GM’s Cadillac car brand is back with Celestiq EV concept set to launch in Australia

Is the Rolls-Royce Ghost big or Phantom big?

“I’d say Phantom size,” he replies. “Even bigger, probably.” The Phantom is the flagship of Rolls-Royce and is no less than 5.98 meters long. That suggests the Celestiq could be even taller than the iconic “King Fin Caddies” of the late 1950s.

What Taka and his young, international team have produced is something that is quintessentially Cadillac, but without any obvious retro influences. For example, the most famous Caddies had tail fins. Taka says this “signature” is there in a virtual way, with the sidelights reflecting off the bodywork to remind those tail fins.

He believes that the diversity of the designers has made for a more authentic Cadillac. “We have people from here [the US], from France, from Korea… and so we all see differently, as we try to find the next step for Cadillac. Sometimes [our ideas] do not match, but we just keep talking and then come to one design together.

The car will be built in very low numbers and sold at ultra-premium prices. Each vehicle is individually manufactured to each buyer’s specific requirements.

“I think a lot of locals here [in Detroit] would think the Cadillac might be an older car,” Taka says, “and they’re more into the new German cars. But we see it differently: being big isn’t bad, you know, that’s American. And being cheeky, that’s American too.

“People from the other side of the world wouldn’t buy a Cadillac if it looked like a German car. They would buy a Cadillac because it looks American and yet has the distinctiveness of that character.”

In addition to diversity, an Australian had an important supervisory role. Andrew Smith, ex-Holden, was head of Cadillac Design during the early phase of the project and now leads GM’s global advanced design team.

The chief designer of the Celestiq EV concept says it could be six meters long. The rear side lights are reminiscent of fins from the past.

The tricks with light go beyond the virtual fins. There’s a smart glass ceiling that allows for different levels of lighting for each occupant, and an LED light show that circles around the vehicle when unlocked.

The interior features five large interactive screens and ‘electronic digital blinds’, a new technology that apparently allows each passenger to watch a video without it being visible to other passengers or the driver. The latest version of GM’s self-driving technology will be included along with the advanced Ultium EV architecture that will support the next generation of GM cars.

Taka, 42, has only been with Cadillac for five years but has previously worked on Chevrolet and Buick projects since moving to the US in his early 20s. He says he carefully studied the 120-year history of GM’s flagship brand and took inspiration during that time. Other influences on the new model included mid-century buildings by the likes of Eero Saarinen.

The Finnish-American architect designed GM’s technical center in Michigan, which was inaugurated in 1956. This campus is home to both Cadillac’s design center and headquarters, so Saarinen is never far from the minds of Cadillac designers. The Celestiq will also be the first car ever built at the tech center, rather than a regular GM factory.

It’s not just the size that will be Phantom-esque. It will be built in very low numbers and sold at ultra-premium prices. There will be no production line, we are told. Each vehicle is individually manufactured to each buyer’s specific requirements.

As such, it harks back to models such as the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham of the late 1950s, whose bodywork was hand-built by Pininfarina in Italy and then mated to a Detroit-built chassis. That model cost three times as much as a standard Cadillac. If the Celestiq has a Phantom price, it will be 10 times more expensive than the current Cadillac CT5 sedan. And it could give us a whole new set of songs.

The summer issue of Fin Magazine will appear on Friday 14 October inside The Australian Financial Review.

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