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.

Advertisements

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.

Following Cadillac: Forerunners Again

My ’93 Cadillac STS had loads of luxury items that lots of other ’93 cars did not. This is in part because GM would always test new options on Cadillacs as standard equipment. In High School I was rockin’ out with Bose Gold series speakers, CD and cassette player, heated seats and adjustable lumbar support to go with it. Even though I graduated in 2007 I imagine I would have been the coolest kid on the block in 1993.

But this luxury equipment was all with in GM. Countless other luxury cars had these options as well. Cadillac didn’t stand out as it once did. They weren’t the first to do anything ground breaking for a long time.

As of recently that has all changed. Cadillac has introduced CUE. The Cadillac User Experience. Cadillac has just become the first company to use tablet technology that is fully integrated in the car right off the production line. The system simplifies the user experience of in car infotainment. Cadillac has gone back to its grass roots and brought to production something that will be copied and imitated by other car companies. And all for the better. They’re back as forerunners in in-car technology for once. With help from CUE Cadillac is dusting of there old motto of being “the standard of the world”.

 

Following Cadillac: Converj – A New Direction

“Today marks the new beginning of GM”. The GM boss Rick Wagoner said this at the first showing of the Converj concept in early 2009. To put the scale of the situation and the weight of those words into context, a very brief Cadillac history lesson… Through out it’s prime Cadillac was known for its big displacement engines and countless cylinders. But in the late 70s the US went into a fuel crisis and Cadillac had to down size its whole line of cars and engines to cope. Sadly, it seems, Cadillac was not prepared. Small cars and small engines?, un-traveled territory for Cadillac for many decades. In the following years Cadillac fell far from ‘The Standard of The World’ pedestal that it had long been perched on.

Fast-forward to today’s fuel crisis and Cadillac faces a similar problem. Having reinvented themselves recently they are poised to win this title rematch in the global arena.


 GM have recently approved (then canceled, then re approved) the Converj concept for production. Having the under pinning of the successful Chevy Volt, the Voltec hybrid system. The system is described as a fuel assisted EV. Which essentially means, on paper at least, it is a plug in hybrid that scarcely visits the pump (once a year theoretically). The exciting bit and the part that plays into Cadillac’s hands is that’s where the Chevy stops.

Aside from what makes it go everything this car is a Cadillac. With the new direction of styling that Cadillac is going in and their new level of luxury, this is exactly what Cadillac needs to come out on top. When the average person thinks of a hybrid, nothing exciting or grand comes to mind. Sure there is a Lexus or two that uses a hybrid system but they’re over priced and not nearly as efficient.  Cadillac is using a unique system that works which is built upon the brand’s new standard of luxury.

The Coverj concept is definitely the 1-2 combo Cadillac needs to battle through this generation’s fuel crisis. It shows that you don’t need to sacrifice style and luxury for efficiency. Well played Cadillac, well played.

Following Cadillac: The New Mantra

Since about 2004 Cadillac has redesigned its self to compete with the European luxury brands. However, now a days it isn’t enough to just be a lofty road yacht. To compete you also have to have power, performance and sleek modern styling along with the first class comforts. Below I posted 2 Commercials that aired in the U.S that show Cadillac’s new intentions. Both videos make claims to a heritage once forgotten. I believe that Cadillac are on the right track to prove to a new generation that they once were the standard of the world and are gunning to retake that crown.

Following Cadillac: A brief history

Named after the founder of Detroit its self, Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac, the Cadillac Automobile Company had a meteoric rise to fame with in the industry. The company was founded by Henry Leland in 1902 and bought by General Motors in 1909. But by 1908 it had already won the prestigious Dewar Trophy from the Royal Automobile Club of England by showing off its capabilities of interchangeable parts in a reliability test. Thus being the first American Automotive company to win the coveted award. Cadillac went on to win the award a second time in 1912 for putting state of the art electric lighting, starting and ignition technologies into a production car. It is from this foundation that the company acquired the slogan ‘Standard of the World’.

There are many primal amenities that your car contains that were pioneered and first put into production by Cadillac. Cadillac was the first car company to put into production cars with fully enclosed cabs protecting the occupants from the elements. Simple yet ahead of the curve. Probably thought to be the most logical system on a car today was first introduced by Cadillac making the act of driving and learning to drive elementary: accelerator pedal on the right, brake to the left of that and clutch to the left of the brake. Systems that came before what we have today were much more complicate and not very user friendly. Also worth mentioning in 1964 Cadillac introduced the first climate control system allowing the driver and passengers to set desired temperatures with automatic heating and A/C. And for those reading who know how a modern transmission works, Cadillac also introduced the first clash-less syncromesh transmission. It was innovations such as these that hoisted the company to be the premier car company in the U.S and to what the world looked to for the new standard in the industry.

In 1927 Cadillac introduced ‘designer styled’ body work as opposed to the function following form, auto-engineered cars driving around at the time. From then on Cadillac was recognized by its outrageous styling. As the trunk lids and hoods stretched and grew to aircraft carrier credibility, there was more room to play with when it came to styling. In the 50s and 60s some companies went the route of jet age styling and designed fins into the bodywork. Cadillac went above and beyond, as was their nature. The Tail fins that Caddys ran with were comparable to tail fins on actual planes at the time. So much so that it be came a signature dish for them for years to come. Even the new models that Cadillac produces references those tall taillights of the era.

Trouble struck in the late 70s. With Gas prices rocketing and the market plummeting it was beginning to look like Cadillac had dug its self into a whole. From the late 70s all the way through the 90s and the early part of the 00s Cadillac was far from the standard of the world. With European manufacturers taking the reigns, Cadillac struggled to produce a truly desirable car in way of styling or luxury (apart from the ’93 STS of course). Around 2004-2005 there was a big overhaul and plan to get back on top selling a world standard car to the upper echelon of society. Up until this point the type of person buying a Cadillac probably got discounts at restaurants and went to bed around 5pm… a loyal Cadillac customer of yesteryear then. Going after the European companies that knocked Caddy of the top of the podium, they are going in the direction of performance luxury. Their new philosophy is ‘Art and Science’. The bold sharp lines used in the new designs are supposed to evoke a feeling that cutting edge technology designed the cars while the inside translates that cutting edge technology is used to work the car. Theses are just small steps in the direction of a contemporary standard of the world.

Following Cadillac: Preface

For the first term of my MA in automotive journalism here at Coventry University, I was given an assignment to pick an automotive brand and follow it. Through out the term I will be researching Cadillac’s history following where it is now and where it is going in the future. But what makes sense for me to do in this first post is to explain why I chose Cadillac. If I put out there the basis for why i chose this brand above many others I feel it will lay good groundwork to build other posts on top of.

My personal history with Cadillac began with a very intimidating matte grey ’76 El Dorado convertible. For a good portion of my childhood it was covered in boxes and other random objects that had collected on top of it in my home garage. Admittedly, I was sometimes afraid of it. With the imagination I had it was kind of like the monster under the bed. When in reality it was my dad’s daily driver once upon a time. I can only assume that with the gas prices creeping up as they were and still are, a ’76 V8 Cadillac coupe convertible larger than most four doors driving around today was getting pricey. So into hibernation it went. After some years of nagging from my mother my dad finally decided to fix it up. Finding a collector to buy the beast helped out a little bit. I was actually quite happy the caddy was getting fixed up. Not because the monster under the bed was getting an eviction notice but because I got to help out my dad fix it up, i.e I got to hold his tools and hand them to him when he asked. This was one of the first verses in my genesis that sparked me wanting to now as much about cars as possible. When ever he worked on the Caddy or any car for that matter I always wanted to help but most likely got in the way more often that not. One of the last memories I have of that monster is when my dad got the radio working. I whole-heartedly expected to turn the radio on and to hear someone announcing news from 1976, kind of like in the movie Frequency. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen. My next personal encounter with Cadillac wouldn’t happen again until I was 17.

I can’t remember the exact month but I do remember how and when i got my first car. A highland green ’93 Cadillac 4.6 V8 STS. I called it Highland green because I was and still am a fan of the movie Bullit…the catalogue color of Steve McQueen’s 390 GT. My brother, the previous owner, brought it to my house as a hand-me-down gift. I immediately wanted to take it for a spin. It ran perfectly and as far as I was concerned it was the standard of my world. In the 8os and early 90s American cars were not the best, to put it lightly. However, Gm usually tested all its new technology on Cadillac before making it standard equipment on the rest of its cars. Although something didn’t always work I can assure you my friends with other cars from 1993 were jealous of my heated seats, CD player and Bose gold series speakers. Though they were not jealous when my catalytic converter rusted off. But from one car person to another, with a 4.6 liter American V8 up front, my right foot hasn’t been heavier since. That car has since been retired. Over 150k miles on the clock and a good old-fashioned road trip down to Daytona beach under her belt, it wasn’t a bad life. It was my first car but it won’t be my last Cadillac. I assure you.