How Cadillac's EV Future Won't Leave Internal Combustion Fans Behind

Cadillac VP Rory Harvey joined Cadillac in 2018 after three decades in the business working with General Motors and leading Opel Ireland as the CEO. He doesn’t mince words and he has a holistic view of the business: he isn’t jaded and he isn’t blind, either. So when I asked Harvey if he feels that customers and potential buyers are still skeptical about Cadillac making the big change to an all-EV lineup by 2030, he didn’t pull any punches. 

The way I see it, Cadillac is the legacy brand with an unmistakable roar–especially from the Blackwing, which our own Kristen Lee has enthusiastically given the thumbs up –and it seems logical that fans don’t want to give up their ICE vehicles. Are customers saying, “Do you really want to do this, Cadillac?”

“It’s a great question,” Harvey says as he considers my query. “We’re reaching an inflection point and there is absolutely no doubt that EVs are going to be the future. The debate is how quick and how many, and are there going to be certain segments that move quicker than other segments.”

In September, Cadillac opened up reservations for its new all-electric SUV, the Lyriq, priced at $59,990 (with destination charges). In fewer than ten minutes, it sold out and a message that read “2023 Cadillac Lyriq Debut Edition reservations are full, but more vehicles will be available to order through your Cadillac dealer starting the Summer of 2022” popped up on the screen. If this is a harbinger of what’s to come for Cadillac’s EV segment, it’s a good sign. Still, Harvey says, EV sales still represent a significant minority of the market, so there’s no need for ICE fans to panic.

“Some of the reasons customers may not want to adopt EVs today are charging infrastructure and range anxiety,” he says. “Until some of those things start to settle down and people become more confident, I think there will be questions in terms of actions speaking louder than words.”

The lightning-fast depletion of available reservations for the Lyriq is a clear proof point, Harvey says. It sold out as quickly as a Bon Jovi concert in 1989, and that would suggest that expresses a degree of confidence in Cadillac’s ability to be able to make the switch to EVs. 

It’s difficult to tell which is the dog and which is the tail. Are automakers pulling buyers into the EV age or are buyers dragging the automakers? I wondered. 

“I think it’s actually both,” he says. “Let me just hypothesize for it for a minute, and then I could explain why. So if you look at certain areas – as an example, take the west coast – if you speak to one of our dealers over there, they would say ‘we would have preferred that you had the Lyriq twelve months earlier because we’ve got customers knocking on our door wanting EVs.’ If you go to another geographical area and you talked to some of our dealers, they’d say ‘Rory, please keep ICE vehicles in your portfolio for as long as possible, because we see adoption rates within our specific area being very slow, and we don’t have customers knocking on our door.’”

There’s no doubt there are areas of the country in which some people are kicking and screaming and don’t want EVs. They want internal combustion and you’re going to have to tear it from their hands before they’ll buy an electric vehicle. That seems to be reflected in the map of the charging stations Cadillac uses; in middle America places to charge can be few and far between. In October, GM announced a new community charging program to install up to 40,000 Level 2 EV chargers across the U.S. and Canada, focused on underserved rural and urban communities, and that could make a significant dent in the skepticism and adoption rates. 

How Cadillac – and other automakers – can keep everyone happy could lie in the investment in hybrids, but all-EV is the hot ticket, the glitz and glitter right now. Harvey says that Cadillac has one of the “freshest” portfolios in the luxury market, giving the brand a good platform to sustain ICE vehicle sales for a period of time to ensure the transition.

“It gives us the ability to fish in both areas of the business,” Harvey says. “There are some customers that still want to have a ICE vehicle for an extended period. With our lineup, we have a product to meet their needs, and we have the ability to start to transition as well into EVs and put down our intent going forward that we will be at all-EV brand.”

Cadillac is going to have to be nimble. What happens next is highly dependent upon what transpires in regard to infrastructure and legislation. It varies depending on geography, incentives, and a number of other factors. Maybe it’s more of a tug of war, the aforementioned dog and a toy, than one wagging the other, in this case. It’s an interesting way to look at the market, and just like anything else in this country, there is no one-size-fits all. Cadillac is making sure it’s hedging its bets along the way, and it seems like a smart move. 

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