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Cadillac Lyriq, Holden Monaro and VE Commodore designer says there's no need for all electric cars such as the Tesla Model Y to look like 'lozenges with wheels'

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Cadillac Celestiq.
Cadillac Celestiq.

Cadillac Senior Vice President of Global Design Michael Simcoe explained how the Celestiq, Lyriq and Optiq get away without looking like computer mouses or soap bars despite solid driving range ratings. 

Along with his current role at Cadillac, Simcoe has been with GM for forty years now after starting at Holden in 1983. He can boast credit for the Monaro, VE Commodore and more recently rebirthing Cadillac as an EV-first brand with the Celestiq. 

“Aerodynamics is a very well understood black science,” he told CarsGuide last week. “We have a lot of people who are very intelligent in that space so we know what we have to do to make a vehicle perform in a fashion.”

For comparison's sake, the Tesla Model Y ekes 531km of EPA driving range out of its 75kWh battery pack thanks to a small frontal area and slippery 0.23Cd. The AWD Cadillac Optiq uses an 85kWh battery and gets 480km EPA driving range – we don’t know its Cd figure.

The Tesla is better then, right? On paper, sure. But Cadillac is not in the business of making efficiency an absolute. Buyers of Cadillacs are chasing opulence, performance and style. 

The brand naturally has an internal efficiency goal for EVs, with Simcoe saying the team is able to ‘dial up and down’ various factors to achieve the desired result.

“Anyone who tells you that to do an efficient vehicle, you have to do a lozenge with wheels is wrong”, he emphasises. “You can make very efficient vehicles that have style as well.”

Tesla Model Y. (Image: Richard Berry)
Tesla Model Y. (Image: Richard Berry)

Yet anyone who has looked at vehicles coming out of China to target Tesla – the GAC Aion hyper GT, IM L6, BYD Sealion 6, Xpeng G6 and more – can see the resemblance to the American brand’s soft-sided vehicles.

Interestingly, Simcoe sees this phenomena as copycatting for the sake of style rather than outright aero efficiency, citing hidden tricks such as shielding suspension components from the wind and other techniques. 

“That's more about commoditisation of design and a power to see something that works in the showroom, with customers, and a whole industry that has the speed to – within a couple of years – move in that direction. 

Cadillac Optiq
Cadillac Optiq

“And then two years later there's somewhere else, and then somewhere else. But that's commoditisation of vehicles, it's not necessarily aerodynamics that are doing that,” Simcoe explains. 

“If you've got the speed to react quickly to a trend and you're seeing something on the other side of town that's working and people are buying and you've got the speed to get there before the market dries up, then you're dealing with commodities rather than a real focus on your brand and the value you have in the design itself.

“If we all did that you could forget the brand thing because everybody would be buying the same interior and the same exterior. And there is a bit of that in the market right now, globally.” 

Cadillac is gearing up to launch its first vehicle in Australia, the large luxury BMW iX and Audi Q8 e-tron-rivalling Lyriq, before the end of the year. More models, including the Optiq, are likely to follow shortly after. 

John Law
Deputy News Editor
Born in Sydney’s Inner West, John wasn’t treated to the usual suite of Aussie-built family cars growing up, with his parents choosing quirky (often chevroned) French motors that shaped his love of cars. The call of motoring journalism was too strong to deny and in 2019 John kickstarted his career at Chasing Cars. A move to WhichCar and Wheels magazine exposed him to a different side of the industry and the glossy pages of physical magazines. John is back on the digital side of things at CarsGuide, where he’s taken up a role as Deputy News Editor spinning yarns about the latest happenings in the automotive industry. When he isn’t working, John can be found tooling around in either his 2002 Renault Clio Sport 172 or 1983 Alfasud Gold Cloverleaf.  
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