers. (The last place award went to Volvo). It would be beneficial for GM to revamp this brand as the leading electric brand, given the superior reliability of electric cars. This announcement buys GM a chance to make a new impression on customers with a starkly new, innovative, electric Cadillac brand. Cadillac sales have been slipping in recent years, down to 154,000 units last year compared to 182,000 in 2013. This is far below Tesla’s 250,000 units in 2018. To GM, Tesla’s recent profitability means that it is entirely possible and profitable to make and sell 250,000 electric luxury cars. Having all of GM’s electric cars under a single brand banner also makes sense from a dealership perspective. The classic struggle that automakers have with EVs is that it is hard to talk about the benefits of an electric car without also criticizing the other models in their lineup. If all Cadillacs are electric, dealer sales staff will be unable to punt customers to gas cars.
The other elephant in the room is China. China is Cadillac’s largest market, doing 175,000 units compared with 170,000 units in the US in 2015. GM is looking to add over 50 showrooms and 100 dealerships across China by 2020. China has increasingly stringent requirements on electric vehicle production and sales for foreign automakers, and if GM wants Cadillac as a serious player in the Chinese auto market, they will have to make electric cars.
Cadillac is at the top of the GM pyramid – the best of the best. Well, the best is electric.