No More Horsepower For You!

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Well, GM has decided it’s time to stop touting horsepower and displacement – it’s so internal combustion.

Instead, Cadillac will tout Newton meters – the metric version of foot-pounds – to tout torque.

Which is so very EV.

It is a change of verbiage intended to nudge people a bit farther down the electrification highway. Get them to use the new terminology. Hopefully memory begins to fade of the old way of doing things.

The point being to take people’s minds off the bait-and-switch. Like New Coke, for instance – though that didn’t work out so well.

“We’re not talking about displacements anymore,” Cadillac President Steve Carlisle said during a media briefing this week.

Understandable – given Cadillac doesn’t offer much of that anymore. Most of its cars are packing engines in the 2.0 liter range – about the same engine displacement of a mid ‘7s Pinto.

Granted, the Cadillac 2.0 engine is turbo’d and makes three times the power of the Pinto’s about-the-same-displacement engine.

But there’s not much puissance – or romance in “2.0” – or even “3.6” – the displacement of the biggest engine Cadillac puts in any of its current mass-production cars.

When Cadillac was Cadillac – a long time ago – displacement was essentially Cadillac. The division touted GM’s biggest V8s, which were exclusive to Cadillac and not (as today) repackaged  “corporate” engines found in everything else GM sells.

Even the one V8 you can still get in a Cadillac is a Chevy V8 and no larger than the same engine sold in Chevys like the division’s repackaged Chevy SUV, the Escalade nee Tahoe.

Part of what made an Eldorado and Eldorado was the 472 or 500 cubic inch (American, not metricsexual) V8 under its mile-long slab of hood. A line from a song comes to mind: What’s a little lady like you, driving all that automobile?

It doesn’t have the same punch when it says “2.0” on the decklid. And “ATS” reads like a line on a tax form.

Eldorado doesn’t.

“What’s the appeal of an electric motor and electric car?” continues Carlisle, making his pitch. “It’s the torque. It’s the early torque. It’s the drivability. It’s the acceleration. We see this as a step toward the future and moving into battery electric vehicles.”

He does not mention the autopsy room silence, the lack of anything resembling passion – of interest to the living.

And this anodyne, androgynous metric stuff.

Gotta remove the last little bit of American verve from the raked husk of what was once the signature American luxury car brand. So that it can be just like every other “global” purveyor of same-same universalist modularity.

Carlisle says so, straight from the mic:

“It’s metric. It’s global. It’s universal. You have to think about all the markets we are doing business in.”

Except, of course, America is a different market. Well, it was – once.

Thanks to homogenizers of Carlisle’s sort, it is no more.

This depressing trend toward vehicular homogenization has been under way for decades. There are precious few distinctive combustion engines anymore, certainly – whether size-wise or otherwise.

The regs and mandates have seen to that.

Note that almost every car brand sells “2.0” engines. This is not coincidental. That displacement is just the right displacement in terms of complying with regs (here and in Europe) pertaining to emissions, including the newly christened one – carbon dioxide “emissions.” It also happens to be a sweet spot for turbocharging/specific output per liter of displacement.

But it makes it very hard to get emotional about Cadillac’s 2.0 vs. BMW’s vs. Audi – and Hyundai’s – 2.0s.

What’s the difference, exactly?

Well, this one makes 220 hp and that ones makes 238 hp.

Contrast with 472 – or 500 – cubic inches. As opposed to a mere 350.

Cadillac once made V16 engine, too.

And the engines – all of them  – were highly individual in terms of their power delivery, something electric motors will never be.

Those huge V8s from the days when Cadillacs were Cadillacs weren’t merely huge. They were specifically huge, in order to dish out the massive torque at very low RPM that was needed to get 4,000-plus pounds of Eldorado rolling properly.

An electric motor can, of course, produce, even more torque. It’s why Teslas are so speedy – at least, briefly.

But it’s different, because it’s all the same. A motor is a motor is a motor. DeWalt vs. Black & Decker.

Functional? Certainly.

Emotion? Passion?

Is an elevator exciting?

Do you think about which brand it is?

. . .

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59 COMMENTS

  1. Here is an analysis of fuel operating costs of a Tesla 3 versus a 30 MPG car
    traveling 12,000 miles per year.

    The Model 3 costs $4680 Less than the gas car per year with $2.35 per gallon gasoline and
    $0.13 per KW-Hr electricity

    Plus the model 3 has: no oil changes, 0 to 60 under 4 seconds, AWD

    At 60,000 miles the Tesla 3 is more than half paid for with over $28,000 fuel savings (assuming gas doesn’t go above $2.35)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bIBs8GuUYY

    • Not this crappy video again.
      Where’s the road taxes on the electricity?
      Where’s the up front costs on the electric car compared to the gasoline car?
      Yes, I know he uses an Alfa as the gasoline car, but here’s the thing, there is profit, real profit, and high margins on the Alfa. TM’s car is no not in that league in those terms and has little to negative margin.

      TM’s concept is to put enough high margin gizmos and stuff on a car to make it such that they can start to hide the base cost of the electric car in the profit margin of the gasoline cars of the competition. TM also strips away dealers to again hide the costs in the competition’s profit margin. Also it needs to build additional revenue streams by controlling parts, service, collision repair, and so on.

      We can see the problem by looking at it what loss leading economy electric cars MSRP for. The price ratio between them and TM products is much smaller than gasoline cars from economy to something like an Alfa Romeo.

      Either electric car owners pay that premium somewhere or the taxpayers do or TM pays it and eventually goes out of business. It must be paid somewhere by someone and that money buys a lot of gasoline. Enough gasoline to where the electric car has been worn out or needs a new battery back before it has broken even.

      Now if you want to argue cost to the owner/operator you may be correct. Electric cars currently are a great way to dodge taxes and put costs on the collective.

      • What Brent said and,

        Want to be green? Buy a used ICE car.

        Want to save money? Buy a used ICE car.

        Want to virtue signal and show you have no clue about ‘total cost’? Buy a Tesla.

        I buy used 1990-1999 cars in good shape for $1000-2000. Do the basic maintenance and drive them until something expensive goes bang. Some last 6 months, some years.

        Averaging out at a car every 2+ years or so. At this rate it would take two lifetimes to pay as much as one Tesla new.

        • My bad

          I just googled the price of the TM 3 and it was $60,000

          But that is fully loaded

          Base model ( https://www.tesla.com/model3/design#battery) is $27,000. But if you can put up with 0 to 60 in a painfully slow 5.6 seconds, two wheel drive, no autopilot and only a 100,000 mile warranty you can have the car paid for in fuel savings in 60,000 miles.

          • $27,000 of fuel savings at $2.50/gal is 10,800 gallons. At 30mpg that’s 324,000 miles. At 20mpg that’s 216,000 miles. So that’s how long the TM would need to be driven at zero fuel cost to ‘save’ that much. Now the energy to drive the TM 216,000+ miles costs something too. So that needs to be added to calculate just how long one needs to drive their TM product to achieve that number.

            Now take away the road taxes for a even calculation on energy cost alone and this just gets more absurd.

            TM’s number is nonsense.

            • Never mind, I misread. We can redo it for 8K. That’s 96,000 miles at 30mpg. So the break even is going to be somewhere north of 100K.

              In any case BMW makes considerable profit. TM does not. If BMW and its dealers cut profit to TM levels, if TM even makes a profit before selling credits, this calculation changes for the worse of TM.

        • These are the same points I make with everyone wanting to use “fuel savings” as an excuse to buy a new car, of any kind. Unless you have NO car at all, Fuel savings is a non-issue. Whatever car you currently use, will go a hell of a long way on the fuel you could buy with the price of a new car, period. So then the person will change the conditions of the argument to “say if you have to get aq car you don’t already have”. To which, my reply is the same as yours above, get a used one that has already been manufactured and used its’ share of virgin resources to build. Then come the arguments of “not safe, not reliable” etc., which is now dodging the fuel savings excuse altogether. But what was so unsafe about 10 years, or even 5 years ago? Everything is only new the day it leaves the lot, and every car dealer tells you that anything older than the newest model is “unsafe”, so who are we kidding here? If someone wants a new car to have a new car, then buy it, and quit trying to argue the virtues of the damn thing, when it perpetuates excessive consumerism and waste of virgin resources.
          False justification disguised as “virtuosity” or “economic responsibility” is pretentious rationalization. Until physics changes radically, all those excuses are academic, and the “advantages” don’t amount to a drop in the bucket.

    • Problems with the TM 3. It’s really 36,400. The rear bumper collects water and falls off. There are limited places to get it repaired. There’s a 6 month waiting list just to get a fender bender fixed. Tesla won’t ship the parts to the techs. The batteries blow up when exposed to air. The batteries don’t work well in the cold. After warranty Tesla owners are ignored by customer service. Electricity isn’t free. A study on carbon found that it takes more carbon to create an electric car and electricity nearly produces the same amount of carbon as a ice car.

  2. More Women are graduating from College instead of men, more women are going into business and government soooooooooooooo guess who has & is spending more money than men soooooooooo
    1. Women want safer cars, not performance, women don’t care about car style and that’s why most cars
    look like toasters, women just want cars to be functional,,(AND SAFE,,,,,,,, like gas and go :: that’s it
    and that’s what sells. So if I can sell a less performance package (small engines gas or electric) under
    a safety issue for more money,, guess what I’m going to do ??? right
    2. So if I want more money, as a business I have to cater to the ones who have the most money,,care to
    guess who spends the most money ?

    • Hi Gary,

      All your points are solid, if depressing.

      Any backyard physicists out there? Working on FTL drive? There’s got to be some kind of way out of here…

      • A lot of college degrees are bullshit now, and going to trade school is much cheaper and gets you a better income after you graduate. Decades ago, when not that many people went to college, a college degree really meant something and increased your income. Today, where blue collar work isn’t desirable and everyone goes to college, a college degree is worthless in many subjects, and doesn’t guarantee any improvement in income.

        So, guys are doing just fine, and not wasting their time and money on useless degrees. If you have the chops for it, the scientific and engineering disciplines are definitely worth going to college for, but if not, there’s no point in wasting four years and piles of money on history or philosophy or art degrees.

        Don’t be concerned too much about these statistics.

    • “More Women are graduating from College instead of men”

      But do we really need more ‘gender studies’ and ‘social diversity’ experts?

      STEM matters. Social make work doesn’t, except to investigate why ‘educated’ women still feel dissatisfied with their life…..

      But yes, women (and the men who emulate them) are the target market behind the iSameness and iConformity that has taken over retail.

  3. I read your articles for entertainment and information but your enthusiasm for 1970s cars, rants and that “Saaaaaaaaaaaafety” nonsense are tiresome. The world’s changing and all your whining isn’t going to change a thing. Come to Asia and breathe the air where internal combustion engines are killing people with the shit they spew. The use of that engine has exploded in all Asian countries. It affects everyone on the planet in ways you probably never consider. You may not see the end result of the air poisoning in your lifetime, but that doesn’t change that the internal combustion engine is one of the worst inventions man has created (along with the “smart” phone). Its consequences are much like those of cigarettes. Like it or not, electric vehicles are here to stay. At some point they will be nearly all one can buy and used cars will either be banned or worn out. You and I probably won’t live to see it but it’s inevitable. Deal with it.

    • Hi John,

      I haven’t had a lot of sleep lately and so bear with me if I am not up to spec unpacking what you’ve written.

      First, you make no distinction between the current, effectively pollution-free IC cars of today vs. the cars made 30 or more years ago. There is a pollution problem in China because of dirty industrial combines and cars tat aren’t modern. Note that there is no serious pollution issue in the U.S. – notwithstanding a doubling of the population and the number of cars.

      Second, you premise that EVs are “clean” is fatuous. In fact – in the aggregate – an EV produces more harmful things than a modern IC car does. Plus the much higher cost and inconvenience.

      EVs are only “inevitable” if we permit them to be shoved down out throats – for reasons that have very little to do with “the environment,” by the way.

      • Something both you and John are missing: it’s very possible that most of Asia’s pollution problem is industrial rather than vehicular. In fact I suspect that this was the case even back in 1970s USA where catalytic converters were a non thing and leaded gas was common. Thinking about how this problem could have been fixed under a free-market system, it struck me that the companies which are most likely to wantonly kill people out of shortsighted greed are also the ones most likely to abuse environmental and safety regulations as a weapon against potential smaller competitors. Doesn’t make a lot of sense on the face of it, until you realize that hypocrisy has no meaning to these people; only money gets their attention.

        Frankly, I don’t know if the industrial-pollution problem could have been solved painlessly. No one was thinking that much about emissions until the media came along and made A Thing out of it, and of course the answer was government. Never let a good crisis go to waste, right?

        • Industrial pollution is a very possible reason for high pollution in Asia. My late uncles asphalt plant (once located in Michigan) was sold to the Afghanistan government after it had been rendered uneconomical to be rebuilt for the fourth time by the Economic Prevention Agency. It had been originally been built in the 1950’s. It had been rebuilt in the late 60’s, mid 80’s and late 1990’s. Each time additional pollution controls had been added, so it was way cleaner than it had been.

          But in 2005 when it needed to be done again, it was no longer worth rebuilding due to the cost of the additional pollution controls needed to make it compliant. So my cousin was planning to scrap it. But a equipment broker knew about it, and thought he could find a buyer. My cousin thought it would never happen. But it did.

          An Afgan army engineer and his squad showed up with a dozen or so shipping containers. They took it apart leaving all the pollution controls behind. So its on the other side of the world operating without any pollution controls at all.

      • …AAAAND. IF we dedicate ALL mining of Lithium and Barium to electric cars we couldn’t even replace 1 or 4 cars on the road to day in the world.
        Who is no longer going to be driving?
        Who will?
        What will happen to your right and freedom to travel?
        Agenda 21/22 Wilderness-Heritage Corridors anyone?

        THIS is the direction they are heading us into. EV’s are a silly-pointless, dead end solution taken by themselves. There is a greater point to this agenda of replacing combustion engines with EV’s. Modern combustion engines with pollution output controls are the common man’s freedom to travel and mobility. EV’s are the restriction, loss and control of that. This is the end game.

    • Hi John,

      Incidentally, I share your dislike of smartphones – even though I have one. What I dislike, though, isn’t the technology per se. Just as I don’t dislike EVs, per se (I am indifferent to them; they do nothing for me – like ugly women).

      What I dislike about EVs – contra smartphones – is that the EVs are being forced on us – by law, by the government.

      Of course, it is also true enough that smartphones are being effectively forced on us. It is why I have one.

      One can elect not to have one, but only if one doesn’t have to deal with the modern world of work as well as the modern social world.

      So, I feel your pain.

      I often miss the pre-smartphone world. Just as I miss the pre-airbag and smartphone world.

      • eric, I recall when employers would get you a smart phone if it was required. The last job I had didn’t care if you were the most qualified, had the best record and was a known get ‘er done kinda guy. If you had no smartphone, you were disqualified.

        You couldn’t get the dispatches without one although I later found out they could and did use your email. But they didn’t want you to be unable to get urgent and changed dispatches and since the egregious ELD snake is running the chicken pens, you are bound by law to have one. As Conway would say, Think about it darlin. Every day some law is enacted to further some corporation’s bottom line.

      • In the pre-smartphone world I carried a book everywhere. Now I carry a phone. Not much of a change for me, except now I’m far more likely to have a camera when I see a pretty sunset or interesting architecture.

    • John, most of the pollution in Asia is created by industry, by companies that have relocated there because the Asian governments want their plants, and are not concerned about the pollution. Very little comes from cars, as most of the Asian car fleets are less than 10 years old and hence don’t put out measurable amounts of air pollution. What you also don’t understand about this “safety” equipment is that a lot of it causes more problems than it solves, and it is mostly about removing our way of driving and substituting the control of psychologically misfit bureaucraps who contribute completely nothing to the advancement of society. These bureaucraps were once the bullies you met at school, church, and in the workplace. Mark my word, at the rate events are proceeding, in 10 years you will have to get government permission to exit your house at any time. And you will also have to get permission from the government to reenter your house at the end of the day. The technology to do that is already here.

      • The 2 cycle engines on the scooters and motorcycles aren’t helping for sure. But as they move up the economic ladder they’re cleaning up the air.

        When all you can afford is to walk, a bicycle is a fantastic advancement. When all you have is a bicycle a scooter is a fantastic advancement. When all you have is a scooter, a four stroke engine doesn’t do much for an individual. But over time people will begin to want cleaner engines. Not soon enough for the Chinese government (who will probably make 2 cycle engines illegal before enough people can afford them, then publicly shame anyone using them), but it will happen.

  4. When did a 350 and a 351 become .1 liter apart?

    I’m sure I’ve seen 5.7 Mustangs back in the day. And I don’t remember 5.8s cruising down Woodward Avenue. (Or Telegraph or Gratiot either.)

  5. I’ve got the popcorn out for when EV’s smash into the edge of the use case. (short range, long charge, virtually useless in cold weather and I expect no towing capability). These facts in conjunction with the possibility of burning to death in an accident and I don’t expect vehicle age and wear to make this better. Don’t know why, but fatal fires have occurred in Tesla’s twice already in FL. I could not believe such horrible engineering and safety to not provide a mechanical door handle. I finally saw a Telsa from the side and yep no way in or out when the power goes out except maybe out a window.

    • Hi End,

      Yup. If a manufacturer of conventional car did anything like the things Tesla has done, it would have been crucified by NHTSA and DOT and a dozen other Hut! Hut! Hutting! federal agencies.

      Tesla gets a pass because it’s a cat’s paw.

      • TM is clearly skipping, ignoring, or screwing up doing FMEAs. But there’s no “60 Minutes” or “Dateline NBC” investigations talking to the victims and the families thereof. There’s no “Mother Jones” doing exposes. There’s no “Consumer Reports” running test after test to see where the cars fail. There’s no “Ralph Nader” writing books on how some little difference from conventional automobiles makes them unsafe. There’s no “Joan Claybrook” calling for more regulation to stop the dangers. All the usual suspects and their successors are strangely quiet.

        There was a witch hunt and misinformation in the media about what came down to a GM engineer misdiagnosing a field failure that landed on his desk and then boxes he checked on the engineering change notice. No I have no inside knowledge at GM, just a couple decades in engineering so I know how the media is misleading people from the facts they did report. Does anything like that happen to TM? Nope. And their design failures are due to bungling or not doing a very important step in some form or fashion.

        And now the inspection is apparently spreading and killing more people. As I read about the 737 Max 8 issues it appears that because of regulation for certifying pilots they had to use a modified 737 airframe and then make it fly like a regular 737 with software. That software has glaring issues that should have come up in a FMEA. But a FMEA is a mechanical engineering step. Software people don’t know or care and they are put above mechanical engineering these days.

        And that’s where we are. They aren’t being held to account. But if some mechanical engineer fails to figure out a difficult problem of why the part on his desk failed, then crucify him.

  6. Its a 500 not a 511 and the v16 was only 452 ci. Took me 2 minutes to find the real numbers even though I knew them offhand, you should take the 2 minutes to verify before publication.

  7. “Metricsexual” Eric you have a great way with words.
    What’s that baby do in the 500meter? 0.15 minutes that’s pretty uh fast man. I think….

  8. To me this sounds more like a globalist push for metric. I fear that other companies will follow suit.
    *Maybe* Cadillac is smart enough to figure out that “2.0” sounds lame from a marketing perspective.
    I hope Cadillac, and maybe GM, will soon go under.

  9. This is definitely a marketing scam. The car has 367 NM and is advertised as 400?! Also who the heck knows what a NM is. I guess 367 nm translate to 287lbs of torque. This is just sad and confusing. Cadillac will probably end this NM badging after everyone gets angry their car they thought had 400 lbs of torque doesn’t.

  10. “He does not mention the autopsy room silence, the lack of anything resembling passion – of interest to the living.” BRILLIANT!

  11. How long before the acceleration of these electric cars are artificially/software inhibited? He talks about early torque and acceleration now, but give it a few years and we’ll see a new press release about a non-compete agreement between the automakers of a fixed 0-60 (or 0-100kph) time of 8.76 seconds. Any faster would be unsafe.

    Such a shame what has happened to GM and this country. I still like many of their products, I like the way the company does certain things, but how could you trust anything they put out given their history and the knowledge of what the people up top think and do.

  12. Well, the old saying was that you bought horsepower, but would drive torque. Maybe they can get their tire-kickers past that first part, but I think that’s going to be a tough one.

    Or maybe they’re taking the “Spinal Tap” approach and have Nigel explain that this one goes to 400, and well that’s 50 more, innit?

  13. Outside of the new Alfa Romeo Guilia and Stelvio lines, there’s not a single new car that I would buy.
    I wish that GM stock prices would start tanking right now so that we have a chance of ousting that cancer called Mary Berra

  14. You make an interesting point about the 2.0L fours. I knew this to be the case (someone figured out that 500cc per cylinder with a specific bore and stroke is best for emissions, bet they’re a ton of fun at parties), but it’s still annoying. It used to be the standard four-cylinder displacements were 1.6 and 2.0 liters because of racing regulations, now it’s 1.4 and 2.0 liters because of emissions. While displacement limits are one of the reasons I don’t like sanctioned racing, I’d rather have displacements set by that than by emiiiiiiiissions.

    Oh by the way, when’s your rant about liters and meters getting where they shouldn’t coming out?

  15. GM says they are going to make a CT6 V8, 4.2L TT. Who knows. Now I wouldn’t call it a proper V8, because I’m still a believer in larger displacement non-turbo V8’s, and why I currently drive a Chyrsler 300 V8 (5.7), and while smaller, a Ford F150 V8 (5.0 non-turbo).

  16. The 1972 Eldorado had a metal “8.0 Litre” badge on each side of the front fenders near the door jamb. and on the trunk lid, too.

    • The video was awesome. I’ve never heard of that band. The mullets, the leather pants, the over-done bleached perm, so 80s!
      Today, of course, they would both get seatbelt tickets and she would go to the slammer for picking up that underage kid.

      • Sorry gtc. I accidentally replied my non sequitur musings to your comment. I didn’t mean to. There’s no way to delete it and repost.

  17. So sad what has become of Cadillac due to the homogenized, no-thinking-out-of-the-box execs there. None of these people are truly car guys or gals. Their number one mission is to be “sustainable” and “environmentally friendly”…. screw all of that!

    By the way, I discovered you a few years back when listening to past episodes of The Tom Woods podcast and love your content! I stopped reading the old wall auto mags a few years back since they all go along with the current trends in the auto industry (they never analyze the underlying rational and efficacy of current auto design and engine technology as you do!)

    As a child in around ’72 or so (I’m 56 today), I began to clip out pictures of mostly GM full sized yachts (Cadillacs in particular) and put them in a prized scrap book. I loved the design of full-sized cars from the mid to late sixties through the mid 70s. I remember the last year I added photos to my scrap book was ’76, the next year the full sized GM boats were boxy and downsized (and boring!) in the first shot over the bow to comply with federal regs. The Cadillac Eldorado lasted in its lusty form for one more year, then it, too, was downsized (destroyed) in ’78.

  18. Yeah… no

    Why I don’t care for Government Motors in the first place with this BS and why in the future, when every sheeple and their tool parents are “Buying” new Autonomous cars, I’ll have a collection of 90’s cars, maybe one or two ’00 sports car as well.

    Mark my words, I’m no Nostradamus, but the used car market will explode, with those who know going for what they want while the rest of the people who wake up will have to deal with gouged prices that make dealers look modest

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