Cadillac looks back, forward with Celestiq flagship EV

Cadillac is looking back and forward in creating what it says will be the brand’s most advanced vehicle ever.

The hand-built Celestiq show car, introduced Friday, previews Cadillac’s vision for advanced electric vehicles. It is engineered and designed to place the brand equally alongside the latest luxury EVs from upstarts such as Lucid and longtime rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi. It features five high-definition advanced LED interactive displays, a four-panel Smart Glass Roof and Ultra Cruise, General Motors’ next-generation hands-free driver assistance technology that goes beyond highway driving. Cadillac plans to offer Ultra Cruise on the Celestiq production vehicle.

The production car — billed by Cadillac as the “standard of the world” — will be custom commissioned, meaning many features and materials, such as knobs, color trim, seating and even headliners, will be available from a menu.

It is scheduled to go on sale late next year, forecasters say. Cadillac has not confirmed launch timing, but it is expected to become the brand’s second EV after the Lyriq.

When developing the low-slung electric car, designers and engineers drew inspiration from early Cadillac sedans, such as the V-16 powered models of the prewar era and the hand-built 1957 Eldorado Brougham.

“Those vehicles represented the pinnacle of luxury in their respective eras, and helped make Cadillac the standard of the world,” said Tony Roma, chief engineer for the EV. “The Celestiq show car — also a sedan, because the configuration offers the very best luxury experience — builds on that pedigree and captures the spirit of arrival they expressed.”

Cadillac said designers also drew ideas from the mid-century masterpieces of architect Eero Saarinen, who co-designed GM’s famed technical center in Warren, Mich.

Cadillac has not disclosed Celestiq pricing, but The Wall Street Journal last month reported that the ultraluxury sedan would retail for around $300,000, providing a major test as GM’s flagship brand, once the nation’s top-selling luxury marque, squares off against new and existing automakers in the race to woo affluent EV buyers.

Reynolds and Reynolds acquisition bolsters IT offerings

Retail technology giant Reynolds and Reynolds Co. on Friday acquired Proton Dealership IT, which offers dealerships cybersecurity and information technology products and services.

Reynolds, a Dayton, Ohio-based dealership management system provider, did not disclose a transaction price. Leaders of the two companies said they began speaking about a potential acquisition in March.

Reynolds’ deal to buy Proton comes as its dealership customers weigh how to comply with amended cybersecurity and IT guidance the Federal Trade Commission handed down in October. The FTC has set a Dec. 9 compliance deadline for dealerships to adopt its Safeguards Rule amendments. That weighed into the decision to step up services in that area, Reynolds President Chris Walsh said.

“It became evident that our customers are asking about these things and they’re really trying to figure it out,” Walsh said. “They’re trying to make sure that they’re compliant and that they’re safe, and that’s when we just saw a need to get into an area that we’ve never really gotten into.”

Proton, based in Raleigh, N.C., and founded in 2014, offers dealerships a slate of cybersecurity tools, such as outsourced IT departments, security operations centers, remote help desks and on-site support teams.

Founder Brad Holton is the sole owner, and he said he intends to continue to lead Proton for the long term under the Reynolds umbrella.

Proton has about 600 dealership clients, 98 percent of which are franchised, Holton said. Walsh said there’s lots of room to expand Proton’s products and services across the Reynolds customer base, maybe even to “100 percent” of it. Reynolds doesn’t disclose the number of its dealership customers.

This year, Walsh said Reynolds would step up its acquisition activity and build out its product portfolio.

Proton is the company’s second acquisition since those remarks. Earlier in July, Reynolds acquired Motility Software, which sells dealership management software to powersports and other specialty stores.

Some might consider the Proton acquisition to be on the smaller end of Reynolds’ deal-making when considering Proton’s employee count and years in the market, Walsh said.

But “if you look at it from the perspective of … how we can expand our offerings and how we can help our customers be much more secure, I think it’s one of the most significant acquisitions that we’ve made in a while.”

And Proton is growing fast. Its client base has increased 25 percent so far this year, Holton said. It has 125 employees and will hire another 100 to 150 people in the next 12 months. Because demand is so prevalent, the company is averaging three hires a week right now, he said.

Tool keeps shoppers on dealership website

Buckeye Honda has worked to overcome inventory shortages by creating an interactive research hub where online shoppers can get an up-close look at a vehicle even if it’s not in stock.

The Lancaster, Ohio, dealership deployed a virtual configurator on its site this spring called izmoEmporio that lets users personalize new Honda models with accessories and get 360-degree views of the exterior and interiors.

It has been operational for only a few months, but the configurator — a relatively rare offering on a dealership’s website — is fostering engagement with online shoppers and helping the store sell more accessories. Management says consumers who use the tool are spending an average of two minutes on it, and the dealership considers them higher-quality leads than typical website visitors.

Consumers can access the technology on a phone, tablet or computer.

More than 300 vehicles covering the full spectrum of Honda’s lineup have been configured on the site so far.

The tool was created by izmocars, a San Francisco-based producer of interactive media content for the auto industry.

IzmoEmporio “gives the customer the ability to look at inventory and do some research on our website,” said Scott Thomas, Buckeye Honda’s general manager. “The leads that we have generated off of it so far have definitely shown that they’re customers that are very serious and very engaged, low-funnel type of customers that are close to making a purchase and want to get the right car with the right equipment on it.”

The dealership, which sold 1,718 new and used vehicles last year, has been working to fine-tune its messaging around the experience.

It initially branded the tool on its website as a virtual showroom but has since tweaked that approach to encourage more usage. It’s now listed in the new-vehicles menu as a “build and price” tool to attract customers thinking about buying a vehicle, while the service and parts menu calls it “accessorize your ride,” which is a message meant for people who already have bought a vehicle.

Vehicle configurators are common on manufacturer websites.

The traditional approach sees shoppers build and price a vehicle on the automaker’s site, where they can explore trims and options for a particular nameplate and then get referred to dealers in their areas.

But Thomas sees value in having a configurator that aids research and keeps consumers on the dealership’s website for longer periods.

“We all know that the more time a customer spends on our site, the better chance we have of selling them a car,” Thomas said. “I don’t think we’re necessarily trying to compete with the manufacturer, but when the customer does make it to our site, they don’t have to leave our site to be able to visualize something that we may not have in stock.”

Buckeye Honda’s configurator showed its potential recently when a customer submitted a lead for a vehicle that wasn’t in stock. During the waiting period, the person went back to the store’s website, began toying with accessory options and added a black Honda emblem. The customer ended up buying the vehicle as configured on the site.

The store’s parts department has noticed increased interest in the emblem accessories it sells since the configurator went live.

Jack Young, Buckeye Honda’s marketing and content manager, said the store is considering sending emails to recent vehicle buyers in the hopes of piquing their interest about accessories. The configurator can let those customers see how the accessories would look on their particular model.

“Like any new technology and tool, it’s how can we best make the customer aware of it and then make it attractive and inviting for them,” Thomas said. “Obviously, a lot of people are doing much more research and using online digital tools. We’re finding that they are engaging with it.”

He pointed to the importance of finding different entry points for the feature — not just from the website’s front page or link in the navigation.

“It’s putting links in the [vehicle detail pages] and on banners on different pages throughout the website as well,” Thomas said.

Wheel-E Podcast! Trek e-bikes, Italian e-moped, Nimbus pod-car, Candela flying electric boat & more

This week on Electrek’s Wheel-E podcast, we discuss the most popular news stories from the world of electric bikes and other nontraditional electric vehicles. This time that includes new electric bicycles from Trek, Fantic, and Optibike, plus interesting electric mobility stories covering new electric motorcycles, flying electric boats, and lots more.

The Wheel-E podcast is set to return every two weeks on Electrek’s YouTube channel, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. As a reminder, we’ll have an accompanying post, like this one, on the site with an embedded link to the live stream. Head to the YouTube channel to get your questions and comments in.

After the show ends, the video will be archived on YouTube and the audio on all your favorite podcast apps:

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Here are a few of the articles that we will discuss during the podcast today:

Here’s the live stream for today’s episode starting at 8:00 a.m. ET (or the video after 9:00 a.m. ET):


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Here’s how the 2023 BMW 7-Series and i7 are made

Here’s how the 2023 BMW 7-Series and i7 are made

The redesigned 2023 BMW 7-Series and its electric i7 sibling have started production, so BMW released a video showing how these flagship luxury sedans are made.

The roughly 10-minute video is divided into three parts, showing the 7-Series/i7 body shop assembly line, at BMW’s Dingolfing, Germany, factory, as well as finished cars driving themselves off the assembly line.

In the body shop, hoards of robots clothe bare body shells with doors, hoods, and panels. Once painted, the bodies are sent to the assembly line, where pretty much everything else is added. The i7’s battery pack is married with the body here, along with front and rear subassemblies with pre-assembled suspension and brake components.

2023 BMW 7-Series and BMW i7 assembly

2023 BMW 7-Series and BMW i7 assembly

 

Also shown is the assembly and installation process for the 2023 7-Series’ headliner-mounted 31-inch rear screen, as well as the installation of the rear seats, which are inserted on a long mechanical arm and guided into place by factory workers.

Finished cars are inspected—including a short dyno run—and then the most unusual part of the process starts. Cars drive themselves through a tunnel connecting the assembly area to the holding areas where they’ll wait for shipment.

Based on an updated version of the outgoing car’s CLAR platform, the redesigned 7-Series launches in 740i and 760i xDrive guises, both with mild-hybrid powertrains. The base rear-wheel drive 740i gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 producing 375 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, with a temporary boost to 398 lb-ft available from the mild-hybrid system. The all-wheel-drive 760i xDrive has BMW’s new 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 and boasts 536 hp and 553 lb-ft. 

BMW isn’t offering a V-12 option this time around, leaving the all-electric i7 to complete the lineup. In i7 xDrive60 launch guise, it has a dual-motor all-wheel drive powertrain producing 536 hp and 549 lb-ft of torque. A 101.7-kwh battery pack will afford up to 300 miles of range, BMW estimates.

The 2023 BMW 7-Series and i7 are scheduled to reach U.S. dealerships this fall. Pricing starts at $94,295 (including destination for the base mild-hybrid 740i and $120,295 for the i7 xDrive60. A plug-in hybrid 7-Series and more powerful M Performance version of the i7 are due to arrive at a later date.