When it comes to its planned transition to an all-electric lineup, General Motors didn’t end 2023 on the most positive note. Though last year saw record-high EV sales, they were largely carried by the Chevrolet Bolt twins—both of which were discontinued in December. Newer, more modern offerings suffered from delays, software challenges and production woes.
But John Roth says he has reason to be optimistic about 2024. Roth is a longtime GM executive who took over as Vice President of Global Cadillac last June, and in an interview with InsideEVs recently, one word kept coming up: “momentum.”
Specifically, he said, the Cadillac Lyriq is proving to be a real bright spot in GM’s EV lineup. The Lyriq was the best-selling model on GM’s new Ultium platform in Q4 with 3,820 units sold—a new record. In fact, the Lyriq alone made up a 10.5% share of Cadillac’s total volume. Not bad, considering the Cadillac brand as a whole—including sales of its gas-powered cars—was up 9% year-over-year.
In other words, Cadillac is doing better than many people might think, and on the electric side, the Lyriq is leading the way. That percentage of electric sales puts Cadillac close to competitors like Mercedes-Benz. EVs made up 11.8% of Mercedes’ global sales in 2023, trailing BMW, where the number was closer to 20%.
But that gap may be starting to close in 2024. As MotorTrend reported recently, the Lyriq is projected to make up a whopping 25% of GM’s EV sales this month, and even bigger gains are expected as that car gets a $7,500 discount despite not being currently eligible for tax credits. Roth said he sees more success on the horizon as Cadillac works to expand its EV lineup with more SUVs.
“With the announcement of Vistiq coming into the portfolio, we have a great offering in every one of the luxury SUV segments now,” Roth said. “In this calendar year and the next, I think that gives us a strategic advantage.”
The Vistiq does seem poised for success as an all-electric crossover that resembles a kind of baby Escalade—arguably Cadillac’s most iconic modern vehicle.
But like the rest of GM’s leadership, Roth has his work cut out for him. He’s the fourth executive to lead the Cadillac brand since 2018, and he took the helm amid a year filled with challenges for the automaker’s transformation into a software-driven, battery-focused company. Roth added that GM’s goal is still “triple zero”—no crashes, no tailpipe emissions and no traffic congestion—and “Cadillac is going to lead that,” he said.
And for at least one of Cadillac’s most crucial EVs, things may be turning around.
Roth told reporters this week that Lyriq production is ramping up quickly as of late. As Reuters noted today, the luxury crossover has been behind targets due to challenges around the automation of battery module assembly, a challenge that has dogged many of GM’s Ultium cars. (Owners have complained of software issues with the Lyriq too, but so far the car has not been subject to a stop-sale order like its cousin, the Blazer EV, which broke down while fast-charging during a recent InsideEVs test.)
“You can see the momentum ramping,” Roth said. “If you look at the general industry, you’re running about 7% or 8% (of sales being fully electric) for the calendar year. We’ve done a lot of homework around what it takes to drive appeal and consideration for EVs in the marketplace.”
He added, “When you look at the Lyriq being over 300 miles of range, and you see the exterior design, and [we’re] right there at the price value equation in the marketplace amongst the luxury SUVs.” Starting at $58,590 and nicely equipped in the $60,000 range, the Lyriq undercuts competitors like the Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV by almost $20,000, and customers have responded well to that, Roth said.
Cadillac loyalists will get more choices soon. In addition to the Vistiq, the brand also announced an all-electric Escalade IQ last year, as well as the Cadillac Optiq. That SUV-heavy lineup may be a bit confusing, but Roth explained how it breaks down internally.
“There’s a real opportunity for Lyriq to be the kind of mainstream luxury vehicle that we’re going to see good volume with, and really help propel the overall franchise forward,” he said. The Optiq, he said, is a smaller, more entry-level crossover. “Really sporty, fun to drive, perfect-sized vehicle for that individual who’s coming into their luxury vehicle,” he said.
The Escalade IQ is the “franchise player,” he said, something that’s exactly what it seems to be—an all-electric version of the brand’s massively popular large SUV. And for those who want three rows of seats but prefer something more crossover-ish, there’s the Vistiq. “It sits nicely in between Lyriq and Escalade IQ—three rows, family-oriented, maybe their first EV,” Roth said.
One EV that was MIA in 2023, however, was the long-promised Cadillac Celestiq, a highly customizable ultra-luxury sedan due to start at $340,000. That car was also supposed to debut GM’s more advanced Ultra Cruise automated driving assistance system, but that program has since been folded into the development of the more well-known Super Cruise, as InsideEVs reported this week. But Roth said this ostensible electric Bentley competitor is still on its way.
“Celestiq is just getting started,” Roth said. “We’re working through the orders with those bespoke customers that are really looking for a custom, ultra-luxury experience with a Cadillac… that vehicle actually [came] first and then inspired Lyriq.”
But all of that begs the question: What does Cadillac have in store for electric sedans? While the U.S. car market has become pretty definitively an SUV- and truck-driven one, Cadillac’s most recent gas-powered sport sedans like the CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing have received considerable praise—and a high take rate vs. the more basic models. So does Cadillac have a plan to capitalize on those cars’ popularity, but with electric power?
“I just knew you had to ask that question,” Roth said with a laugh, adding the brand has seen “really strong growth” in the sedan segment. “I like my job too much to reveal anything today… We’re really pleased overall with the performance of the Vs and the Blackwings, and quite frankly the whole CT family. [But] I wouldn’t want to speculate.”
Take note, Cadillac V-Series fans: That’s not a hard “no.”
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