Will this big luxury coupe become the 2016 Cadillac Eldorado?
The short answer is probably "not exactly" – but it could be closer than you think.
It's a concept car called the Cadillac Elmiraj, and it was unveiled by General Motors (NYSE: GM ) last week as part of an unfolding, multiyear plan to turn Cadillac into a serious global luxury contender.
But even though GM was pretty clear that the Elmiraj won't go into production as-is, it's worth a much closer look if you're interested in Cadillac – or in the future prospects for GM's stock.
These Cadillac concept cars aren't just flights of fancy
To understand how the Elmiraj fits into the Cadillac turnaround story, we need to go back a couple of years to another Cadillac concept car, the Ciel.
I called the Ciel a "shocking statement" at the time, and I still think it was – and is. Up to that point, GM CEO Dan Akerson and other senior GM executives had talked about their ambitious plans to remake Cadillac, but we hadn't seen anything that showed us where they were really aiming to take the brand.
And while the Ciel wasn't intended to become a production car, it showed that the plan was a good one. It was different from current production Cadillacs, but clearly evolved from them – and just as clearly, it was much more opulent and upscale. But it was still very much a Cadillac in a way that anyone familiar with today's cars -- or the Cadillacs of old -- would instantly recognize.
And now we have the Elmiraj, which is also instantly recognizable as a Cadillac -- and instantly recognizable as the Ciel's sibling. I think that's important. Here's why.
Why the Elmiraj might actually be a future Eldorado
Concept cars are often just flights of fancy, a chance to try an idea or let a promising designer stretch his or her wings. From the moment I saw it, I thought that the Ciel was a lot more than that, and I'm even more convinced now that I've seen the Elmiraj.
First, they're clearly stylistic siblings. The grill shape has evolved, but the Elmiraj's overall lines and many of the details are very similar to the Ciel's. That suggests that this is, in fact, the direction the brand is headed in – a direction that might first see production with the upcoming big "flagship" Cadillac sedan, set to arrive in 2015.
That flagship is expected to be built on an all-new rear-wheel-drive platform called "Omega", a name that nicely bookends the "Alpha" platform that underpins the current Cadillac ATS and upcoming new CTS.
GM has dropped some heavy hints that the Elmiraj is built on a prototype version of that new platform, so it's not impossible that something like it could be built in a few years. In fact, Cadillac global chief Bob Ferguson told Automotive News that something close to the Elmiraj could be put into production, and that Cadillac dealers really want a car like it.
So will they build something like it?
GM is in the midst of a massive project to turn Cadillac into a top-shelf global luxury-car brand. It's a crucial project that is being done for hard-headed business reasons: Successful global luxury brands like BMW (NASDAQOTH: BAMXF ) and Volkswagen's (NASDAQOTH: VLKAY ) Audi generate massive profits, and Akerson wants GM in on that action. (This is also why Ford (NYSE: F ) is in the process of pumping up its Lincoln brand.)
It's not hard to see why Cadillac dealers would be excited about a car like this. The old Eldorados – big, luxurious two-door Cadillacs – were steady sellers for a long time, and the Elmiraj is a beautifully updated take on that same idea. GM doesn't really offer a car like that now.
But the Elmiraj – and I don't think the name's similarity to the word "Eldorado" is a coincidence – suggests that they might be offering one soon.
The latest Cadillacs have been designed with more than just the U.S. in mind: GM is determined to make Cadillac a player in China's booming market for luxury cars.
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