The Cadillac Lyriq Leads GM’s Electric Luxury Future, But It’s Not Really For the US

General Motors has big electric plans for Cadillac, with the eventual goal of selling more battery-powered cars from its luxury brand than those with gasoline engines by 2030. The tip of the spear was unveiled Thursday evening, and it’s the Cadillac Lyriq crossover-the storied marque’s first electric vehicle.


From the introduction-held months after its planned splashy public debut in April had to morph into an online event-and a circumspect press briefing three days before, here’s what we know about the Lyriq:


In other words, not a whole lot yet. Even by show-car standards, that’s pretty meager information for a highly-touted model meant for production.


Just before the COVID-19 pandemic came to America in force, GM held an “EV Day” event in early March to show invited reporters fully a dozen different concepts or renderings for future EV models (no cameras were allowed). GM says it plans to offer 20 different battery-electric vehicles on its new Ultium underpinnings and battery technology by 2023.


Though the Lyriq’s debut got bounced a few months thanks to the pandemic, many of us were expecting a lot more from the event. That’s not what we got. But the broader context-an understanding of EVs globally and Cadillac’s position in China-lets us surmise why the Lyriq exists, and how it fits into GM’s broader EV plans.
Ignoring corporate-speak like “transformation … across the emerging eco-system” and “engage a broad range of shareholders to ensure our mutual success,” it’s clear GM understands how tough it is for a legacy company to make the transition into providing electric cars that will actually succeed with buyers.


The question remains whether GM is genuinely committed to making its EVs a success in North America. It’s useful to remember: We’ve been here before.


The Cadillac Lyriq just unveiled in 2020 is exactly what the Chevrolet Volt was in 2008: a halo vehicle, something that points to a supposed future, and proof thpany whose U.S. profits come from full-size trucks and SUVs has a future that fits into a much greener 21st century.
I don’t expect the Lyriq to change as much between concept and production as the Chevy Volt did (from the proportions of a Camaro to a squat compact hatchback). It’s clear the Cadillac Lyriq will be a tech-heavy, all-electric crossover utility vehicle, it will use the new Ultium battery and platform shared across more than a dozen GM vehicles, and its range will be competitive in the luxury space.


In March, GM executives claimed its new Ultium vehicles would be profitable for the company from Day One. In part, that’s because they’ll be higher-priced, where profit margins are always greater. So what better place to start than the top-of-the-company Cadillac brand?
But we’ve been here before, too. You may remember Cadillac’s famous “Break Through” ad on the 2003 Super Bowl. It was the first time Led Zeppelin had licensed any of its songs for commercial use-reputedly for a ridiculous amount of money-much less its iconic “Rock and Roll” track.


The goal was to point out the new Cadillac range encompassed everything from the new CTS sport sedan to the Escalade to a luxury touring convertible built alongside the C6 Corvette. (The CTS appeared in The Matrix Reloaded the same year.) The message was that the brand with the newly redesigned laurel-wreath logo had changed forever.
Since then, Cadillac has redesigned its logo again, changed its alphanumeric naming system and launched ranges of vehicles to challenge competitors like Lexus and the German luxury brands. But it spent far too long focusing on sedans-the ATS, CTS, and STS were followed by the CT4, CT5, and now-defunct CT6-and only belatedly introduced crossovers and SUVs to fill the gaps in its lineup at a time when the U.S. market has moved decisively away from sedans.
None of that seems to have done much for Cadillac sales. In 2003, it sold 216,000 vehicles in the U.S. Its best year this century was 2005, when it sold 235,000. Last year, it sold 156,000.
Worse yet, the consensus among reviewers is that the sedans are good, but the utilities aren’t all that impressive. The XT6 and XT4 in partic…