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Cadillac declares war on European luxury brands in Australia


An emboldened Cadillac believes Australians are ready to try something new and that it has a genuine point of difference to offer

Cadillac has sent a shot across the bow at established European luxury brands as it asks Australian buyers to “give the brand a look” before judging it.

The Cadillac brand is set to make its debut in Australia in 2024 with the Lyriq large SUV, coinciding with the marque’s expansion into European markets with a growing range of fully electric vehicles. The Optiq midsize SUV is another likely local release. 

Cadillac Lyriq 2024 charging
The Cadillac Lyriq is the brand’s first vehicle to come to Australia

Speaking to the Australian press, General Motors vice president of global design Mike Simcoe said he believes local luxury buyers are not particularly brand loyal and suggests that there is a lack of substance behind some luxury players on the market, creating a two-fold opportunity for the American brand.

“Customers [in Australia], I’m not sure you’d call them brand loyal, apart from maybe to one or two of the European [brands]. I think people buy those because of what [the vehicles] say about themselves more than what vehicles these days represent. 

“I think [luxury car buyers] are open to try things.”

Cadillac Optiq 2024
The Optiq is the next likely vehicle to join the local lineup

Last year, BMW was the dominate force in the luxury segment with 26,184 sales in an bouyed market, with runner up Mercedes-Benz (24,315) the only major player to see a dip in sales. Lexus (15,192) saw a solid increase in sales volume, while Volvo (11,128) enjoyed an incremental gain. 

Encouragingly for Cadillac, though, newcomer Genesis (1916) nearly doubled its sales compared to 2022.

The Melbourne-born Simcoe urged Australian buyers to “give the brand a look” before deciding on the merits of what Cadillac has to offer. 

“Don’t do what Australians have a habit of doing and trashing something on the way in. Give it a look, touch it, see it, get engaged with it and then make a judgement call.” 

Cadillac Lyriq 2024 seats
Pictured: the interior of the Cadillac Lyriq

Not just a German copycat

Simcoe said the move towards all-electric vehicles gave Cadillac an opportunity to pause and reflect on what the brand represents rather than shadowing the established competition.

“There was a chance to go and have another go at Cadillac,” he said. “We’ve probably tried about five times to resurrect what was once a pretty storied brand. In many ways, we didn’t give it the respect it deserved.”

“One thing Cadillac has in its favour right now is we made the decision to move away from chasing the Germans, which is something that Cadillac had been doing for a while and not very successfully.

Simcoe said the brand chose to go in a more radical direction when designing the Lyriq, abandoning the iconic eggcrate grille design, much to the dismay of some past designers, while capitalising on the packaging benefits of EVs to create a more unique design.

The grille has gone with an all-new rather than the classic eggcrate design

“We could have gone with a more traditional SUV, which a lot of people have done and it wouldn’t have had any impact in the marketplace at all,” he said. “We have one coming [in the Optiq] because we’re not silly. But the Lyriq was very much a shot into the world to say, hey, Cadillac’s back and it’s quite different.”

The Cadillac brand, which says it will focus on targeted but low-volume sales in Australia, says its new direction kicked off with the Celestiq flagship sedan that showcases bold styling and a strong emphasis on electrification that has now followed through the rest of the lineup.

“If you look at the Australian market and the luxury customers here, we’re a market that’s very edgy, fashion-forward ambitious as well and bold,” adds General Motors Australia managing director, Jess Bala.

Cadillac Lyriq 2024 interior
Cadillac says buyers both new and old prefer some buttons in the cabin

Physical controls remain a key feature

Inside the cabin, Simcoe said there was also a deliberate attempt not to alienate customers craving a more traditional experience by abandoning physical controls and keeping the space generally intuitive. 

“if you’re a bean counter, you go straight to doing everything in a screen because you take away all the physical buttons,” Simcoe says. “But most customers, both new and old, don’t like a total abandonment of physical buttons and we have a measured number of both.

“You can drive the car easily and very intuitively using physical controls. Or you can go deeper if you want to, using the menus and get very personal with the system that you build around you,” he said.

Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing 2025
Currently, Cadillac’s performance products are all petrol: Pictured is the CT5-V Blackwing

High-performance EVs could follow

At the current moment, the Lyriq is the only model confirmed for the Australian market, though the Optiq and the Escalade IQ have been trademarked locally and present logical next steps for the brand into smaller and larger categories.

All three however are fully electric vehicles, with Cadillac’s performance products such as the CT4 and CT5 V-Series ‘Blackwing’ products, which feature high-performance V6 and V8 engines, only available in left-hand drive.

“There will be there will be electric performance vehicles in the future”, Simcoe said, though added that the state of EVs in the current market wasn’t where it needed to be right now.

“All of the legitimate high-performance [electric] vehicles that the general public can approach haven’t been terribly successful. And it’s more related to where the [battery] chemistry is.

“There’s no point having a performance vehicle that you can you can go hard on two or three times and it’s done, that’s where we are right now. And that’s not just us, that’s the industry.

Simcoe said that as innovations like solid state became more common place, battery density, mass and lower prices would likely comes down in the long term.