It has now been more than three years since a North American International Auto Show took place. 2019 would be the last year the Detroit show would take place in January before a planned move to a warmer time of year that was thwarted by a pandemic. Cadillac kicked off its home show that year with the worldwide debut of the XT6 crossover. But the real news that night was the announcement that Cadillac would lead GM’s transition to electrification and show the first sketches of its debut electric vehicle (EV). Just over three years later, that EV, now known as Lyriq, is finally rolling off the assembly line.
Let’s ignore the fact that Chevrolet started selling the Volt in late 2010 and launched the Bolt EV in 2017. Let’s also ignore the fact that GMC has even delivered a small number of Hummer EVs in the past three months. The Lyriq is Cadillac’s statement of intent when it comes to all-electric driving. It will be the first significant-volume vehicle to emerge from GM’s multi-year, multibillion-dollar investment in its Ultium platform.
The Lyriq was first shown to media and analysts at a closed-door event at the GM design center in Warren, Michigan in March 2020, just days before the world went into lockdown. The plan at the time was to start production in China in mid-2022 and in North America in late 2022. By the time the selection of the Spring Hill, Tennessee plant was announced in October 2020 as the source of the Lyriq in its home market, the production plan had accelerated by nine months.
While production of the GMC Acadia, Cadillac XT5 and XT6 continues at Spring Hill, Lyriqs are now being produced and will eventually end up in customer hands. The Spring Hill plant uses a flexible assembly system where each vehicle rides on its own cart. It can be adjusted in height and angle for better ergonomics for people assembling components. A separate automated guided vehicle can come in from below with the battery pack to install that. Similar production systems are used at a number of EV plants, including GM’s Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant where the GMC Hummer will be built and Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center where the F-150 Lightning will be assembled.
According to GM, Spring Hill can produce about 40 vehicles per hour, giving it a capacity of just under 200,000 units per year. GM isn’t saying how many Lyriqs it plans to build in 2022, but the plant could shift production between the four current models depending on demand and presumably the supply of components such as batteries that go into it.
Like the Hummer, the first batteries for the Lyriq come from an LG factory in South Korea. Later this year, the first of the GM-LG joint venture Ultium Cells plants in Lordstown, Ohio will begin deliveries to the Detroit and Spring Hill plants. By 2023, a second cell plant next to the Spring Hill assembly plant should come on stream to supply that plant.
GM also plans to add additional EV models to Spring Hill, though it’s not saying what yet. At a recent dealer meeting, Cadillac reportedly showed an image of a smaller XT4-sized EV crossover that could be built in Tennessee. The Acura electric crossover expected in 2024 may also be factory built.
GM opted to only take paid reservations for the launch edition of the Lyriq, and although they sold out in 10 minutes, Cadillac declined to specify how many will be built. The next step for Cadillac is the official opening of the order banks on May 19, 2022, when customers can officially order the new EV from a dealer or online. In a media briefing call, GM President Mark Reuss said most of those orders would arrive in 2023. The launch edition models already ordered will probably arrive with customers by the beginning of the summer.