“Retro” was definitely not a word Cadillac officials wanted to hear as they pulled the covers off the luxury division’s new Ciel Concept during a Thursday night preview. But with what General Motors chief designer Ed Welburn described as a “hint of a fin,” the striking show car provides a vision of where Caddy might be going by touching on where it had been in a once-glorious past.
Long the leader of the luxury market, Cadillac now lags behind overseas rivals like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. But it has begun regaining ground, in recent years, with a renewed focus on distinctive design. And confident there’s an opportunity for growth, GM management has given Caddy the green light to add a variety of new models, including the ELR plug-in hybrid, approved just this week, as well as the small Cadillac ATS and larger XTS.
But, “You need a flagship in your portfolio to be successful in the luxury market today,” asserted Clay Dean, the brand’s lead designer. And the Ciel is a hint of what such a car might be. Nearly as long as the big Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle, the prototype was shown in convertible form, but if taken into production would likely also be offered as a full-sized sedan, company insiders told TheDetroitBureau.com.
The name, Ciel, is French for “sky,” and carries something of a double meaning. There’s the reference to the convertible design but it might also suggest that the sky is the limit, as far as GM is concerned, if Caddy can pull off a true turnaround. That would likely depend on tapping into more than just the U.S. market – even though it is the largest luxury market in the world. The Ciel, whether in convertible or hard top form, would also be targeted at China, now the largest overall automotive market on the planet – and a place where increasingly affluent buyers have shown a distinct predilection for cars that are large and lavishly equipped.