Standard of the World, Again, Finally?

Will EVs provide Cadillac the jolt it needs to make it matter—again—in the market? Todd Lassa considers the proposition

As “Standard of the World,” Cadillac has had two distinct eras. The first started in 1908, when the luxury marque won engineering’s prestigious Dewar trophy for the precise interchangeability of its parts and earned that tagline; it ended at the beginning of World War II, shortly after it discontinued its second V-16 engine design and LaSalle sub-brand. The second era was from the new OHV high-compression V-8 of 1949 to, roughly, the mid-1970s. Even the over-chromed, over-finned, over-sized Cadillacs had a cache from here to Europe and Asia that began to fade in the 1970s, when Mercedes-Benz made them look in comparison like rental cars for the executive with a generous expense account.

Cadillac has been trying to earn back its “Standard of the World” reputation since the early part of the 21st century, when it started converting back to mostly rear-wheel-drive-based sedans. Despite some very good efforts, from the second- and third-generation CTS to the all too short-lived CT6 (and especially the CT6-V Blackwing), its flagship remained the big Tahoe/Suburban-based SUV, the Escalade. And if the ’71 DeVille came off as an overpriced ’71 Chevy Caprice (as Motor Trend so noted in a feature article asking whether the extra $3,000 was worth it), the ’21 Escalade still is basically a glorified ’21 GMC Yukon Denali with an extra-fancy dashboard.

A fresh face of Cadillac. (Images: Cadillac)

General Motors tried all sorts of extracurricular schemes to earn spots in car magazine comparison tests alongside the best from Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Audi, including the Sixteen concept of 2003, powered by two Chevy small blocks welded together: several failed European export attempts; moving HQ to Manhattan, and (unrelated, as it was then-CFO Dan Amman who didn’t want to relocate to Detroit) hiring the exec credited with making Audi what it is in North America, Johan deNysschen, after he spent a month running Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand.

DeNysschen had grand plans for Cadillac, which GM had just split off into a separate business entity, so it wouldn’t have to share more than the unseen bits (e.g.,  truck platforms, wiring harnesses and other things consumers aren’t particularly aware of) with Chevys, Buicks and GMC models. In what I believe was his first interview as president of Cadillac, in early fall 2014 for Automobile magazine, he told me the marque would eventually get a Mercedes S-Class competitor and a high-end sports car or two.

DeNysschen lasted in the job about three-and-a-half years. Some auto news reports overplayed his responsibility for initiatives including an edgy ad campaign (along with incorrectly blaming him for the Manhattan HQ) that failed to move the metal and a subscription service called “Book by Cadillac” (all lux-car sub services except for maybe Volvo have since fallen), but the real reason he left, not in a huff, but in a minute-and-a-huff, is that he clashed with top GM management, most of them lifers, over vehicle pricing.

To become Standard of the World again, you can’t put money on the hood as though the brand sells through one big network of Fast Eddy car lots, where its all about the deal, but that’s what they did. DeNysschen wanted to rebuild slowly by selling a product that could stand hood-ornament-by-hood-ornament with Mercs and Bimmers, but he fully recognized that it would take a good decade or more for new, younger luxury buyers to believe that the Caddy had the same level of cache´.

DeNysschen has been gone now as long as a full product lifecycle. He landed at Volkswagen USA (an even tougher job, but that’s another column), and Cadillac is still at it, offering the Mercedes E-Class-size CT5 for the price of a C-Class, and the BMW 3 Series-size CT4 for the price of a BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe.

But GM has figured a way back to the Standard, perhaps out of necessity: Electvehicles (EVs).

Despite what you may have read in the mainstream press, GM hasn’t suddenly discovered EVs. There were more than two decades between the 1966 Chevy Electrovair experiment and the Saturn-esque EV1—admittedly, the Electrovair was pretty much for internal work and to show to the world that it could be done while the EV1 was also something of an external test program, as there were Californians who had the opportunity to lease the vehicle for their daily drives. What’s more, GM developed the extended-range Volt and the fully electric Bolt, both of them Chevrolets for the mass market, and it is now concentrating R&D efforts on what it calls the “Ultium” platform—batteries, motors and underlying platform.

In 2013 the Cadillac ELR went into production. It used the same Voltec extended-range EV technology that powered the Volt. In part, this was a response to analysts who pointed out the company should have used what is now known as plug-in hybrid tech in a $60,000 luxury car rather than a $40,000 commodity hatchback sedan. The Volt had gone into production three years earlier. By the time the ELR launched on the first-generation Voltec technology, it had inferior technology next to the Chevy Volt with its updated extended-range system. The ELR was a disaster.

Cadillac LYRIQ with the GM Design Dome in the background.

GM – or should I say, “gm,” given its new lower-case logo – is planning its big EV rollout of the next five or so years with new models to cover every U.S. brand. This time, however, it starts with higher profit-margin prestige models, like the GMC Hummer and the Cadillac Lyriq SUV.  

What’s more, GM has announced that Cadillac will become the company’s lead brand for electric vehicles, with plans calling for it to sell essentially only EVs by 2030. (Going back to deNysschen’s plan for dealers selling on quality not price, it is interesting to note that late last year GM offered to buy out Cadillac dealers who weren’t interested in going down the electric road, and some 150 of them—about one in six—took the offer.)

If the production Cadillac EVs, especially the >$100,000 Celestiq luxury sedan, are close to the prototypes GM showed off last March in the legendary GM Design Dome, they could rule the segment ahead of German, Japanese, British and South Korean luxury brands. Price them against the only real competition to date: the Tesla lineup. And if the Ultium EV platform delivers on its promise to reduce the cost of the technology but with highly competitive range and performance, Cadillac could become the Standard of the Electrified World and, importantly, make money while doing so.

GM could mess this up, of course, as it has so many times in the past. But I didn’t get the sense from the presentations last March that CEO Mary Barra, President Mark Reuss, and others in the company that they were at all nervous about continuing the automaker’s usual fatal flaws, like too-cheap interiors, disappointing execution, or a management reorganization that places emphasis back on V-8 pickup trucks and SUVs, reducing EV production plans below Corvette output and cancelling promising models after two years, pretending that this has been the plan all along.

Let’s face it: Even if they come up with superb products it is going to take Cadillac some time to convince those who are likely to buy premium-priced EVs that they want a Cadillac crest on their purchase. However, there is one possibility that would play to Cadillac’s advantage in the EV space: There will be a cohort of younger buyers who are looking for EVs and who have little or no impressions of the brand, so they’d be just as willing to go Cadillac as any other marque.

Still, it seems as though electrification could be Cadillac’s best shot.—Todd Lassa

Infotainment Made Simple

Yes, once there were knobs. Knobs, buttons and things you would manually manipulate.

This is the “screen” of the SEAT 1400, a sedan introduced in 1953:

(Images: SEAT)

If nothing else, it is a reminder that somehow people were once able to get by without a 10-inch screen and 2,000 icons, which is the case in the current-generation SEAT Leon, the Spanish company’s best-selling vehicle:

No knobs.

There is something to be said for the simple charm of the 1953 approach.–gsv

Hyundai Introduces IONIQ 5

This is visually impressive and the EV numbers are solid. Dare we think “game-changer”?

Although Hyundai currently offers a model named “IONIQ”—a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and an electric vehicle (EV)—it is creating a new brand for its EVs that is named “IONIQ.”

Which is slightly confusing.

But it has happened before, when the company launched the Genesis Coupe (a replacement for the Tiburon) and then decided that it would use “Genesis” as the name for its luxury brand. There are undoubtedly some boy racers around with their tuned Genesis Coupes, which probably annoys the hell out of those who are piloting their G90s.

Hyundai has introduced what is the first IONIQ vehicle, the IONIQ 5, an EV.

It is a midsized crossover.

The IONIQ 5 is based on the Electric-Global Modular Platform, which will be the basis of many electric vehicles to come from the Hyundai Group. (Image: Hyundai)

The factors that seem to be the most germane to people regarding EVs is (1) their range and (2) how long it takes to get a charge into them.

As for the former, Hyundai has released figures: a two-wheel drive IONIQ 5 with a 72.6-kWh battery will have a range of from 470 to 480 km on the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure, which is not the same approach in testing that provide EPA numbers. For those who are not thinking in metric, the 470 to 480 are 292 and 298, respectively.

As for the charging, with a 350-kW charger the battery goes from 10% to 80% in 18 minutes. And if there are only five minutes available and the same type of charger, it can get 100 km, or 62 miles, of range.

It should be noted that the standard battery is 58-kWh.

The design, with its creases and angles, certainly indicates that the IONIQ 5 is a 21st century vehicle without having a cartoonish appearance.

According to the company, the way the front and rear portions of the crossover meet at the doors (doors, by the way, which have a remarkable diagonal crease) is an example of the company’s “Parametric Design” approach. What’s slightly confusing is that Hyundai notes that this design language was first used for the new Hyundai Tucson.

At some point they’re going to have to figure out the separation of the brands.

That said, the IONIQ 5, which is to launch later this year, certainly has the looks and the specs that is going to make it an exceedingly strong contender in the EV space.

If Tesla is Apple, then think of Hyundai—or IONIQ—as Samsung.–gsv

Electric Delivery: A Clever Approach to Logistics

This van is compact, capable and electric. And it has a hell of a price-point

This is nothing if not clever.

Even were it not for COVID-19, the success of e-commerce was driving all manner of commercial delivery vehicles into neighborhoods across the U.S. The pandemic has only accelerated that growth, and suddenly even businesses that never imagined that they’d be in the delivery business (e.g., restaurants that aren’t based on pizza) suddenly are if they want to stay in business.

One of the characteristics of electric vehicles is that because they have fewer parts than a vehicle with a combustion engine, there are fewer things that could break. In addition to which, there are fluids, like oil, that need to be changed.

Companies that have fleets of vehicles (even if that fleet consists of, well, one), know that maintenance is both costly and time consuming.

So that’s on the good side of the ledger for an electric delivery vehicle.

So James Taylor, who is the founder and CEO of Electric Last Mile Solutions (and a man who has run operations with names that you might be more familiar with, like Cadillac and Hummer), says that a right-sized delivery vehicle that happens to be electric can be a cost-effective game-changer for many companies.

The vehicle that will be offered by Electric Last Mile Solutions (ELMS) is a Class 1 delivery van. It is based on a model that is on the road in China, the Sokon EC35. It has a cargo capacity of 170 cubic feet and a maximum payload of 2,403 pounds. It is compact, with a 120-inch wheelbase and a length, width and height of 177, 66 and 78 inches, respectively.

The ELMS Class 1 delivery vehicle. (Image: ELMS)

It has a 100 kW electric motor from JJE and a 42-kWh battery from CATL.

It has a range of 150 miles.

Back to that cost of equipment issue.

According to Taylor, the vehicle is going to be priced at about $32,500. When you take the $7,500 federal tax credit off of that, it is at $25,000, a price, he says, that someone can get a combustion-powered Class 1 van for. So because of the reduction in required maintenance and other factors, Taylor says the total cost of ownership is about 35% better than the traditional approach.

The vehicles will be produced in Mishawaka, Indiana, in the 675,000-square-foot factory that used to be the Hummer plant. It has the capacity to build over 100,000 vehicle per year, which is probably a good thing for Taylor because he says that they have more than 30,000 reservations for the vehicle.

The bodies-in-white will be delivered to the plant so there is no stamping, welding or painting involved. It will be all about assembly.

Because there is a vast array of requirements in the commercial space, Taylor says upfitters will actually work within the Mishawaka plant so customers will get their van from the factory.

It is very clever.

Taylor talks about what ELMS is doing on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Christie Schweinsberg of Wards Intelligence and me.

In addition, McElroy, Schweinsberg and I discuss a variety of other subjects including the need for better and more extensive EV charging infrastructure, the introduction of the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Jaguar Land Rover’s plans to go electric, Ford of Europe’s electrification plans, and a whole lot more.

All of which you can see right here.

SEAT Extending Mobility in Barcelona

Driving a car with some years on it can be very expensive. This subscription service provides a vehicle for the month for the price of a single fine

Barcelona is one of the wonderfully walkable cities in the world, which benefits, in part, from the implementation of a 95-square kilometer low-emission zone, which has some serious teeth: pre-2000 gasoline-powered vehicles entering the zone and diesels that were built before 2006 are charged from €100-150. The zone operates Monday through Friday, from 7 am to 8 pm.

Of course, there’s an app for MÓ (Image: SEAT)

Barcelona is also the HQ of VW’s SEAT. Which undoubtedly makes it challenging to be, well, a car company.

So SEAT created MÓ, a mobility business. It has launched a flexible subscription model for its eScooter 125. For € 70 a week or €150 a month, SEAT MÓ is offering not only the scooter, but roadside assistance and 24-hour customer service.

Not entirely surprising: the subscription project is based in the center of Barcelona, which is where the e125s are picked up and deposited.

BMW and Sea Ray: Design Development

Boats and cars just seem to go together

BMW owns Designworks, which has a studio in Newbury Park, California. Newbury Park is not on the Pacific. But not far from it, either.

Designworks designs a variety of things, including, well, BMWs. But it has also collaborated with airlines, the North Face, and other companies for which they’re not designing cars.

The latest company: Sea Ray.

The boat producer.

Designworks collaborated with Sea on the Sundancer 370 Outboard. The Sundancer series is celebrating its 45th anniversary.

Sea Ray 370 Outboard (Image: BMW)

Charlie Foss, Sea Ray Design Director, said, “Working together with Designworks, we were able to produce a fresh set of design principles that pay homage to our brand’s past which indicating the future, resulting in a look that is undeniably Sea Ray. An output of the collaboration was the definition of four key design characteristics to inform Sea Ray models moving forward: sleek, confident, athletic and distinctive.”

Beyond BMW’s ownership of Designworks, there is another connection between Sea Ray and automotive.

Foss: “Automotive-inspired design is part of the Sea Ray history, dating back to collaboration with Harley Earl Associates in the early 1960s.”

About Earl

Earl was the first head of the General Motors Art and Color Section, established by Alfred P. Sloan in 1928. Earl headed GM design until 1958. He turned 65. He had to retire. (He was succeeded by Bill Mitchell.) And then he established his own firm. Earl died in 1969, age 75, in West Palm Beach, Florida. Which is on the Atlantic.

Brakes in Winter

A couple things you should know about the things that stop you

As parts of the U.S. where people only knew snow only through repeated Disney+ viewings of Frozen are now, literally, frozen, an inclimate weather vehicle tip is in order.

The road salt or brine solutions (as in calcium chloride or magnesium chloride in a solution) applied to road surfaces can have a deleterious effect on a vehicle’s brakes. (Not that it is good for other metal parts, but that’s for another day.)

According to Goodyear Brakes (no, we didn’t know there was such a thing, either), salt can lead to corrosion on the rotors and calipers, especially on the original brakes on one’s vehicle.

The rust can have a negative consequence on performance (e.g., leading to the separation of the brake pad friction material from its backing).

So the firm (which, perhaps not surprisingly, offers rotors and calipers that have a proprietary anti-corrosion coating), offers these tips:

  • Wash your vehicle after driving through salted or brined areas. When the car wash offers the underbody wash for a couple bucks, take it. That area is key.
  • Given the choice between parking in a heated garage and outside in the cold, opt for the latter. Rust doesn’t like the cold, either. Oxidation is minimized in the freezing temps. Of course, you’ll be cold, but your brakes will be in better shape.
  • Lubricate all moving brake parts with a—

OK. Let’s face it. You’re probably not going to do that last bit, so let’s skip it.

Drive carefully.

Vehicles Cost Above $40K

How is this going to work for people who don’t have jobs or the ones they have don’t pay a whole lot?

According to the most-recent information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in January 2021 fell by 0.4%, to 6.3%. The bureau reported, “notable job gains in professional and business services and in both public and private education were offset by losses in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care, and in transportation and warehousing.”

The categories that grew are undoubtedly those with higher-wage earners while those who have lost their jobs—the wait staff, department store workers—but healthcare?

Those who have a job are going to be paying more for a vehicle: Kelley Blue Book has calculated that the average transaction price for a light vehicle in January was $40,857. That’s right: nearly $41,000. In December 2020 it was actually above that: $41,152.

Admittedly, when you’re talking averages, number extremes can skew the results.

In the case of the January figures, high-performance cars came in at $104,929 and high-end luxury cars at $102,057.

On the other end, there is the subcompact car at $18,783.

And that’s the only vehicle that had an average transaction car under $20,000.

As more and more OEMs stop producing cars in any variety in order to concentrate on crossovers (subcompact SUV/crossover: $26,368), they are clearly leaving some potential customers behind.–gsv

How the 2021 Ford Raptor Came to Be the Beast It Is

One can only wonder how much sand the engineering team had to wash out of their clothes. . .

Although the official name is the “2021 F-150 Raptor,” now in its third generation, the vehicle is more commonly known as, well, “the Raptor.” While it is certainly based on the F-150, it is an extreme execution of a vehicle that is engineered to do the sorts of things that even outlier owners of conventional F-150s would never even think of.

Sketches that led to a Raptor. (Image: Ford)

Notes Tony Greco, Ford Program Manager, F-150 Raptor, “It has never been as differentiated from the F-150” as it is now.

While the team behind the development of the conventional F-150 spent a lot of time with contractors and serious DIY homeowners, and while members of that team certainly own and use trucks on a daily basis, Greco says on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” “I work with a lot of passionate off-road guys.”

So it is not entirely surprising when Greco is asked to list the top things that he says differentiate the Raptor from other vehicles, he lists:

  1. The suspension
  2. The enhanced steel frame
  3. The 37-inch tires
  4. Fox—the supplier of the internal bypass shocks with SOA electronic control technology, the largest shocks (3.1-inch diameter) ever offered on a Raptor—becoming more than a supplier, working with the team like a partner

You may notice from the list that there is a lot about the suspension, which is what Greco says they spent a lot of time concentrating on. For example, he said that when they were looking at the rear suspension, they went through the considerable parts bins at Ford—including Ford Performance, the real home of the vehicle—and didn’t find what they were looking for. So they developed a five-link suspension with extra-long trailing arms—the better to deal with the toughest terrain.

Then there are those 37-inch tires, which required frame modifications for accommodation. Why not even larger? Simply because they wanted to make sure that a full-size spare tire could be handled under the vehicle, not put in the bed, which would take away from the ability to haul stuff. Remember—while this truck can do Baja, it can also carry things on that weekend Home Depot run.

Greco also notes that the design of the Raptor pushes things to an extreme that speaks to the capability of the truck.

While there is another truck that has come on the scene of late that challenges the Raptor—the Ram 1500 TRX—Greco says with the Raptor, which debuted in MY 2010, they created a segment and are not giving it up—to anyone. He also says that the team knew what they wanted to achieve when they started on the 2021 vehicle, and kept to it, regardless of the introduction of the new competitor.

Greco talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, freelance writer (and truck guy) Mark Williams, and me on the show.

In addition McElroy, Williams and I discuss a variety of other subjects, including the MY 2022 Nissan Frontier (the third generation of that midsize pickup); the acceptance of the truck community of new vehicles coming from new companies that happen to have electric motors; the California DMV automated vehicle disengagement performance in 2020 by GM Cruise and Waymo; and a whole lot more.

Watch this edition of “Autoline After Hours” right here.

Chevy Adds a Bolt

Another electric vehicle from the mainstream brand, one that resembles a compact SUV. . .

Chevrolet is launching a new variant of its Bolt EV* electric vehicle—the Bolt EUV—as well as a refresh of the Bolt EV itself for model year 2022. The Bolt EUV, says Bolt chief engineer Jesse Ortega, combines an EV with design cues of an SUV.

The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV with Spaceship Earth in EPCOT at the Walt Disney World Resort. (Image: Chevrolet)

While the take rate of EVs is on the order of approximately 2%, Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevrolet Marketing, notes that the Bolt EV is the number-two best-selling EV in the market (in 2020 Chevy delivered 20,754 Bolt EVs, a 26.5% increase compared with 2019; the number-one selling EV in the U.S. in 2020 was the Tesla Model 3, with an estimated 158,000 deliveries), and that it attracts more people to General Motors than any other vehicle in the company’s lineup.

While both vehicles share the same underlying architecture, the Bolt EUV is six inches longer than the Bolt EV.

Both vehicles share the same propulsion system and lithium-ion battery. Ortega says the Bolt EV has 259 miles of range on a full charge and that the Bolt EUV will have an estimated 250 miles of range. Ortega notes that the Bolt EUV is taller, longer and a bit heavier than the Bolt EV, which explains the difference in range.**

Charged Up

GM is working with EVgo for a build out of public charging stations, with plans to add more than 2,700 chargers by the end of 2025.

What’s more, Chevy will cover standard installation of Level 2 charging capability for customers of the 2022 models (either of the two), working with Qmerit, a company that specializes in finding EV equipment installers.

“’Range anxiety’ is a term we have to get rid of,” Oretga says.

According to Rob Mantinan, program engineer, the Bolts can achieve about 25 miles per hour of charge.

Inside Softer

As they had to develop the interior for the Bolt EUV, the Bolt EV is getting an interior upgrade, as well. Phil Zak, executive design director, Chevrolet, says there are “tech-focused interiors, with more premium materials, which are key to our growing EV portfolio.”

There is a new instrument panel, a flat-bottom steering wheel, a gear shift that uses toggles and buttons, a 10.2-inch-diagnoal infotainment color touchscreen, and more soft-touch materials. The EUV is available with an optional sunroof.

A notable offering for the EUV is Super Cruise, the hands-free driver assistance technology that has migrated from Cadillac. It allows the driver to her to remove her hands from the steering wheel on some 200,000 miles of mapped roadways in the U.S. and Canada.

Outside Edgier

On the exterior, the EUV features a crease line that runs from the front fascia through the center of the hood, horizontal body lines and standard roof rails, which are said to signify more of an SUV approach. LED headlamps are standard.

The EV has a more upright front fasica and new front and rear lighting.

One thing that can be said about the exterior designs of both vehicles is that they look far more like 21st century EVs than the current Bolt EV or the now-out-of-production Volt (a.k.a., the “extended range electric vehicle”).

Cost Down

The base price of the 2022 Bolt EV, including destination, is $31,995. That’s $5,000 less expensive than the base 2021 model.

Majoros says that the price decrease is predicated on the build-out of a supply chain, process improvements through the past few years and economies of scale. There is an emphasis that this is not an approach of decontenting.

The Bolt EUV starts at $33,995.

A Launch Edition for the EUV is being offered. It includes Super Cruise, sunroof, unique wheels, special badging and an illuminated charge port. Its price is $43,495.

Disney Magic

To launch the Bolt EUV Chevy put the reveal at the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom with a presentation by Nick Cho, who is known for his @YourKoreanDad on TikTok, and a special video that GM and Disney collaborated on.

Unlike the MY 2000-2003 Chevy Venture, which offered the Warner Bros. edition, which included a Bugs Bunny badge, this apparently will not include a Tinker Bell.–gsv

*The “EV” is part of the name of the “Bolt EV.” So in contexts where the type of vehicle is appended to the name, it is the “Bolt EV EV.” (The EUV avoids that with the addition of the vowel.

**Bolt EV dimensions (inches): 102.4 wheelbase; 163.2 length; 69.5 width; 63.4 height

 Bolt EUV dimensions (inches): 105.3 wheelbase; 169.5 length; 69.7 width; 63.6 height