GM backs brashness to reconquer Europe
The firm hopes the Cadillac Lyriq e-SUV will stand out from the crowd
The Cadillac Lyriq will be the first vehicle that US legacy OEM GM will sell as part of its re-entry into Europe, the firm’s European president Jaclyn McQuaid has confirmed. And the firm seems to be gambling on the marque and model’s unabashed Americanism giving it an edge.
“Not only is [the Lyriq] the pinnacle of luxury and performance, but its bold design makes it stand apart from the more subdued offerings of many of its competitors,” says Shilpan Amin, president of GM Interrnational.
And he highlights some of the words potential European customers have given in response to the Lyriq — “stands out”; “fresh”, “different” and “bold”.
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Given that GM company CFO Paul Jacobson confirmed to analysts in August that GM’s all-electric return to Europe will involve vehicles manufactured in the US and exported to Europe, it is perhaps making a virtue out of a necessity in emphasising the Lyriq’s American exoticism. The Lyriq was GM’s best-selling E-SUV in the US in the third quarter, shifting 3,018 units and for the first time making up over 15pc of the company’s EV sales.
“We are starting in Switzerland, where our European headquarters are located. We cannot wait to launch in Sweden and France next,” McQuaid says. The firm will follow this with entry into three other key European markets.
GM has stressed its asset-light approach to Europe, so it seems potentially unlikely that the additional overheads of manufacturing right-hand drive cars in a North American factory will be an immediate priority, which may rule out the UK — Europe’s second largest national EV market by volume — from this list. If GM is targeting the three other largest national markets, that would mean Germany, Netherlands and Norway.
The firm’s Swiss launch is accompanied by the launch of Europe’s first “Cadillac City” showroom in Zurich. It is located in a “world-class retail destination", says Amin, highlighting the premium branding aspect to Cadillac’s European ambitions. The Lyriq starts from CHF82,000 (c.$91,000).
But, while it has this initial physical base and will also launch mobile showrooms, Amin stresses that GM’s European sales strategy is direct-to-consumer. “We are introducing a new digital experience for ordering and buying the Lyriq, completely online from start to finish,” Amin says. “Online, in the store, or on the move, Cadillac Europe will be where the people shop,” he promises.
This dealer-free model fits in with Jacobson’s vision of a capital-light approach to going back into Europe. CEO Mary Barra referred to the company’s “profitability-driven strategy towards selectively re-entering Europe” at Q2 results.
The Lyriq may be followed by other models and even other GM marques that potentially target different national markets. “The customer preferences are different market-to-market,” Amin notes. “That is why we are taking an ambitious, yet purposeful approach to our business in Europe.
The success of GM's strategy may hinge on two maxims no longer remaining true — that Europeans like smaller cars and they do not buy American. On the former, three of the top five best-selling EVs in the EU in 2022 were e-SUVs, according to the European Alternative Fuels Observatory, citing intelligence provider Clean Technica.
On the latter, according to manufacturers’ lobby group Acea, US firm Tesla sold over 238,000 BEVs in the EU+Efta+UK in the first eight months of the year and amassed a 20.6pc market share of all BEVs sold in the EU in August.
GM took the decision to exit Europe in 2017 by selling its Opel and Vauxhall brands to France’s PSA, now owned by multinational conglomerate Stellantis.