Cadillac Celestiq could be the uncompromising tech and luxury glory we've waited for
There was a time when Cadillac didn't understand its competitive set, especially back when it repeatedly and publicly set its sights on the big German luxury trio and major metropolitan areas. At one point, the American luxury brand didn't make adaptive headlights an option on the CTS because the manufacturer cost was an additional $40. Even assuming a customer price of $200, the omission made it impossible for owners in those major metros to keep up with BMW Joneses, and all for less than the price of dinner at the kind of restaurant Cadillac wanted such owners to be seen at. It's possible there won't be any such short circuit with the Celestiq EV. A piece at the Society of American Engineers (SAE) reports on the four-year curriculum chief engineer Tony Roma and program engineer Jeremy Loveday completed so that they could understand the car's "clients." Roma told SAE one of the results is, "We've baked a mantra — 'Never tell a customer no' — into how we make the car and the material choices. We just want to tell them how much and how long."
Part of the course of study involved the usual benchmarking, like buying a Rolls-Royce Ghost and a Bentley Flying Spur. Then Roma spoke to European super-luxe suppliers "learning how they and their customers operate." Contacts at Ford did Roma's team a favor, making introductions at Multimatic, the Canadian company that's built the entire run of the latest Ford GT. And Roma spent enough time with the ideal client base to know, "They don't understand the word ‘no’ like most of us do. And ‘I can't afford that’ doesn't enter their vocabulary."
Atop that knowledge base, the Celestiq crew learned "how to make the 'GM machine' work for us" — balancing the technical capabilities and cost efficiencies of one of the world's largest volume manufacturers with a production quota of two cars per day. The most luxurious of GM's current offerings cannot comprehend that glacial pace. The Arlington Truck plant pumped out more than 36,000 Escalades in 2022, and those were just for the U.S. market. The Bowling Green plant in Kentucky makes nearly 200 Corvettes per day. How many times have we read about and watched GM's cost and volume obsessions dilute Cadillac luxury in glaring ways? Roma said protecting the Celestiq from such incursions involves "a lot of hand-to-hand combat on a daily basis," but the automaker leadership is supportive and doing all the right things.
As one would expect of a halo car that could double the highest base price of anything GM offers, the Celestiq is full of manufacturing techniques new to GM and heaps of knowledge that will improve other vehicle programs: Six gravity-sandcast megacastings for the platform; a modular four-zone HVAC system likely to be reworked for use in products like the GMC Hummer EV and Chevy Silverado EV; a 3D-printed aluminum instrument panel piece around the steering wheel; 3D-printed electroplated stainless steel seatbelt D-rings. Speaking of which, Roma said that everything that looks like metal is metal, not plated plastic, because, "We want to take away those excuses."
He also said, "We’re absolutely going to drive our competitors crazy with what we're going to easily allow people to customize.” We'll have to see about that, considering the super-luxe brands will build a client just about anything the client wants that doesn't contravene the brand values and doesn't break the law. We're also used to hearing Cadillac brag about how "this time" it was going to show the world what it could do. It might be that this time really is now.