Speaking to the International Motoring Press Association, Rory Harvey, vice president of global Cadillac, said that production of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq will begin in March 2022, nine months sooner than originally planned. How did that happen? Jamie Brewer, chief engineer for the Lyriq, tells The Detroit Bureau the virtual design and validation tools GM has been developing over the past few years are largely responsible for getting the Lyriq into production early.
“As we started implementing them early and earlier into the vehicle development process, what we found is that the quality of our prototype vehicles or pre-production vehicles that we’re building the physical vehicles is much, much better,” Brewer says. Virtual development allows engineers to test thousands of designs through multiple scenarios for variation in manufacturing, customer usage, and physics, GM says, and saves the company $1.5 billion a year in engineering costs. The virtual tools are especially significant when it comes to developing an all new vehicle architecture such as the Ultium platform for the Lyriq.
“We have been able to refine so much in the virtual space. Areas like cabin comfort, advanced vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, acoustics, road noise cancellation — even active safety features and crash barrier development, have all been done virtually. Because of that, the physical testing that is underway now is significantly … ahead of schedule,” Brewer said.
Currently, the Lyriq is in the final stages of vehicle development, with engineers finalizing the vehicle’s coefficient of drag, NVH refinement, tire cavity boom noise, steering sensitivity, and steering feel. This is all being carried out earlier in the ramp up to launch because of the time saved with virtual development, according to Brewer.
GM is investing $2 billion to reconfigure its factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee, to build the Lyriq. The former Saturn plant currently builds the Cadillac XT5, Cadillac XT6, and GMC Acadia. But the bigger news is that GM will invest another $2.3 billion to build a second battery cell manufacturing plant alongside the Spring Hill plant, which will employ 1,300 workers.
Its first battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio, is well underway. LG Energy Solution is a partner on both battery factories. GM’s Ultium batteries use 70% less cobalt than its previous batteries. Substituting aluminum for cobalt helps lower the cost of the batteries for its electric cars.
Rory Harvey says the Lyriq will start at $59,990, and that includes Super Cruise, GM’s semi-autonomous driving system, as standard equipment. In a prior story about the Lyriq, we reported that Super Cruise was an available option, not standard equipment. “From our perspective in terms of benchmarking, we think that that’s so competitive in the marketplace,” Harvey says.
The Lyriq comes with a 19.2-kilowatt Level 2 onboard charger and the ability to charge at up to 119 kW using a DC fast charger. “We know that charge rate and charge time is extremely critical, and especially for early adapters we want to make sure that we come out with all of our best foot forward from a charging perspective,” Brewer says.
GM has created the Ultium Charge 360 platform, which integrates charging networks with a GM vehicle app. “We aim to have nearly 60,000 charging plugs throughout the U.S. and Canada within a reasonable period of time,” Harvey says. “That’s something that is a must for EV adoption going forward.”
He says the production car will be visually almost identical to the concept car. “I think that you’ll be hard pressed to find many differences between the two, and that was a very purposeful and strategic move, and not without trials and tribulations. But it was something that we were very committed to doing.”
Cadillac is on a roll lately. 2020 was the third best sales year for the company despite the broader industry having a down year due to Covid. Sales in the first quarter of this year were up 66% compared to Q1 of 2020. Better yet, Harvey says average transaction prices are rising and are now second only to Mercedes-Benz.
Cadillac is working to make sure its dealers (the ones who have agreed to stay on as the company transitions to electric cars) are ready to sell and service EVs. “The goal is that by the time that we sell Lyric, all of our dealers will be enabled to sell and support and raise the bar from a customer satisfaction point of view in terms of EVs,” Harvey adds.
GM is following the same sales strategy as Tesla did a decade ago. Start with high-end cars and add product as sales increase. Across town, Ford is taking a very different approach — electrifying the best selling pickup truck in history and adding a bargain basement hybrid pickup truck to its lineup. Will one strategy be more effective than the other? Maybe, but for EV enthusiasts, it’s all good.