Cadillac Escala Concept, XT6, and the President’s State Car via GM press Room
Al Castro's picture

The Cadillac XT6-Gate Debacle, the “Lead Brand” Stumble, and the Solutions: What Now to Do Moving Forward

ANALYSIS AND OPINION: While GM didn’t strike an iceberg like Titanic with the recent Cadillac XT6-Gate Roll Out, XT6’s Super Cruise “Radio Delete” from the options list Gaffe, and Caddy’s the ”Lead Brand” Announcement Kerfuffle with no Caddy BEV for three years, it certainly ran into the reefs too quickly like the Costa Concordia. Although it isn’t a massive blockbusting disaster, it is a serious debacle that needs some changes. And they better do it soon.
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GM President Mark Reuss should ask Cadillac President Stephen Carlyle to resign or both should be fired from the recent Cadillac decisions about electrification, autonomy, and their awfully long timelines and timing of it all. What hell is going on over at GM and Cadillac is what people now everywhere and connected in some way with the car industry want to know. People are actually getting scared from all this to wonder if between the lines the CUV stuffing was a coal rolling event akin to corporate terrorism. Was GM hacked with a gas pig non-Cruise CUV stuffing? GM was supposed to be one of the two biggest leading brands on the legacy side of the industry, along with VW Group, to pick up the mantle of momentum from non-legacy startup Silicone Valley underdog Tesla Corporation. Cadillac was supposed to become GM’s flag waving carrier brand to lead the rest of the auto industry cavalry in the 11 year old Electric Car Revolution Tesla started in 2008 with the Model S. But they don’t even have a car to it with for another 3 years. Why they even made the announcement now is mind boggling that without it most of this wouldn’t have happened.

Over the last several days, however, Cadillac misstepped, gaffed, and what some say by timing sent a blatant and offensively obvious F*ck You to conservationists, ecologists, environmentalists, and naturalists, even to the electrification wing of the GM Party (sounds eerily like politics because it’s coming down to that) from the “Old Guard” Auto and GM Establishment and their aligned Big Oil friends. Cadillac stuffed their biggest gas CUV almost the size and mass of the iconic but gas pig Cadillac Escalade back into their portfolio, a perceived stinging rebuke to “New EV Auto Industry,” a third CUV installed in recent months after massive GM Ford-like and Cadillac car cancellations that included gas saving hybrids. They did this within hours of their boss embarrassingly proclaimed them the “lead brand“ to fight Tesla. What a mess: They have not one BEV in their portfolio, 3 new Gas CUVs, a self imposed timeline ETA of three long years before the first Cadillac battery electric hits their showrooms, and the stake that killed the pig: that last CUV has no autonomous technology equipped, VW’s term for “Radio Delete” for no adaptive cruise control, and for which GM recently spent billions to purchase. [Echo in the background down the stairs.] Will somebody get me a bilge pump please? There’s a lot of water down here but I don’t think we’re going to sink. We do gotta start somewhere, so let’s go and stab this gas pig:

  • At least one GM executive needs to go to the career guillotine as a result of this.
  • If Elon Musk cannot tweet “funding secured,” then a car company cannot call itself an “all electric car company,” or “electric car company,” without an accounting, after something like this.
  • Frankly the SEC should have stepped in already. If they did for the Tesla Tweetgate, they should have already for XT6-gate. Not to, would show anti-Tesla bias by the SEC.
  • If CEO Mary Barra doesn’t step out ahead of this steep curve on Tech Center Road she risks being guillotine head #1.
  • Newly minted from Development Chief and GM darling and President Marc Reuss needs to save face from his embarrassing announcement of “lead brand” Cadillac.
  • Stephen Carlysle needs to either lose his entire job at GM or lose the Cadillac title and go back to Canada.
  • Cadillac probably needs another new leadership regime change for fumbled ball recovery and a concrete sooner coming electric road ahead.
  • Reuss needs to make a new announcement with Mary Barra in tow behind him, apologizing for the timing of the last, explain what happened, how it won’t happen again, and most importantly update to FASTRACK AT MANHATTAN PROJECT SPEED that first Cadillac BEV preferably SUV but now even if it’s a washing machine branded Cadillac.
  • With Mary and Mark together or Mary alone with Mark on a GM near future departure date as a result, she or both need to step out to take control of this spiraling nightmare.
  • GM needs to be a little more judicious with the microphone announcing; maybe a meeting beforehand with media relations to determine the message and the voice? Too many lately in succession. Less is more.
  • They need to address dissension within the company: very unprofessional. Whether you heal souls, make cars, keep state secrets, or even rub out your enemies, you keep family business in-house, no where else.
  • They both or Mary needs to address the corporate culture that’s connected to politics with this issue: keep your silly coal rolling politics to yourself. OR ELSE. PERIOD.
  • Part of that corporate culture that created this was that Old School Dealer Network, part of the GM “Old Guard” that started this. But they have a point.
  • GM ELECTRIC DEALER TASK FORCE: Like a presidential blue ribbon commission, Barra should have the equivalent for the dealers. They want nothing to do with these electric cars, and the situation will rapidly get worse with 20 of them by 2023. To be fair to them this needs to be top priority at GM to restructure the entire GM business model of now selling electric cars and making money, from manufacturing right down to delivery.
  • The next Cadillac electric should debut one year from this anniversary.
  • A Chinese Cadillac on the line now is the solution, even if it’s stopgap with things like leasing only and limited production, just to get them up and running, they should consider it, rubber stamp it, and just do it. PERIOD. NO BLOWBACK. One year.

I know one thing. Mary Barra is like the US Navy is for the Seven Seas of the world and America: a force for good for GM and the industry. She is my role model and I’m her biggest fan in the car industry that I’m always rooting for her, giving her the benefit of any doubt, and always looking for reasons for her to succeed. It would be a shame if it came to it if she were to lose her job as a result of this.

Damage Control

This is why she needs to step out, and take control of this situation. First of all, there may be serious violations of the SEC rules involved here, that if GM is not careful, it could involve serious fines, if not criminal sanctions. If a CEO cannot get away with tweeting “funding secured,” how can a car company get away with calling itself an “electric car company?” Exercising behavior like we saw the past week, and calling itself so, how can it get away with doing that? To start with, isn’t that false advertising or fraud? Not having one battery electric car, and professing a three year wait time, can be very damaging to such a case! And there was never a determination made, nor a date set, as to when that transfer or conversation of nomenclature would occur, which makes the fraud even more indicting. If you are an electric car company, even if you don’t have an electric car in your portfolio yet like a start up, then you better start acting like one, and that means if there’s an absolute need to put gasoline cars back into your portfolio, you better go to lengths to explain how and why, and what you are going to do preventing that moving forward. I saw the fanfare, I saw the enthusiasm, when XT6 was rolled out, but they didn’t see the optics. It’s as almost as if they forgot they proclaimed themselves as electric, that nobody put a gun to their head and forced them to label themselves as so, which makes that all troubling.

There are forces in the world that seems to be a presence around us, like or similar Opus Dei for example, but they may be about good or evil or their own agenda for all we care, but they operate deep and dark. They certainly operate at GM, and that makes them potentially dangerous. They are the kind of institution within the institution that needs to be carefully watched and monitored as well as anyone associated with it. The problem is they do not like electric cars, do not want electric cars, are willing to do anything to stop electric cars, even if it means compromising GM and embarrassing the Cadillac car brand. The other problems is, is that it is too late for GM to stop electrification, even if it wanted to stop it, itself. This is why these forces need to be checked and stopped. They tried to stop the unstoppable, and they will continue to try to stop this, and they haven’t been stopped. The fact that they work in the shadows makes them cowards and bullies. I never liked bullies. Bullies usually start by being bigots, racists, homophobes, misogynists, and just jerks, recently coal rollers. They need to be identified, outed, investigated for any crimes against people and GM, and ousted from the company whether they are investors, executives, employees, contractors, business people who do business with the company, or and most likely and probably, a combination of all. This is why the FBI should be involved in this, and why they haven’t, like the SEC, makes we wonder, to what involvement does this go deep, why hasn’t there been a government response?

We may not see it now, but very much like a Marine recruit who shows up at Paris Island day one for basic training to get his crew cut, to not yet be a Marine, GM already got theirs, and while they are no electric cars in GM branded show rooms yet, GM is already an all electric car company. PERIOD. And it is too late to change that. That message needs to broadcasted. You see, that was what the massive 15,000 layoffs and nearly half dozen plant closures were about recently. This is why now the new GM can no longer make gasoline engines on the cheap like it used to, why hybrids now cost too much to make, and why it is now really easy and really cheap for GM to now make BEV electric cars, not even hybrids. This is another reason why the SEC needs to look at this, at what point can a car company call itself electric and when it should not.

So, we’re here. We are flying at break neck speed across a void as wide as the widest ocean and we’ve passed the point of no return, but we now have these mini-disasters laid out all in front of us. What do we do and where do we now head moving forward? Here are the things I think GM and Cadillac need to address moving forward for Wall Street, investors, Tech Center, and the rest of the world to move forward with Cadillac so we don’t see protest signs and boycotts and stock dives start happening:

The Regime Change

Somebody has to go as a result of this. A message sent that this kind of gaffe and subtle behavior, even if it may not be the fault of the executives at hand, which it is anyway, needs to be explained by action and firing, that this won’t be tolerated. It is a corporate culture that allows this and it needs to be demonstrated in clear terms what happens if this kind of incident occurs. In either case, both were responsible for this mess in some combination anyway. So the choice are either Marc Reuss or Stephen Carlyle or both have to go. The problem is both are GM darlings and both are new to their positions, but the events are so egregious that unfortunately that is the nature of the jobs both have, and both understand it when they took those jobs. Stephen Carlyle was the right man at the right time after the gaffes of Johan de Nysschen, but as I often tell people that’s often said about the auto industry, timing is everything. And Stephen’s time quickly came and it went. Stephen either gets a soft landing to lose the Cadillac title and go back to Canada or moves on elsewhere in the company, or just goes. Don’t be surprised if 5 or 10 years from now he’s back on top at CEO or elsewhere with another company.

The Announcements: Less is More

Since Marc Reuss is the one that needs the face saving, I say if he stays, he should take the lead and the mic to be the chief explainer, with Mary behind him. Mary better do this before the announcement is about her.

Speaking of announcements, I noticed over the last week or two GM had one after another after another, and on and on and on. Too many. The more you have, sometimes the more questions than answers, the more opportunity Pandora’s Box opens up, not the radio or jewelry kind, I’m talking about the potentially dangerous real kind. Say what you have to say, make sure everyone is on the same page with a meeting before hand, agree to the wording and the voice, and then SHUT THE FCK UP after the message is delivered. Less is more. Please. For their sake.

And when the damage control announcement is made, Mary should lead in with the mic, give it Marc and let him roll. If a new Cadillac chief is decided beforehand, the prefect time for own introduction. “I’m sorry America, we goofed, this won’t happen again. GM is committed to an electric future, and what you saw those past several days was not the example of the electric future we envision; here is what our revised plan will convey. . . “

New Caddy prez: “We never stopped believing that Cadillac is the American Standard for the World. We still are. We aspire to be, we will lead the Electric Car Revolution, and here’s our revised plan for a comeback . . .”

Announcing the Obvious: Leave the Elephants in the Room Alone

We all know Cadillac is the lead brand. Anywhere we go, anywhere we Americans are, if Cadillac is there, Cadillac takes the lead, and it’s there to win. We know this. It doesn’t have to be stated. Bentley is more of my car brand. But my country comes first. If I’m abroad, and Cadillac is representing my country, guess who I’m going to be supporting? This is why Cadillac needs to do what Bentley did when VW acquired them, get back into what Bentley was famous for from the beginning and thats for Cadillac to do motor sports and the Grand Prix Racing Circuit, and start winning races. She doesn’t say it anymore but she is still and always will be to all of us, especially we Americans, the American standard of the world. Cadillac is as American as Chevrolet, will someone slice me some apple pie please, because that saying about baseball, hotdogs, and apple pie also applies to Cadillac! When I need to haul things from the Home Depot, I’ll go to Enterprise and rent a Chevy Pickup. If my mother in law is coming for a week I’ll rent a Cadillac. It’s like that for most of us.

Regardless of who is president of the United States, like Boeing, Air Force One, and the 747, the 747 will always be the Queen of the Skies so as long as she is Air Force One, even if the rest of her are air freighters. So it is with Cadillac, for all I care, they can round up every Cadillac left on earth to make them all cabs, the 12 cars that make up the President’s State Car, called Cadillac One, also called “the Beast,” is what will always make Cadillac, the American Standard for the World, especially when that car, like the plane, is representing us, not just the president, when driven abroad.

And speaking of presidents, Cadillac is like a former president: she’s in a special class of her own, whether her brand is present in a room or a garage, she is that special elephant in the room that doesn’t always have to be recognized. Like a real former, you put aside your politics when you see her, pay your respects, and thank her for her service, and leave it at that. Unless they come into a room, you don’t need announcements as to who she is or they are, the real formers, we all know. It’s something that doesn’t need to be said. Maybe not at the moment, but the brand is now rebooting and aspiring, a place we all identify, and root for her, whether you like her or not, as a result. If she was still on her A-Game, she would have been selling cars next to Rolls Royce, not Tesla. But that she once did and maybe one day still can, puts it in a special category. It doesn’t need to be said. STEP. RESPECT.

The Culture

A big part of the problem here with all these missteps, even if the culture has absolutely nothing to do with anything that happened, and I refuse to believe that if anyone has the audacity to sincerely believe that, that’s head burying in sand way too deep, it’s that the culture was at least suspected of being involved. And if you are dealing with an institution that has this dynamic where its corporate culture has that much influence to just be a suspect, an executive needs measures to ensure it’s kept in check. The end product is incidents like this, actual involvement or not.

So a leadership meeting on a corporate scale needs to be a scheduled and the message sent should be crystal clear. Family squabbles are kept in-house, and if something should ever hit the news wires about anything inside the company, pray a name is not associated with it, as that will the impetus for termination. PERIOD.

Three gas cars stuffed within a 24 month period into a portfolio with the third done within hours of an announcement, and without optics of the goal of electrifying an entire portfolio model range, is about senior executives not talking to each other, about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, somebody missed a memo or a crucial meeting, and there is a need to address that family dysfunction. Moving forward the most senior executive responsible shall be the sole one who signs off on putting a gas car back into the portfolio.

In fact, it should require a full vote by the board of directors as governed by the charter, if that’s not the case already. And if not by the charter, then a provision should be made to make that so, and it should specify by how many votes it requires by the board to approve such a measure. It really should become a frantic ordeal to make it much more difficult for the powers that be as a result of this, to put gas cars back into the portfolio by a corporation who advertises to the world that it is an electric car company. If Elon Musk cannot get away with tweeting “funding secured,” which I don’t think people will understand as much as they would the meaning of “all electric car company,” or “electric car company,” it should go without saying that something and yes, someone needs to be held accountable here. And this is why another media conference with an announcement need to be made.

The GM Blue Ribbon Electric Dealership Sales Model Task Force

To clip those wings of the dark forces whoever they are, the culture that fosters the sentiment, and the dealership network that sees electric cars as a threat, it is obvious the GM senior leadership has been kicking the sales model can down the road for quite some time, and they need to get ahead of this ASAP. This is causing deep resentment at different angles and at all levels. This needs to stop. Sticking a gas car the way that it happened back into the portfolio should have been a wake up call that something is wrong, not only with GM corporate culture, but also in the GM corporate structure of doing things the way they do. I do not like the way the dealers reacted, but let’s be fair, can you blame them? Ah, they’re the ones who sell the goddamn cars you know! They are the General’s army, their troops, and if there’s ever a time when an executive needs to speed up the slow bureaucracy, it’s for your people for Christ sakes! So, I get it I do, and this requires a blue ribbon panel, assembled by the CEO, paneled by board directors, executive emeritus, even perhaps across outside brands from other companies, to get a mind meld on how to sell electric cars moving forward, and a fast track so that a radical change in how those cars are sold at the dealer network, are made ASAP, especially when 20 cars are coming by 2023. This is what’s at issue:

Nobody wants to say what the obvious is, but in any ways, the auto industry will soon no longer be selling the Daimler Benz patented based automobile invention much longer. Essentially they’re being asked to sell washing machines on wheels. They’re cars, but an entirely different invention. And because of this, their manufacture process has been so simplified there are much fewer moving parts, and much less to make money off of. Even the parts departments are going to see dramatic reductions in the parts made available for inventory! There’s not much money to be made with these vehicles, so how is a dealer, and the network its situated in, going to survive selling these vehicles? The margin is so low as it already is, and me writing this I feel and see their frustration!

Don’t forget, a lot of these problems are state laws that are going to have to be changed, some in the process of getting so. These are some of the laws that Tesla is still fighting 11 years into, that makes selling an electric car more difficult than a gas one.

The Cars Themselves: Cadillac Electric Revision 2020

Needless to say, I don’t think 2022 is a year a first Cadillac should be coming to a show room, that’s way too long. Why the long delay? These aren’t sophisticated turbo planted high tech compression low revving, electronic synchro transmisioned cars anymore, they’re high tech dishwashers on magnetic ride control for crying out loud! GM really needs to speed that up, especially after this whole fiasco, and make sure there’s some kind of vehicle inside a Cadillac dealer by the end of next year, and to specify, that’s 2020.

Like I wrote, these things are now washing machines with wheels, of course they shouldn’t be made on the cheap, or hastily, but if GM can have the tenacity of acquiring Super Cruise bringing it to the front of the line with autonomy, they can use that same tenacity to get a Cadillac in showrooms by 2020. They need to get something up and running and ASAP to put their money where their mouths are, and GM China can easily help them with this.

If they’re not sure if they want this new vehicle to have legacy, they can easily do things like limit its production, or lease it only. This will silence the critics and puts Cadillac in the leadership position they seem to want so badly, to now have enough rope to hang themselves if they can’t handle it. Moving forward each car should have SuperDuper Cruise, okay Caddy? The electric luxury car that ZIGS!

Also needless to say, that that car should preferably be a CUV to replace one of the XT sisters, but at this stage what is more of the priority is a BEV vehicle, period, and not the obsession of whether it has a trunk. Cadillac first adopters will be forgiving of a trunk if Model S was a success, its just that Cadillac needs to make sure whatever it is that they put out on the road if it is next year or in 2022 is a good one.

Final Thought: Remember This

Because in the end, people aren’t going to remember the XT6-Gate scandal at all really. Do you really care? I doubt even none of this will be done! Even after the XT6 is cancelled as soon as the CT6 saloon was, in the end, Cadillac is going to be remembered for its electric cars, and these cars will be around much longer than the remaining gas ones. Choose carefully Cadillac. The public is getting tired of your Shinola, but they’ll forgive you one last time, we love underdogs. Your reputation and legacy once again is on the line . . .

Photos courtesy of GM Media Department, and all under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, and news reporting.

I am so grateful that my publisher allows me the generous privilege within reason to express my opinions about matters related to the auto industry. I try to be judicious and respectful about the content. I ask you do the same in the comments section. And please keep in mind that the opinions expressed here are solely mine, and not those of Hareyan Publishing or its employees, including my staff colleagues.

Al Castro is a security expert and a retired LEO who is a staff and opinion piece writer on electric and autonomous vehicles for Torque News.

What do you think of Al’s Cadillac XT6-gate solution? Please let us know below!


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Comments

I think Al Castro is full of himself. Dear Al, GM and especially Cadillac's day in the sun is long over with. Figure that out for yourself, then go buy German...
Whew! I already did. Wow I feel so much better. It must take one to know one!
GM HAS just fired pretty much everyone of any significance at Cadillac, including the president of the brand. GM literally closed the Cadillac HQ. The brand is barely alive. Meanwhile, in other news, GM just closed 4 ICE factories and is diverting huge sums and its top designers to work on EVs. This while GM presently has the country's top-selling affordable BEV in the market. Who cares about a re-badged Acadia at a brand with the lowest sales in its segment? GM sells more affordable EVs than any other company - right now - and is positioned to be the top-seller going forward.
Hmm. Thanks.
Al Castro lost all tech savvy credibility when when he called Silicon Valley “Silicone Valley.”
Oops. My bad ;)