Cadillac for Oz?

Holden is keen to get its paws on GM’s Yank premium brand

TOBY HAGON

Don’t adjust your Vision, it’s iNext

In a move clearly aimed at clawing back some of the thunder pinched by Audi’s e-Tron and Merc’s EQC, BMW has whipped the cover off its Vision iNext concept, a pure EV crossover intended for production in 2021. The hallmarks of BMW’s i-Division are all present: ultra-minimalist interior with raw-timber finishes, but also a cockpit that has been designed for those who choose to drive, as well as those who choose not to. No word on powertrain, but rumours swirl about solid-state batteries promising vast range.

CADILLAC is back on the radar for Australia. Weeks into the daunting role of reviving Holden, recently appointed chief Dave Buttner is evaluating the strength and breadth of the iconic American brand with the view to introducing it Down Under as early as 2021.

General Motors product development boss Mark Reuss has prised the door open to establish Cadillac locally during a recent trip to Australia, instructing Buttner to undergo an appraisal.

“It’s up to Dave but we’re certainly capable of doing that,” said Reuss when asked about the prospects for the American luxury brand, hinting crucial right-hand-drive engineering work is under way, adding, “it could be an opportunity for us.”

Committing to driving some of the dozens of development Cadillacs at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground, Buttner told Wheels he will take the fight directly to Detroit.

“When I go to Detroit in midSeptember I’m going spend time with Mike [Simcoe] at the design centre so I can get my head around the plethora of products,” he said. “We need to understand what resonates with Australian consumers, what’s relevant in terms of the relationship with what we want to be as a Holden brand, and ensure that we have those correct products in place.”

Key to any discussion will be securing a competitive range of vehicles, currently hampered by a lack of right-hand-drive options.

While Cadillac’s focus is America and China, it also has Europe on its growth radar, something that would require right-hook cars for the UK – opening opportunities for an Australian reintroduction.

Rather than the failed 2009 attempt to launch the CTS locally, the new Holden won’t launch with a single Cadillac model, instead securing a decent spread to tempt buyers of the premium German brands to consider American.

Shock! EV avalanche!

The drivetrain focus for post-2020 Cadillacs is to switch to hybrid and electric vehicles, leveraging the push towards electrons over unleaded from within GM’s Warren technical centre.

GM has committed to at least 20 new all-electric vehicles by 2023, with Cadillac commanding its fair share of the planned electric future, something that fits with the premium positioning.

The move will put GM on at least an equal footing with the German giants, levelling the playing field as demand for diesel diminishes.

As part of a 10-year reinvention plan implemented by recently ousted Cadillac boss Johan de Nysschen, Cadillac is set to wind back its traditional sedan offerings and condense the ATS and CTS to a single model. It will instead bolster its lacklustre SUV line-up and develop an electrified hero model that draws inspiration from the stunning Escala concept, developed under the guidance of Aussie design head Andrew Smith.

Currently Cadillac SUVs amount to the Escalade, XT4 and XT5, but there’s more to come, including larger SUVs.

Buttner is aware of the challenges; he was at Toyota when the Japanese giant poured billions into establishing the Lexus brand. Decades later, it’s still fifth in the luxury sales race.

Ultimately, product is crucial to any local Cadillac ambitions.

TOBY HAGON