Cadillac to take on Tesla as lux brand leads GM's EV push

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News
2018 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid

General Motors Co.’s march to 20 zero-emission vehicles by 2023 will be led by Cadillac, positioning the Detroit automaker's luxury brand to compete with electric carmaker Tesla Inc. 

The next generation of GM's battery electric vehicle platform — dubbed BEV3 and built to accommodate multiple body styles as well as front-, rear- and all-wheel drive options — will be exclusive to Cadillac when it debuts on a new model in 2021.

The new electric Cadillac, announced by GM Friday as it provided its financial guidance for 2019, will be a crucial piece of the luxury brand's plans to reinvent itself for a new generation of luxury consumers. Electric Cadillacs will also be important companions to GM's entry-level Chevrolet Bolt EV — the first affordable, long-range electric vehicle to hit the mass market — especially as the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt phases out and GM's $7,500 federal tax credit dwindles after it sold its 200,000th electrified car. 

"EVs are expensive and technology-laden, especially with the increase in autonomous features, so the luxury segment is a natural coupling," Jeremy Acevedo, an automotive industry analyst for Edmunds, said in a Friday statement. "Tax rebates and subvented leases have masked this to a degree, but it looks like the next big steps in the EV segment are going to come from the luxury set."

Tesla was the first automaker to hit the 200,000 electric vehicle cap last year. When an automaker hits the limit, the $7,500 tax credit phases out by reducing 50 percent every six months until it hits zero.

GM has been slowly restructuring its leadership to prepare to a pivot to electric vehicles over the next four years, most recently when it elevated former global product chief Mark Reuss to GM President earlier this year. Prior to that, former electric-vehicle development chief Pamela Fletcher was promoted to the senior leadership team as the Cadillac brand was moved under Reuss' supervision.

"Our mission has been and shall remain very clear," Reuss told investors. "GM will be the first maker of profitable, highly-desirable, rage-leading and obtainable electric transportation. BEV3 will be the canvas upon which we will paint a profitable EV Program."

As GM moves to flesh out its electric vehicle portfolio, the zero-emission vehicles are the underpinning of GM Cruise LLC's future driverless taxi service. The Bolt provides the platform for the driverless test vehicles developed by GM Cruise, the Detroit automaker's autonomous-vehicle arm.

GM's electrification plans for Cadillac come days before the luxury brand is expected to reveal an all-new three-row SUV, the XT6. The new SUV is the latest in Cadillac's revamping of its product portfolio as the brand ditches slow-selling sedans for more popular SUVs.

Twitter: @NoraNaughton