Cadillac is returning to a sector it hasn’t occupied for decades: the realm of luxury cars with huge six-figure price tags. General Motors unveiled the Cadillac Celtic on Friday, and the company wants to outperform the best in the world.
The Celtic electric car is expected to cost $300,000 when it goes on sale, a figure first reported by the Wall Street Journal and not officially confirmed or disputed by General Motors.
GM has yet to announce when actual production will start. The vehicle unveiled is a “show car” version of the Celestiq, but executives said it will be very close to production in appearance except that it will be highly customizable by individual buyers.
Cadillac has sold six-figure cars before, but these were usually just over $100,000 and Cadillac Escalades were usually loaded with options. Celstiq takes General Motors’ luxury brand into direct competition with brands like Bentley and Rolls-Royce that routinely sell cars at these kinds of prices.
This is territory that Cadillac hasn’t occupied since at least 1957, when Cadillac offered the Eldorado Brougham, said John Wiley, director of valuation analytics for Hagerty, a company that closely follows the assembled car market. The 400 Eldorado Brougham was only built by GM and was assembled entirely by hand, not built on an assembly line. Wiley said that when it was new, the Eldorado cost just over $13,000 at a time when a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud could be purchased for about $16,000. (If adjusted for inflation, those numbers would be roughly 10 times today.) Ironically, as a collectible, the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham is today worth more than twice the price of the Silver Royce Silver Cloud, Wiley said.
It’s a bold move for a company that has repeatedly sought to redefine itself over the past two decades. The first attempt was the Cadillac CTS, introduced in 2003, as the American entry-level luxury car to beat the BMW 3 Series. With its angular design and pronounced handling, it was a sharp departure from the comfortable, relaxed Cadillacs of years past. But the CTS peaked with just over 60,000 sold in 2005. Production ended in 2019. In most years, BMW has sold about twice as much as the 3 Series.
Cadillac made other attempts at reinvention, including switching to the alphanumeric names of its cars before switching back to the names again. There was also an attempt to create an exclusive engine for the brand, dubbed the “Blackwing” V8, before ending production just two years later in 2020 with fewer than 1,000 engines.
The Celestiq appears to be Cadillac’s latest effort to return to its roots as the one-off pinnacle of luxury.
These days Cadillacs are really tied to one product, the full-size Escalade SUV, said Tyson Gomini, vice president of data analytics at J.D. Power. The Escalade is, by far, the single best-selling Cadillac product, and also the most popular product in popular culture.
While Cadillac has owned many beautiful model cars with rare and exotic materials in recent years, such as the Cadillac Sixteen with a massive fuel-burning engine, and the Elmirage interior that features “carefully fallen Brazilian rosewood”. Celestiq is the first device actually in production. It arrives shortly after the brand launched its first electric car, the Cadillac Lyric. Cadillac will be among the first luxury brands to go all-electric by 2030.
The shift toward electrification — for Cadillac as well as the industry as a whole — provides a unique opportunity for Cadillac to reposition itself in the eyes of customers, said Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader.com. Customers who are shopping for electric cars have proven to be very open to trying new brands, and Celestiq will command attention.
“That’s exactly what they have to do to differentiate themselves,” he said.
GM executives said Cadillac’s motto in its early days was the “world standard,” a market niche they hope to reclaim with this car. Vehicles like the Celestiq are a point of pride for General Motors, setting the standard for what’s possible, according to Gemini.
“This is their beacon, it is a beacon for their employees and engineers to gather around. It is a beacon for merchants to show ‘We are doing things right,’” Jomini said. This is the pinnacle of what we can do. “”
In lieu of a GM plant, each Celestic will be built at the GM 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 usually made out there, but they are usually meant for testing or demonstration purposes, not those that are sold to the public.
The Celestiq features technology already available on other Cadillac models, such as the Super Cruise, General Motors’ hands-free highway driving system. It also has a 55-inch diagonal display and a glass roof that can be darkened to different shades in each of the four different zones.
What really sets it apart is the nearly endless level of customization available.
“Each vehicle will be a customized celebration of customer privacy, while benefiting from innovative design, original materials and the latest automotive technology,” said Rory Harvey, General Motors vice president of Cadillac.
This kind of intense individual customization – buyers will be able to choose literally any paint color they desire – is something luxury automakers like Rolls-Royce have been offering for more than a century. This isn’t something Cadillac dealers are used to, and it remains to be seen how GM will handle the vehicle’s ordering process. In a statement emailed to CNN Business, Harvey said the “total customer experience” will be an important part of what makes Celestiq stand out.
Jominy said Cadillac dealers may already have customers on Celestiq’s mind. Those would be people who had several luxury cars in their garage, he said, including at least one Escalade.
“They are already buying Aston Martins et al and ‘Hey, let me take this opportunity, it looks like fun.'”
Some classic car collectors may already have a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham in their garage. They may want to park the modern electric version next to it.
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