Lastly, a word about Cadillac. This one is more of a holding spot than a demerit on an actual car. Since, you see, there was no exciting new car.
In 2017, I took a 1960 El Dorado through upstate New York as part of a digital detox. That lovely thing with crimson interiors glided down back roads like a pearlescent dream. I want back in. The time before that was in 2016, when I drove the Cadillac CT6 sedan. At the time, I wrote it was a “gentle, inoffensive” sedan; I mentioned some yawning at one point.
In 2018 GM said it planned to end production of six cars at North American plants, including the CT6 sedan, then later said that one would remain in Cadillac’s U.S. lineup, though some variants like the CT6 Sport would end. The back-and-forth is not encouraging.
After Cadillac announced plans in January to make a crossover electric vehicle, the brand debuted two new sedans, two new variants of existing sedans, and a new midsize crossover SUV. Nothing terribly exciting. It launched a website for online shopping and teased a new electronics screen for the next generation of the Escalade, which is expected in February.
On Dec. 17, the company said it will skip the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in January where it had planned to show off the EV crossover.
Instead, what made bigger news for the company in 2019 was everything other than its cars, which is a bad sign for a company that makes cars. It recalled 900,000 vehicles because of battery and brake issues. It got sued for failing to warn people about headlight defects. It announced a replacement campaign for the “Dare Greatly” tagline, which has disappointed.
If it all feels very much like meet the new boss, same as the old boss, that’s because it is. For the eighth time in 20 years, Cadillac appointed a new CEO this year. Its own former top officer and brand bastion, Bob Lutz, railed publicly against it: “I don’t think there are enough decades left in the branded automobile business as we know it to achieve a comeback,” Lutz said.
This isn’t to say that Cadillac isn’t entitled to a quiet year to regather itself, make some painful cuts, and renew its own reserves. GM boss Mary Barra has proven she’s comfortable taking the long view, slashing now where she must in favor of building toward sustainable growth later. Next year, Cadillac promises, we can expect that updated new Escalade and more information about the EV crossover. It has promised an array of new models (granted, they’re as distant into the future as Ursa Minor), and brand president Steve Carlisle has even said most Cadillac vehicles will be electric by 2030. Maybe Lutz will have to eat his words.
But we are talking about 2019 right now, where we are left waiting for America’s greatest heritage brand to give us something—anything—great to drive.