Hooniverse Editorial: The Standard of the World and How to Reinvent Cadillac – Part 4

In my final part of this series, we explore the Cadillac Sixteen Concept from 2003, and see how Cadillac blew the chance to compete with the worlds ultra-rich car segment. Under Bob Lutz, Cadillac constructed a breathtaking concept, utilizing their current “Arts & Science” design paradigm that would tie in well with the vehicles being produced today. The car was none other than the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen Concept. This car is classic automotive seduction blended with the panache of Cadillac’s ultramodern design. In form, power and opulence, the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen embodies the timeless qualities of an exceptionally luxurious super-sedan with a sleek appearance. The rear-wheel-drive Cadillac Sixteen was designed to bring forth the exclusivity and grandeur of the custom-built Fleetwood coach cars of the 1930s for the next generation of exceedingly well-heeled customers of discerning taste. Targeted vehicles with this study include the Rolls Royce Phantom, the Bentley Arnage, the Maybach 57, and the Maserati Quattroporte. “The Sixteen is a modern interpretation of everything that made Cadillac the standard of the world and can again”, said Robert A. Lutz, GM vice chairman for product development. “It’s a reminder of a glorious past as well as a progressive statement”. The name is taken from the car’s powerful 16-cylinder, 1000-horsepower engine and Cadillac’s heritage as a maker of fine luxury automobiles. Cadillac’s reputation grew during the thirties in no small part because of the development of the automotive industry’s first V-16. The Cadillac Sixteen’s exterior proportions create a commanding presence which is just right for a limited market. It would go a long way towards re-establishing Cadillac as the Standard of the World. (While now might not seem the right time to introduce such a car, it would take a minimum of three years to get a true Cadillac standard bearer into production. Hopefully by that time we will again be in a period of economic prosperity and stability. And what better platform to introduce some cutting-edge powerplant–one with green credentials–than in a new flagship vehicle atop the Cadillac lineup?) The design of the Sixteen Concept is striking, with an aluminum hood that is very long, and with dual panels hinged about a center spine that runs the entire length. The hood panels are power-operated, just to add to the wow factor. The wheel arches were designed to accommodate the 24-inch polished aluminum wheels. The four-door hardtop incorporates an all-glass roof and is without B-pillars, and it is trimmed with accents of aluminum. The interior theme is evocative of the posh accommodations of thirties-era Cadillacs, only more contemporary. The dashboard features a center-mounted Bvlgari clock. The hand-stitched leather upholstered seats look like they belong in an Italian supercar rather than an ultra luxury car. The right rear seat features power adjustable slope to recline like a chaise lounge. Silk carpets cover the floor in a light cream color that matches the leather upholstery. The dash, door panels, and front and rear consoles are trimmed with real walnut burl veneer inlays. While GM designers drew inspiration from the ultra-luxury sedan’s ancestry, the Cadillac Sixteen is thoroughly modern in its power plant and technological content. This car could be produced in limited numbers, and the asking price would be steep. Think something approaching Rolls Royce Phantom money (around $400,000), and theoretically General Motors could make money on each and everyone they produced, even if the overall production was just a few hundred each year. This would also be a showroom stopper, and would draw in potential buyers to the Cadillac brand. With the design philosophy between the Sixteen and the CTS, the public would know that they were related, and that some of the features found in the Sixteen would find their way to the CTS. It’s time to re-invent Cadillac, and what better way to do so is with an over-the-top, ultra-luxury model like the Sixteen. But a big question remains…if GM is influenced by its ownership stake by the US Treasury, can such a program see the light of day or will it be viewed as the ultimate extravagance and again the Standard of the World. Or with an IPO on the horizon, can Cadillac–and GM–successfully re-invent itself? Time will give us the answer, sooner rather than later.

And the answer may be right around the corner. This is the video of the new XTS Concept Sedan. This is the rumored replacement for both the FWD DTS, and the slow selling STS, and I saw the concept in person at the Detroit Auto Show. This is a step in the right direction, with an interior that competes well with the 7 Series and the S-Class, and it will come in RWD or AWD configurations. Note that the front end mimics some of the design elements of the Sixteen Concept. When introduced, this will be a great addition to the Cadillac lineup, and will compliment the CTS and SRX lines. But what do you think? Read my original post at Automotive Traveler.

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