The throngs of onlookers ogling Cadillac's Elmiraj concept at the Los Angeles Auto Show last month were nice. But Clay Dean, head of global advanced design for General Motors, had another audience in mind: the GM brass who ultimately would need to OK a production version of the big coupe.
"The people who really needed to do the decision making didn't really understand the car until it was shown externally" at an unveiling in Pebble Beach in August, Dean said. "Then they saw the response. And immediately it became, 'Well, clearly we need to be doing this.'"
Dean says the vast majority of GM's concept cars never see the light of day -- and he prefers it that way. Showing one tips GM's hand on its future product plans. And it's more costly. Dean estimates that it took GM's advanced design studio in North Hollywood, Calif., an extra $2 million to $3 million and 18 months to prep the Elmiraj for public consumption, as opposed to an internal concept
But there was a faction inside GM that just didn't get the allure of a big, spacious two-door, Dean said. "We had people internally saying, 'Why are you doing that? Who does that?'" he said. "It's because nobody is doing it. It's a place to win."
Dean stopped short of saying that GM leaders have green-lighted the Elmiraj. But the buzz -- Automotive News sibling Autoweek called it "the sexiest thing to come from Detroit in decades" -- clearly seems to have emboldened GM execs.