Aug 7, 2020 - Energy & Environment

GM's high-stakes electric move

The Cadillac Lyriq. Image courtesy of Cadillac
The Cadillac Lyriq. Image courtesy of Cadillac

Cadillac on Thursday unveiled the Lyriq, the luxury brand's first all-electric model and GM's first consumer electric vehicle unveil since the Chevy Bolt several years ago.

Why it matters: It's the first reveal by GM of an electric vehicle that will use the company's new modular platform and Ultium battery system — technologies meant to underpin the 20 electric vehicles that GM plans to launch by 2023.

  • GM is pouring $20 billion over the next five years in electric and autonomous vehicles — a big bet that they will eventually become a profit segment.
  • That push also includes the upcoming unveiling of the electric GMC Hummer this fall, which will actually go into production before the Lyriq.

The intrigue: The auto industry is making a wider bet that electric vehicles can break through in the huge, lucrative SUV market, but Cadillac will have lots of competition, and not only from Tesla.

  • It's also part of a reboot for the Cadillac brand, which is slated to unveil several electric vehicles at a time it's long removed from being the top of the food chain in the U.S. luxury market.

What's next: It'll take a while to show up in U.S. dealerships. U.S. production is slated to start in late 2022, not long after launch of the vehicle in China, the world's largest auto market.

By the numbers: Cadillac said the Lyriq will have over 300 miles of range based on a single charge of the 100 kWh battery pack.

  • Its interior features include a 33-inch LED screen. The pricing isn't yet clear, but it will likely begin under $75,000, per several reports.

Threat level: The electric SUV market is looking like a brutally competitive space, with a bunch of automakers fighting for what's still a small pool of electric vehicle buyers.

  • "The Lyriq will go up against not only the Model X from Tesla but also Jaguar’s I-Pace and the e-tron from Audi, two models that have already been selling in the North American market," Kelley Blue Book analyst Eric Ibara notes.
  • He also points out that brands including Mercedes-Benz and BMW are bringing new electric SUVs to market.
  • And startups Rivian and Fisker are also bringing electric SUVs to market, with Rivian's launching next year.

What they're saying: "The stakes are high for GM as right now Tesla is the one to beat and no one — including the luxury players — have been able to replicate its success," Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell tells Axios.

  • She notes that multiple automakers have changed their strategies to emphasize premium models to better compete with Tesla.
  • "The introduction of the Cadillac Lyriq and the GMC Hummer will bring premium electric vehicles to the GM lineup in an attempt to steal these desirable, affluent electric buyers away from Elon Musk," Caldwell says.
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