In other words, a decision to electrify the Cadillac Elmiraj could be GM's largest multi-billion dollar market-cap win in more than 50 years.
Or, Cadillac -- just like BlackBerry and Nokia in 2007 -- could just ignore the new technology shift and wait to hit the wall within the next three years.
Of course, electrifying only the Elmiraj will not be sufficient for Cadillac's Tesla challenge. Many people I know who already have a Tesla, Chevy Volt or Nissan LEAF are asking for an electrified Cadillac Escalade SUV. The biggest hole in the luxury market right now is a 3-row, 6-7 seat, electrified SUV/minivan.
You might be asking: What about all-electric vs. Volt-style range-extended electric? In brief, you need to offer both, not necessarily as variants of the same model, but rather in different cars optimized for each architecture.
GM has had a huge success in record customer satisfaction for the Chevy Volt, so it's clear that this architecture could be leveraged into larger vehicles such as the Elmiraj, SUVs and minivans. It's also clear that the market for all-electric cars is growing like weeds, as evidenced by Tesla.
Cadillac would do itself a favor and avoid launching 100-mile range electric cars, such as what BMW and Mercedes are doing in the coming months. An all-electric car needs to deliver at least 250-300 miles of range, in order to compete with Tesla. GM can do this: It's not a matter of technology; it's a matter of will.
Going forward, Cadillac has a choice: Look backward to 1967, or pre-World War I, for inspiration, or look forward to the new technology. The self-serving automotive press will praise it for doing the former, whereas the actual customers will only buy Cadillac if it manages to build upon the Volt and ELR in order to challenge the new undisputed market leader: Tesla.
At least with the Elmiraj, we now know Cadillac will be praised as having the industry's most beautiful exterior design. Whatever any other doubts may be, the one thing we now know is that Cadillac's exterior design team is second to no one, as evidenced by not only the Elmiraj, but also the
concept car from two years ago.
Changing the Elmiraj concept car drivetrain to an evolved and more powerful version of the Volt/ELR is a very easy proposition for GM. Customers only care about that it plugs in; the car otherwise looks the same.
In many ways, the Elmiraj becomes the ELR's big brother. Harkening back to the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado, Cadillac may simply want to call it the Electric Dorado. The rest of us -- investors and consumers alike -- may simply call it the Tesla Killer.
At the time of publication, Wahlman was long AAPL and short MSFT.
This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.