Why the Cadillac Celestiq is a Big Deal for Resetting the Luxury Brand
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Cadillac is currently embarking on a journey to reclaim the status it had decades ago in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Once known for offering the pinnacle of luxury, Cadillac lost its popularity in the luxury market as newcomers dethroned the brand over the last few decades. While it has worked hard to rebuild its status, many efforts have failed Cadillac, so they are ready to embark on a new plan. With its new EV initiative, Cadillac is about to take another stab at its rebirth, this time with a $200,000 plus flagship model named the Celestiq. While Escalade is in its own right a flagship model, it doesn’t do enough for the brand as some would hope. While many have pondered why Cadillac would take such a risky move upmarket with an expensive luxury offering, it actually makes perfect sense when you break down what a flagship model does for a brand. Let’s take a step back and explain the thinking behind this.
Consumers are buying cars every day, and with that purchase comes a new experience in technology, comfort, and convenience. Most mainstream brands reinvent themselves by integrating new design and tech features to attract new buyers. It is not uncommon for consumers to switch to a new brand when they purchase a new vehicle. Luxury vehicles etch a different space in the market though. Many luxury buyers will stick with a specific brand simply due to perceived luxury or exclusivity, as they typically want a more expansive experience and high grade pampering inside their vehicle. The notion of having something exclusive or limited perceives something to be of high value, and in most cases, it is. Luxury buyers want to be recognized for their success and want access to something that sets them apart from the average car owner, so they search for vehicles and brands that seem to fulfill this role for them.
While some brands will always have a special status by offering vehicles that remain inaccessible to most well established individuals, such as Bentley and Rolls Royce models, other brands have leveraged their most expensive flagship models to bring success to the more accessible models in their lineup. Mercedes’ S class and Porsche’s 911 are well known examples of this formula, and with expanding product plans, such as Mercedes’ Maybach line of ultra luxury vehicles, they are creating new exclusivity that will draw new buyers and build the brand’s elusive stigma. Flagship models set the tone for an automaker and help shift perceived brand value in order to expand success. Most luxury brands depend on this to usher in a new era of car buyers in their lower end models. These “cheaper models” typically have some influence in design from the flagship. Close inspection proves they truly share very little apart from design, but it fulfills the role and draws in more customers.
When you look at the formula, Cadillac is doing exactly what other high end luxury players are attempting to do, have exclusive high end models to create a new perceived brand value. Design will trickle down the lineup to models that sell in higher volume and Cadillac will be able to find more success in the luxury vehicle market. Of course, this highly depends on if Cadillac can properly execute its vision. They will need to utilize high class design, materials, and technology to create a new expectation of luxury that is different from its competitors. With Super Cruise already setting the brand apart, Cadillac has a real opportunity here, and perhaps more if they continue to take risks.
Cadillac hopes to reign in on the gains associated with restarting the brand’s image in a new flagship model called the Celestiq. While crossovers and SUVs are a major focus for the brand currently, the Celestiq will be a 4 door sedan. Sedans and coupes better showcase a specific design language as there is more to work with proportions wise, so choosing a sedan as as the top flagship seems wise. Of course, not all luxury buyers want a utility vehicle as numbers may suggest, so leaving opportunity for other offerings like sedans is still important. Look at the German offerings and its easy to see they have every size category covered, from compact to large cars, coupes, and utilities to higher end sport oriented models. Usually each vehicle class has a flagship serving as inspiration to the rest of the lower end vehicles in the line, typically one sedan, one coupe, and one larger SUV.
Sure, the Celestiq will be a $200,000 marvel most cannot afford, but it will do a lot for the brand, with more electric models to follow soon after, including an EV Escalade. If successful, perhaps Cadillac will take the risk in bringing a new coupe to the market. If the brand were to bring back the El Dorado or 62 Club as an electric coupe and convertible, it would likely catch a lot of attention and interest from the public. Time will tell if Cadillac has what it takes, and the upcoming Lyriq EV crossover and 2021 Escalade launch should be clear indicators how these efforts begin. For now, fans can hope for the best, but most likely there is a new luxury experience on the horizon. Cadillac may finally move in the new direction its been seeking for many years now and the Celestiq will likely be the model creating this push forward.