Cadillac’s newly unveiled electric car is expected to cost around $300,000

Cadillac is returning to a market segment it hasn’t occupied for decades: the world of true ultra-luxury cars with huge six-figure price tags. General Motors unveiled the Cadillac Celestiq on Friday, and the company wants it to beat the best in the world.

The Celestiq, an electric car, is expected to cost up to $300,000 when it goes on sale, a figure first reported by the Wall Street Journal and which GM has neither officially confirmed nor denied.

GM has not yet announced a date when actual production will begin. The vehicle unveiled by GM is a “show car” version of the Celestiq, but executives have said production will look very similar, except it will be highly customizable by individual buyers.

Cadillac has sold cars for six figures before, but that was usually just over $100,000, and they were usually Cadillac Escalades loaded with options. The Celstiq puts General Motors’ luxury brand in direct competition with brands like Bentley and Rolls-Royce, which routinely sell cars at such prices.

This is territory Cadillac hasn’t occupied since at least 1957, when Cadillac offered the Eldorado Brougham, said John Wiley, manager of valuation analysis at Hagerty, a company that closely follows the collector car market. GM only made 400 Eldorado Broughams and they were entirely hand assembled rather than assembly line made. When new, the Eldorado cost a little over $13,000 at a time when a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud could be bought for about $16,000, Wiley said. (Adjusted for inflation, those numbers would be about 10 times today.) Ironically, a collectible Cadillac Eldorado Brougham is now worth more than twice as much as a Silver Royce Silver Cloud, Wiley said.

It’s a bold move for the company, which has been trying to re-identify itself time and time again for the past two decades. The first attempt was the Cadillac CTS, launched in 2003, as an entry-level American luxury car to beat the BMW 3 Series. With its angular styling and crisp handling, it was a sharp departure from the comfortable cruiser Cadillacs of years past. But the CTS peaked in 2005 with just over 60,000 sold. Production ended in 2019. In most years, BMW sold about twice as many 3 Series.

Cadillac has made other attempts at reinvention, including a move to alphanumeric names for its vehicles, before returning to names. An attempt was also made to develop an exclusive engine for the brand, dubbed the ‘Blackwing’ V8, before production ended after just two years in 2020 with fewer than 1000 units.

The Celestiq appears to be Cadillac’s latest attempt to return to its roots as the pinnacle of luxury.

Today, Cadillac is truly identified with a single product, the Escalade large SUV, said Tyson Jominy, vice president of data analytics at JD Power. The Escalade is by far Cadillac’s best-selling product and also the one with the highest pop culture cachet.

While Cadillac has had many beautiful concept cars with rare and exotic materials in recent years, such as the Cadillac Sixteen with an enormous petrol engine and the Elmiraj with an interior made of “hand-picked fallen Brazilian rosewood”. The Celestiq is the first to actually go into production. It comes shortly after the brand put its first electric vehicle, the Cadillac Lyriq, into production. Cadillac will be one of the first luxury brands to transition to all-electric vehicles by 2030.

The shift toward electrification — both for Cadillac and the industry as a whole — presents a unique opportunity for Cadillac to reposition itself in the eyes of customers, said Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader.com. Customers buying EVs have proven very receptive to trying new brands and the Celestiq will attract attention.

“That’s exactly what they need to do to differentiate themselves,” he said.

In its early days, Cadillac’s motto was “the standard of the world,” a market position it hopes to reclaim with this car, GM executives said. Cars like Celestiq serve as a pride for GM and, according to Jominy, set the standard for what’s possible.

“This is their beacon,” Jominy said, “it’s the beacon for their staff, for their engineers, to rally. It’s the beacon for retailers to show, ‘We’re doing things right. “

Instead of a GM factory, every Celestiq is built at GM’s Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. The Technical Center houses GM engineers and designers and has various test areas and wind tunnels. There are cars that are normally built there, but they are usually ones intended for testing or display purposes rather than ones to be sold to the public.

The Celestiq features technologies already available in other Cadillac models, such as Super Cruise, GM’s hands-free system for highway driving. It also has a 55-inch diagonal screen and a glass roof that can be darkened in four different zones of different shades.

What will really set it apart is the almost infinite amount of customization available.

“Each vehicle will be a bespoke tribute to a customer’s individuality, utilizing innovative design, authentic materials and the latest automotive technology,” said Rory Harvey, GM’s vice president for Cadillac.

This type of extreme customization—buyers can literally choose any paint color they want, for example—is something that ultra-luxury automakers like Rolls-Royce have offered for over a century. This is something Cadillac dealers aren’t used to, and it remains to be seen how GM will handle the vehicle ordering process. “The overall customer experience” will be an important part of what sets Celestiq apart, Harvey said in a statement emailed to CNN Business.

Cadillac dealers are likely already eyeing customers for the Celestiq, Jominy said. These will be people with multiple luxury cars in their garages, including at least one Escalade, he said.

“They’re already buying Aston Martins and others and ‘Hey, let me take a chance on this, it looks interesting.”

Some may be classic car collectors who already have a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham in their garage. You might want the modern, electric version parked next to it.

The CNN Wire
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