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TheStreet Open House

Elmiraj: How Cadillac Could Give Tesla a Run

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- On the surface, things are looking great at Cadillac right now. U.S. sales are up 30% year over year. The new models -- ATS, ELR and CTS -- are getting rave reviews.

That's basically what BlackBerry (BBRY) proclaimed in August 2007.

Just like the smartphone industry in 2007, the automobile industry in 2013 has just seen the advent of a major technological inflection point. In 2007, BlackBerry, Nokia (NOK), Microsoft (MSFT), Motorola Solutions (MSI) and SonyEricsson were the complacent incumbents. All of these companies -- BlackBerry, Nokia, Microsoft, Motorola and SonyEricsson -- have spent most of 2008-2013 kicking themselves for not responding earlier to Apple (AAPL). They laughed in 2007, when they should have panicked.

In Silicon Valley, we knew this. We knew it because the iPhone almost immediately became the dominant smartphone OS among the technology influencers. Any walk down Palo Alto's University Avenue in August 2007 would have confirmed this. The rest of the country -- and much of the rest of the world -- lags Silicon Valley by three to five years in technology adoption. And now, the car is suddenly not just a car anymore. It's technology, too.

Starting in late 2012, the luxury car market in Silicon Valley took a radical turn. For those of us paying attention, brand-new BMW 750, Mercedes 550 and indeed Cadillac became an extinct species in the neighborhoods and zip codes around Los Altos.

Almost overnight -- even faster than in the notoriously fast-moving smartphone market -- Tesla (TSLA) went from 0% market share to 100%. Buying a gasoline car became as socially acceptable as showing up to a business meeting with a 1999-style Nokia dumbphone.

Now, one year later, the only Cadillacs you see are the rare Hertz rental ATS's, as well as a couple of Escalade SUV's parked outside each of Silicon Valley's five finest hotels. Cadillac may be selling 30% more cars than in 2012, but this is Cadillac's canary in the coal mine, just like the June 2007 iPhone launch was BlackBerry's canary in the coal mine.

Which brings me to the Elmiraj. This is a concept car Cadillac showed for the first time last week. It's a very large ultra-luxury coupe, with Mercedes S-Class Coupe, BMW 6-series and Bentley Continental GT being the main intended competition.

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