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

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.

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

EU Auto & Enviro Groups Want More Power

While OEMs are seemingly hell-bent on creating an electric transportation future, there is one Everest-sized speedbump between now and then: the lack of a robust charging infrastructure for those vehicles.

Although companies like Shell and bp talk about peak oil and changing their business models to less carbon-intensive approaches, how many of their stations provide electric chargers? Probably far fewer than offer gasoline, beef jerky and lottery tickets.

The European Automobile Manufacturers Association, the European Consumer Organisation and Transport & Environment have jointly written a letter to the commissioners responsible for the European Union’s Green Deal detailing the necessity for specific regulations rather than a nice-to-achieve directive, regulations that will “set binding national targets for all vehicle segments” vis-à-vis charging.

The authors write: “the following minimal targets should be set in stone: one million charging points in 2024 and three million in 2029 for passenger cars and vans, as well as around 1,000 hydrogen stations by 2029.

And the boldface font is in their letter.

Apparently there are some 225,000 charging points in the EU right now. If they’re going to have one million charge points by January 1, 2024, then this means they need to install 258,000 additional chargers per year. Or 33,000 more per year than currently exist.–gsv

Why 2021 May Be the Year EVs Really Started to Matter

No, this is not predicated on some prognostication wrapped in a Tweet by Elon Musk, nor by the potential that Syd Mead fans may actually get their Cybertruck before the end of 2021.

No, this is not predicated on Joe Biden’s plan recommendation to transform the government’ fleet of ~650,000 vehicles from gasoline and diesel to electric as part of the “Buy American” initiative.

Merchants Fleet has ordered 12,600 BrightDrop EV600s, an all-new, electric light commercial vehicle purpose-built for the delivery of goods and services over long ranges. (Image: GM)

No, this is not even predicated on GM CEO Mary Barra’s statement last week that the vehicle manufacturer intends to become completely (i.e., product and process) carbon-neutral by 2040, including an “aspiration” to eliminate tailpipe emissions by 2035.

No, this is because of three other data points that all came out on the same day this week, all of which indicate that electric vehicles are taking on some significant substance.

1

BrightDrop Gets Second Order

BrightDrop, the company that GM recently established for business deliveries that is predicated on EVs and logistics software, has obtained an order for 12,600 BrightDrop EV600s, from Merchants Fleet, a company that describes itself as “the nation’s fastest growing fleet management company.” Deliveries of the EV600, a light commercial vehicle with some 600 cubic feet of cargo capacity and a range of up to 250 miles, are to start in 2023. The first customer for the trucks is FedEx. The importance of cargo vehicles for EVs can’t be overstated. Not only has Amazon invested a few hundred million in Rivian, but it has ordered 100,000 electric trucks, with deliveries starting later this year.

2

Edmunds Declares “Pivotal Year”

“After years of speculation and empty promises, 2021 is actually shaping up to be a pivotal year for growth in the EV sector. We’re not only about to see a massive leap in the number of EVs available in the market; we’re also going to see a more diverse lineup of electric vehicles that better reflect current consumer preferences.” That’s Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights. While the projected growth of EV retail sales is still small—according to Edmunds, they were 1.9% in 2020 and are expected to reach just 2.5% of the market in 2021—the firm anticipates that the greater number of available products in 2021, 30 vehicles including 13 SUVs and six trucks, should start making a big difference.

3

EY Sees “Massive Evolution” in Transport

“Electrifying transport is critical for Europe to meet its tough emissions targets and create a decarbonized future. Transitioning fleet first will pave the way and generate new commercial opportunities, including vehicle-to-grid and electric vehicle charging solutions among others. In order to achieve this, a fleet-centric approach is needed across both government and industry, which aims to remove barriers in areas including common standards and investment,” says Serge Colle, EY Global Power & Utilities Leader. While he is specifically talking about Europe, where the CO2 emissions standards are demanding and becoming more so, the focus on fleets (think things like EV600) is key because as EY research indicates: “the lessons learned from accelerating fleet electrification such as the development of sustainable business models that support charging infrastructure investment and integration of smart charging capability, will enable the wider secondary and passenger vehicle market to transition quicker.” First the fleet. Then the driveway.–gsv

Polestar: The Green Car Company You’ve Probably Not Heard of (Yet)

Polestar is a brand that you may not be familiar with at the moment. But that is likely to change, as it is dedicated to producing electric vehicles (EVs) that combine Swedish style with performance.

Polestar was established in 2017 as an independent brand by Volvo Cars and Geely Holding. (This is a little complicated because Volvo Cars in under the Geely umbrella, so the way to think about it is that it is a company that Volvo developed and that Geely is underwriting.)

The forthcoming Polestar Precept. Stylish. Electric. (Images: Polestar)

There are presently two models, that the company has on offer, the Polestar 1, a hybrid that is exceedingly limited in production, and the Polestar 2, a 2020 model that is a high-volume sedan that offers AWD and 300 kW from the motor. There will then be the Polestar 3, an SUV, and then the Precept, a car that emphasizes three definitional aspects of the brand: sustainability, digital technology and design.

Polestar has a factory in Chengdu, China. It calls it the “Polestar Production Centre.”

Inside the Polestar factory. Yes, factory.

But there’s something interesting about what they’re doing there: operating the plant on 100% renewable electricity. Some 65% of all of the electricity powering the factory comes from hydroelectric with the balance from solar, wind and other renewables.

What’s more, there is no industrial water discharge from the plant and they are establishing a circular approach to waste handling (including carbon fiber) so as to reduce landfill demands.

The factory, designed by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, has earned Gold status in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, the only automobile plant in China to do so.

Said Fredrika Klarén, Head of Sustainability at Polestar, “For Polestar, sustainability is not just about the electric powertrain. It impacts everything we do. We want to promote sustainable manufacturing in China. This objective entails a relentless pursuit of circular and climate-neutral solutions, and also being a responsible employer and presence in the area.”–gsv

Kia and the Meaning of “Motors”

Kia, up until January 15, was officially known as “Kia Motors.” At least the “Motors” part of Kia Corporation was.

Now the company is just “Kia.” Which is pretty much what everyone calls it, anyway.

According to the company, by dropping the “Motors” there is an indication that it is “breaking away from its traditional manufacturing-driven business model.” I would have thought that were the company named “Kia Manufacturing” that could be the case. Somehow I don’t figure how the elimination of “Motors” means that the company “will expand into new and emerging business areas by creating innovative mobility products and services to improve customers’ daily lives.”

For one thing, aren’t the vehicles that Kia manufactures things that “improve customers’ daily lives”? Odds are, when you need to make a Costco run you’re not going to want to call an Uber.

Second, aren’t those “innovative mobility products” things that are going to need to be. . .manufactured?

While announcing the name change Kia execs stressed that the company is “focused on popularizing battery electric vehicles (BEVs)” and that it will introduce seven BEVs by 2027, encompassing various types of configurations.

In addition, it will develop what it calls “Purpose-Built Vehicles” for corporate customers that will be based on “skateboard” platforms. That term has pretty much come to mean BEV.

In one sense, it is perhaps not a good move to remove “Motors” from the name. While a Camry or an F-150 has an “engine” under its hood, a Tesla or a Taycan has a “motor” under its hood.

So a BEV-centric company might want the word “motor” associated with it.

But then there’s the “Lincoln Motor Company,” a name that Ford brought back to its luxury division in 2012 to help bring to mind a classy Lincoln of yore, not electric vehicles as it has none at this point. “Electrified”—a.k.a., hybrids—yes, but purely motor-driven, no.

And while GM has changed its logo, it has hung on to its “Motors.”

Baidu, Geely and a Sensible Approach

Baidu is somewhat like Google, inasmuch as it operates a search engine, by far the leading search engine in China. But there are other services as well, including maps (Google), an encyclopedia (Wikipedia) and cloud storage (AWS).

So it is fair to simply describe it as a significant tech company.

Like other tech companies, it is expanding its operations. And so it should come as no surprise that it is moving into automotive.

But it isn’t like the company just discovered the space. It has been operating Baidu USA since 2011 and has been conducting autonomous driving operations in Silicon Valley for more than five years.

In 2017 Baidu announced Apollo, the autonomous driving platform that it garnered an array of partners to participate with in on the development, partners ranging from Intel to Toyota.

It is running an autonomous taxi service in a few cities in China.

Geely SEA electric vehicle platform: EVs for everyone! (Image: Geely)

Geely Holding–parent company of brands including Volvo Cars, Lynk & Co and LEVC, and lead shareholder in Geely Auto, Proton and Lotus—and Baidu have announced the creation of a partnership for the development of highly automated electric vehicles.

Geely is going to be providing the platform—the Sustainable Experience Architecture, which it announced in September 2020 as an “open source” electric vehicle platform that it would offer to other global OEMs—and Baidu the digital horsepower.

Manufacturing vehicles is a different kind of hard than the challenges associated with developing AI systems.

It makes absolute sense that a digital company would partner with a hardware manufacturer—in this case, the hardware being a vehicle, not a smartphone.

In a market where there are some 21-million passenger vehicles sold per year, where there is a comparatively low penetration rate of vehicle ownership (on the order of 173 vehicles per 1,000 people, compared with 837 in the U.S.), even a small slice of the market is still damned large.

And neither Geely nor Baidu seems to be focused on the small.–gsv

General Motors Embraces E-Commerce

The Cadillac LYRIQ, which is to become available in the first half of 2022, certainly looks promising as an electric, luxury SUV, one that may help the brand, which, let’s face it, has been struggling in the market for the past few years—here’s something that is not well known: although Acura is generally considered to be having a tough time of it in the U.S. market, in 2020 it outsold Cadillac, 136,983 vehicles to 129,495 vehicles; Acura also outsold Cadillac in 2019.

The Cadillac CELESTIQ, an electric sedan that takes luxury to levels that Cadillac hasn’t had on offer for, arguably, ever, combining hand-crafted materials with technology, such as a four-quadrant glass roof that allows individual selection of the level of transparency, is another arrow in the quiver of a transforming brand. Although it is still a concept vehicle, it is unlikely that General Motors would draw as much attention to it as it has (it was part of Mary Barra’s CES 2021 keynote) were it—or something damn close to it—not going into production.

That said, even though General Motors is investing $27-billion in vehicle electrification and automation, the most important launch, revealed during Barra’s presentation, is of a vehicle that none of us will individually own:

The EV600, an all-electric, purpose-built light commercial vehicle.

The LYRIQ and the CELESTIQ may be sexy, but logistics is where it is at and will drive the proliferation of electric vehicles in a way that it will take the consumer market a long time to catch up to.

The GM EV600, a purpose-built electric delivery van. The company has even started a logistics support business, BrightDrop. (Image: GM)

The owners of fleets of commercial vehicles—like FedEx, which GM worked with on the development of the EV600 (and the EP1, an electric rectangle on wheels that has a capacity of 200 pounds and a top speed of 3 mph)—do the math when it comes to vehicle acquisition. If it is going to be to their financial advantage to get EVs, then they’re not going to worry about things like available infrastructure, because they’ll build their own. They’re not going to have range anxiety, because they know precisely where their trucks are going and when.

(And it probably doesn’t hurt that it provides a green sheen to their brands by going EV.)

Consider:

–Amazon, which owns a piece of it, is having Rivian build electric delivery vans that are to be on the road next year at a number of about 10,000, perhaps going to 100,000 by 2030.

–Ford has announced the 2022 E-Transit delivery van that is going to be available later this year, and emphasized the benefits of the electric propulsion system vs. its own internal combustion offerings (with the scheduled maintenance of the E-Transit being an estimated 40% less over eight years/100,000 miles).

–And there are start-ups like Arrival, which companies including Hyundai and UPS have invested in.

Sure, we pay attention to LYRIQs and CELESTIQs.

But consider this: in an industry that seems to be shedding operations, General Motors has established a new business, BrightDrop, that is dedicated to delivery, not only vehicles like the EV600 and EP1, but even logistical software services.

This is a non-trivial commitment—and likely to be a prosperous one, as Mary Barra and her colleagues know that commercial companies do the math and need a whole lot less persuading to go electric.–gsv