Published on August 7th, 2020 |
by Loren McDonald
August 7th, 2020 by Loren McDonald
In an online event tonight from its Design Dome in Warren, Michigan, which was rescheduled from the original in-person event planned for Los Angeles in April, GM revealed its new all-electric LYRIQ luxury crossover/SUV.
“Led by LYRIQ, Cadillac will redefine American luxury over the next decade with a new portfolio of transformative EVs. We will deliver experiences that engage the senses, anticipate desires and enable our customers to go on extraordinary journeys.” —Steve Carlisle, executive vice president and president, GM North America.
I first saw a concept version of the LYRIQ at GM’s EV Day back in March in Detroit and had the opportunity to speak with multiple GM executives in both public and private settings. I came away with a strong sense that GM and Cadillac executives are truly excited about this vehicle and are betting the future of the brand on the LYRIQ and several BEVs to follow.
And that is the key question. Will the new LYRIQ be the foundation of renewed excitement in a brand that GM executives readily admit has become tired and lost its luster and brand value?
Not having been in a Cadillac since I can’t remember when, in a separate event for a select group of reporters in February, I had a chance to drive the CT6 with Super Cruise around Detroit freeways and I was incredibly impressed. While I’m now on my second Tesla Model S in 4 years, I had to admit I loved the interior and everything about the CT6, except of course the gas engine. But I was surprised at my reaction and the feeling that perhaps with the right electric Cadillac, I could potentially see myself as a customer. Something I never, ever thought I would say. (Now if they would just make some smaller CUVs.)
Whether the broader market of luxury car buyers reacts this way to the LYRIQ and future Cadillac EVs is, of course, a huge if.
“Time to put the hammer down.” — Steve Carlisle, executive vice president and president, GM North America
Overview of the LYRIQ
Cadillac referred to the LYRIQ that was revealed tonight as a “show car” and explained in a media briefing this past Monday that the vehicle we saw was about 80% of what the final production version was likely to be. Like virtually all of the upcoming EVs from GM (with the exception of the Bolt EUV), the LYRIQ is big, luxurious, and includes lots of high-tech features.
GM has clearly put a lot of thought and design effort into the LYRIQ and is banking on attracting both existing Cadillac customers and an entirely new customer base with the strong performance (from being an electric vehicle) as well as state-of-the-art display, opulent interior, and driver-assist systems through Super Cruise.
But GM executives also referred to the LYRIQ as “not a traditional SUV in form.” And to this person’s eye, it isn’t an SUV at all but rather an oversized CUV. But these days, everything is referred to as an SUV, even if it is actually a crossover, hatchback, wagon, or “sportback.”
The LYRIQ is based on GM’s next-generation, modular electric vehicle platform and is powered by the company’s Ultium propulsion system, which will enable Cadillac to deliver customers a variety of range and performance options. Some of the highlights include:
- 100 kWh battery pack
- At least 300 miles of range. As the LYRIQ is still in development, the company has no sense yet of what the official EPA range will be.
- DC fast charging rates over 150 kW
- Level 2 charging rates up to 19 kW
- Rear-wheel drive will be standard, with an optional AWD version.
- The latest version of Super Cruise, which was recently enhanced to include automated lane change and remote self-parking.
- A dual-plane augmented reality-enhanced head-up display.
- 33-inch-diagonal advanced LED screen that spans the entire viewing area of the driver.
- A 19-speaker AKG Studio audio system.
One of the areas that many of the speakers stressed during the reveal was a focus on creating a great customer experience. With that in mind and understanding consumers’ concerns about range, Cadillac will have battery and charging monitoring that identifies the vehicle’s energy needs at home and and on the road, according to owner preferences, while also monitoring and forecasting energy consumption and providing charging suggestions. And as part of that, Mark Reuss, president of GM, reminded viewers tonight of the new partnership with EVgo to add 2,700 new DC fast charging connections throughout the US over the next 5 years.
One detail that was never addressed during the media briefing or tonight’s reveal is the price of the LYRIQ. But we may have had one clue when Reuss shared that their research revealed that luxury customers expected 300 miles of range and that they had a “slight acceptance for higher cost, but we better be at parity with ICE vehicles.” I can only speculate, but that could mean a price for the LYRIQ in the $70,000 to $80,000 range.
While there were no details shared around over-the-air (OTA) software updates for the LYRIQ, Reuss mentioned twice that the LYRIQ could be “personalized” to the individual driver’s needs and also that the vehicle would get better over the ownership period. OTA updates have been a clear advantage of owning a Tesla to date, so if Cadillac can nail this, it will clearly give the luxury brand some brownie points among the high-tech buyer crowd.
Ultium Battery System
During the reveal tonight, GM and Cadillac executives fielded questions which were clearly submitted in advance, as the responses often sounded scripted, but what the people answering all reiterated was the opportunity of their careers to start with a blank sheet of paper to design the LYRIQ from the ground up using the Ultium EV battery and architecture as its foundation.
The Ultium battery system was designed to be a structural element of the LYRIQ architecture and integrated to contribute to ride, handling, and safety. The LYRIQ was designed with a low center of gravity and near 50/50 weight distribution that is enabled by the placement of the battery pack.
GM’s Ultium batteries use an NCMA (nickel-cobalt-manganese-aluminum) chemistry, with aluminum in the cathode to help reduce the need for rare-earth materials such as cobalt. GM said it was able to reduce the cobalt content by more than 70 percent, compared to current GM batteries.
The battery chemistry is packed in large, flat pouch cells that enable a flexible module construction to reduce complexity and simplify cooling needs. The battery electronics are incorporated directly into the modules, eliminating nearly 90 percent of the battery pack wiring, compared to GM’s current electric vehicles, the company said. GM executives also stressed the strength of their relationship with LG Chem and its expertise in both battery chemistry and focus on bringing battery costs down in combination with GM’s prowess in manufacturing. As recently reported, GM is making progress on its joint battery plant with LG Chem in Lordstown, Ohio.
Interior, Displays, and Other Technologies
One of the features that GM is most proud of is the 33-inch diagonal advanced LED display that integrates a single, large screen that spans the viewing area for the driver and incorporates driver information details, infotainment controls, and camera views. GM claims that the display has the highest pixel density available in the automotive industry today and can display over one billion colors, 64 times more than any other vehicle in the automotive industry.
According to the GM press release, upon approach, the LYRIQ recognizes the driver and initiates a “greeting” with a choreographed lighting sequence, while also preparing the cabin for the journey, including seat, mirror, and climate system adjustments.
GM’s new dual-plane augmented reality-enhanced head-up display employs two planes: a near plane indicating speed, direction, and more; and a far plane displaying transparent navigation signals and other alerts. And at launch, the LYRIQ will offer a 19-speaker AKG Studio audio system.
Cadillac is also introducing a new road noise cancellation technology, which uses additional microphones and accelerometers to improve noise-cancellation abilities. According to the press release, “Cadillac’s performance and audio engineers can target the frequency range of tire cavity noise, reducing the noise level in the vehicle and allowing for a quieter in-cabin experience.”
“With LYRIQ we wanted to deliver a sound experience that would transport the driver from a vehicle into a recording studio.” — Hussein Khalil, Cadillac lead audio design release engineer.
Cadillac Momentum & the Future?
During the media briefing on Monday, Carlisle, who previously led the Cadillac division, shared that 2019 was the second straight year that Cadillac saw an increase in sales. And he spoke of strong satisfaction from dealers and that they received 6,000 orders for the new Escalade from the February launch at the Oscars.
If you look at the chart above, however, US Cadillac sales are basically half of what they were in 1985. Many traditional and often older luxury car buyers, especially on the coasts, have opted the last few decades for vehicles from brands such as Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
But all of the GM executives stressed that the LYRIQ and electric Cadillacs were a great opportunity for the brand in the luxury market. Carlisle specifically referred to the combination of Super Cruise, design, the Ultium battery, luxurious interior, the HUD, and new customer experience — that in their totality, “That’s what will set us apart.”
“These buyers tend to be more accepting of new technologies.” — Mark Reuss, President, GM
The implication was that many of the EV competitors were lacking in some areas. And while Tesla was never mentioned, the brand as a competitive benchmark was inferred a few times. As a Tesla Model S owner, it is clear that the LYRIQ will beat the S and X in the areas of luxury interior, sound, and dealer experience (no snickering please). And while I’m sure it will get many howls from Tesla fans, I personally prefer the safety and user experience of Super Cruise over Autopilot.
The LYRIQ is clearly the face of the new Cadillac and is intended to be the foundation that builds traction again for the brand over the next decade. Executives during the reveal tonight reminded viewers that the Cadillac brand has always been where new technologies and design were first introduced within the GM portfolio.
“This car is really about our future. How do we re-imagine that entire future and experience of the brand.” — Steve Carlisle, executive vice president and president, GM North America
By the end of this decade, almost all new Cadillacs are expected to be electric, and Cadillac is betting on the LYRIQ transforming the image of the brand. Unlike Tesla, of course, Cadillac must still get dealers on board, educated, and excited about selling electric vehicles. During the media briefing, executives shared that Cadillac dealers would indeed be on the same page with corporate and be ready when the LYRIQ goes on sale. Dealers are said to be very much engaged and very excited about the transition to a pure EV lineup.
As to availability of the LYRIQ, it was stressed that this is a “national play” and that it would be available at dealers throughout the US — though, those on the coasts might be prioritized initially.
Will the LYRIQ be successful, and in particular will it and future EVs excite luxury car buyers around the Cadillac brand? Part of the answer to this question is getting dealers excited, and when I met with Reuss back in February, he mentioned that EVs currently were a “hobby” for dealers. But once they had two or three EVs on the lot, they would be all in.
GM has done a great job of tipping its hat on what’s coming down the path, so I do think we will see Cadillac dealers embracing EVs wholeheartedly.
On the consumer side, GM has ticked every box: Performance, design/style, luxury, state-of-the-art features and technology, automation, connectivity, customer experience, and with the EVgo partnership and charging software, reduced concerns about charging.
In the next few years, competition for the LYRIQ would likely be the Tesla Model X, Audi e-tron, and Mercedes-Benz EQC, along with large gasoline-powered SUVs and crossovers. Looking at the list of features and specifications, the LYRIQ would seem to have all of these other vehicles beat, except for the range of the Model X and access to the Supercharger network.
Only time will tell, but like the LYRIQ’s weight distribution, Cadillac seems to have a 50-50 chance of reinvigorating the Cadillac brand through the LYRIQ and EVs to follow. As average range gets closer to 300 miles for BEVs available in the US, DC fast charging and charging speed is becoming a more important buying criteria. So, while the LYRIQ seems to be a winner, GM and Cadillac need to convince potential buyers that their charging infrastructure is nearly as good as Tesla’s Supercharger network.
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