Carter Cadillac in Calgary has about three dozen customers on a waiting list for the Lyriq, Cadillac’s first battery-powered luxury utility vehicle.
That’s a key reason dealer principal Jay McKeen said he believes that a $250,000 investment in preparing one of Canada’s top-selling Cadillac retailers for an electric future is going to pay off.
“We’re approaching our first year of volume already sitting on the waiting list. That’s why I’m so optimistic about it,” McKeen told Automotive News Canada. “It gives you a lot of confidence.”
General Motors unveiled the production model of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq on April 21, saying it would be available in the first half of 2022, nine months ahead of schedule. The sleek, high-tech vehicle has a starting price of $69,898, including shipping, and a 480-kilometre range, the company said.
The vehicle is the first EV for GM’s luxury brand. Cadillac has committed to selling only electric vehicles by the end of the decade, part of GM’s wider strategy to end production of gasoline-powered vehicles across all its brands by 2035. Since the beginning of the year, GM has also announced a redesigned Chevrolet Bolt EV sedan, a Bolt EUV utility vehicle and a utility version of the GMC Hummer EV. There are also plans for an electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup.
A JOLT FOR DEALERSHIPS
For the 122 GM dealerships in Canada that sell Cadillac vehicles — slightly less than one quarter of all the automaker’s dealers in the country — including the five standalone stores in larger areas, the shift to an electric platform means investing in EV charging stations, new tooling and staff training, McKeen said. GM Canada has helped by sending consultants to advise each dealership what is required, he noted.
For the dealers’ service departments, EVs mean dealing with fewer moving parts but more technology.
“I think with the Lyriq, what GM is announcing is they’re not fooling around. They’re aiming at the heart of the luxury vehicle market,” said Robert Karwel, senior manager of J.D. Power’s automotive practice in Canada. SUVs are the fastest-growing segment of the luxury market, he noted.
“What does this mean for dealers? This is going to force them to think five years down the road when they might be doing significantly more volume of electric vehicles,” Karwel said.
While 95 per cent of premium vehicles sold in Canada are gasoline-powered, Karwel predicts that in five years, 15 per cent to 20 per cent of new-vehicle inventory at dealerships could be EVs.
“It’s something they need to prepare for,” he said.
Cadillac Canada has been working closely with its dealers “to chart the course to electrification,” Managing Director Shane Peever wrote in an email.
“EVs require a unique set of education, training and tools, and we are going to help our network prepare for Lyriq and beyond.”
Peever declined to provide figures on the cost of the program or how it’s being shared with the dealers.
SOME U.S. STORES PULL THE PLUG
EVs are a tougher sell in smaller markets. Customers are concerned about range and the availability of charging stations, said McKeen of Carter Cadillac, which is a standalone store. Late last year in the United States, about one-fifth of Cadillac’s nearly 900 dealers accepted a buyout offer from GM as the brand transitions to electric vehicles, according to sibling publication Automotive News.
Those dealers have until Nov. 30 to wind down Cadillac operations, while retailers who continue with the brand are required to invest an average of US $200,000 in their facilities for EV sales and service.
Cadillac Canada said it’s open to helping any dealers who want to drop the brand, however, it did not provide details.
“For dealers who choose not to join us on the EV journey, we will make a genuine effort to offer fair and equitable assistance should they wish to exit the Cadillac business,” Peever wrote. “Ultimately, the decision is up to each individual dealer.”
Such discussions have yet to take place with dealers in Canada, said Gary Sartorio, chair of the GM Dealers Communications Team and president of Shaganappi Motors in Calgary. He also didn’t know whether any Canadian GM dealers were planning to exit the Cadillac brand.
JUMP-START TO THE FUTURE
In general, for automobile dealers of all kinds, the shift to EVs ranks fourth on the list of reasons to get out of the business, behind age of the owner, lack of a successor and the cost of imaging, said Farid Ahmad, CEO of Dealer Solutions Mergers and Acquisitions.
For large-volume GM dealers such as Roy Foss Motors, with two locations in the north Toronto suburb of Vaughn, the Lyriq is the start of an exciting journey, said group President James Ricci.
“Cadillac is going fully electric. That’s their vision for the brand globally. We’re really excited,” said Ricci, the third generation in the family-owned business.
“Our vision is to create a mobility hub so that we have the ability to sell and service various forms of personal mobility,” he said.
That means investing not just in infrastructure, such as super-fast charging stations that will be available to the public as well as customers, but also in employee training to create an “EV culture,” Ricci said.
GM has provided a suite of training programs — some optional, some mandatory — to assist with the transition, he said.
Investing in the physical infrastructure to support the Lyriq over the next 12 to 18 months will cost “several hundred thousand dollars,” Ricci said. But he believes it’s the right move at the right time.
“Everyone has to take the risk at their own pace,” Ricci said. “But it’s kind of hard to imagine EVs aren’t going to be a predominant part of your sales within five years.”