Following Cadillac: Looking Forward

“History repeats itself”, one of the most used cliché’s in the English language. Nevertheless, a cliché that proves itself true time and time again. For a certain car company, I would imagine they are banking on that.

In 2002 Cadillac unveiled the Cien concept at the Detroit Auto show. With a 950 bhp, mid-mounted 7.5 liter V-12, a design inspired by the F-22 Raptor and an exotic European stance, it looked like the epitome of what a performance car should be. Sadly, though, it was never to be put into production. It was more of Cadillac just flexing their muscles.

Now jump forward 8 or 9 years. Cadillac has, arguably, one of the best performance sedans and coupes in its class. Coincidence? I think not. When car companies produce a concept never to see light or even a halo car that makes it to production, the trickle down effect is inevitable. The CTS-V may not have a 950 horse V-12 in the back seats, but if you dilute and filter the Cien enough you sure would come close to it. And that’s saying a lot.

The point I’m trying to make is that Cadillac is at it again. Cadillac unveiled the Ciel at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. One of the most prestigious car shows in the world. It is home to the most expensive and luxurious cars known to man, past and present.

The Ciel is powered by a twin turbo 3.6 hybrid V-6. I know that doesn’t sound like much compared to Cadillac’s of old nor does it even hold a candle to a Rolls or a Bentley V-(insert large number). But that’s because Cadillac is aiming this luxury car at the 99%ers, if you will. The level of luxury however could easily be mistaken for a 1%er. From the swooping lines and suicide doors on the outside to the smooth olive wood dash and elegant yet simplistic interior, it robs from the rich and gives to the middle class. Passengers, who you might mistake for the owners, have more   than enough room for comfort. The headroom has to be measured in miles due to the drop top.

If Cadillac follows a similar path to that of the Cien to CTS-V route, starting with the Ciel, the possibilities are limitless. At the very least I would suspect a car that could easily compete with the top range BMWs, Mercs and Audis in the luxury and grandeur department yet still be half the price.

If history has anything to say about it, the Germans should start to worry… again.

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Following Cadillac: A Look Back

“The test of success is not what you do when you’re on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” – General George Patton.

All companies have dark periods. Some slumps are deeper and some last longer. Nonetheless if one must judge a company on its perseverance and quality of life when things begin to brighten, Cadillac is in the upper echelon.

A few years back when the U.S auto industry was in a slump all of its own, Ford and GM were forced to axe some of their sub brands. Cadillac was speculated to be an option at one point due to it not being able to compete with the foreign luxury brands. It escaped with only having to cut a couple of models from the line up.

Since the bailout period that plagued GM, Cadillac has come back with promise and profit. The first quarter of 2011 saw GM gain around 30% in profit and Cadillac, alone, bounced back with a 70% increase in sales. This massive turnaround was not due to dumb luck. Cadillac did a total overhaul on its approach to the market. The new design philosophy combined with up rated interiors and forward thinking has the automaker being compared to its European counter parts once again.

Cadillac’s short falls were found in the interior and performance areas. In the 80s and 90s no one would dare compare a Caddy to a Merc or BMW. Now that comparison is commonplace in all magazines reviewing the performance-luxury segment.

At the beginning of the 20th century Cadillac was the standard of the world. At the beginning of the 21st  century European comparisons were nowhere in sight for Cadillac. Towards the end of this past decade there was a point where some believed Cadillac would not live to see the end of it. At the beginning of this decade, what Cadillac has on the show room floors now is a testament to how high they have bounced.

Interview with Matt Humphries : Morgan Motor Company chief designer

Sense of humor. Something you don’t associate with a car company that’s existed since around 1900. Mercedes, Ford, etc. are all corporate companies with no funny bone.

Morgan Motor Company has been around since 1910 and they pride themselves on just that, their sense of humor. It’s clear after talking to Matt Humphries, the chief designer and relatively new face at the company, that jokes are still to be had.

Before Matt graduated from Coventry University in 2005 he started at the boutique car company on student placement. As part of his placement he had to present a design idea to the owner. The student project would later make it to production with Matt in charge.

“There was no official design department when I showed up.” Matt explained. Before he was employed the engineers and workshop teams just tried ideas out and saw what worked. Matt and his team of 3 stylists that are employed now try “to make the wooden frame a feature of the cars interior” Matt claims.

Using an ash wooden frame might seem idiotic to base a modern days car frame off of but not entirely. Matt defends “Compare wood to modern materials such as carbon fiber or aluminum. They’re all lightweight, strong and flexible.” He continues “now think of all the items in your house and think of which are wood…there is a reason we have been using it for centuries”. Sensibility and sense of humor can go hand in hand. “ Think of the wooden frame as a coat hanger for the aluminum chassis”.

Old-fashioned construction and 1920s styling are major parts in the character of Morgan. This is why it’s one of the few companies that can get away with bringing back the 3-wheeler. Essentially a tub with a Harley-Davidson engine in front flanked by 2 wheels and a third belt driven wheel in the back. With a design inspired by a B-52 bomber and a separate younger generation excited about it the 3-wheeler is the epitome of Morgan.

Three new models are in the pipeline at Morgan. All planned with wooden chassis. But as far as the styling they are extremely forward thinking. “As long as you have some of the Morgan elements you don’t need them all for it to be a Morgan.” Humphries explained. The designs more or less capture elements of the past with out being completely old fashioned. Matt uses the term “Story telling through design”.

A twenty-something as the chief designer at a car company from the early 20th century… a perfect fit at this plucky British Motor Company.

Ferrari Tailor-Made

  Automotive companies, in the past few decades, have adopted special branches to their companies. For the most part these special sectors of the company specialize in performance upgrades; Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT), Chrysler LLC’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT), BMW’s M division and Mercedes’ AMG division.

Earlier in 2011 McLaren Automotive started up McLaren Special Operations. Which deals solely with visual upgrades. Let’s face it the MP-4 12c doesn’t really need performance upgrades.

So it’s no surprise that long time rival company Ferrari has recently started up Ferrari Tailor-Made. FTM is Ferrari’s customizing service for clients who want to go the extra mile to make their baby unique.

Tailored to suite individuals’ tastes by the Ferrari styling center, clients can follow the car through every step of production. Each client also gets his or her own personal design advisor.

When talking personal tastes of Ferrari owners the spectrum can range from classy and subtle to a flamboyant eye sore. Which is why Ferrari has covered all the bases. Three categories of styling exist: Scuderia, Classica and Inedita.

Scuderia reflects the sporting heritage of Ferrari. With options such as carbon fiber, Alcantara and kevlar trims along side satin and matte finishes one can easily land at either end of the spectrum. Get it right you can have a subtle track weapon that makes you look like a driving legend.

Classica allows the client to put a vintage twist on a new model. Kashmir roof lining, a teak-trimmed trunk and interior inserts that match the exterior can easily make a classic looking GT.

Inedita is described as “experimental” and “innovative”. This is where the flamboyant eye sore options come into play. If a client wants his pale blue Ferrari convertible to have matching blue rims, sure. If said client then wants matching blue leather seats with denim trim alternating through out the cabin, no problem. But if blue denim isn’t your style ferrari have other suite fabrics at you disposal.

The idea behind this program is to create a more bespoke Ferrari for every customer. Every car is different. From the cool racer to the hip-hop mogul, Ferrari has options for you.