February 26, 2021
GM's flying Cadillac concept has me puzzled

GM’s flying Cadillac concept has me puzzled


This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

Of all the things General Motors sprung on us at CES 2021, the concept of a flying Cadillac was the least likely but in some ways the most notable. Not that GM is the only big auto company dreaming of flying cars — Hyundai, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, and Porsche all have the bug — but something about the announcement from General Motors made me scratch my head about all these efforts.

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Cadillac concept vehicles are supposed to be audacious, but seldom to this degree.


General Motors

Even though those efforts are from car companies, the vehicles aren’t flying cars. They’re aircraft within a burgeoning urban air mobility sector composed of both manned and autonomous craft that carry small numbers of passengers between service points. Or, if the craft is small enough, it can go door to door. 

Morgan Stanley recently predicted that the total UAM market could be worth about $1.5 trillion by 2040 while Frost & Sullivan estimates there will be 430,000 UAM vehicles in use by 2040, starting with the Middle East market as soon as 2022. For comparison, the worldwide market for sales of cars and light trucks will be around $9 trillion by 2030, not including trillions more generated by transposition services using those vehicles.

But the UAM space seems to be targeting an elite minority of passenger cases while it would require a big shift in general public perception and infrastructure to work well. And there’s the nagging fact that things that fly suffer far greater consequences when technology fails compared to things that ply the ground. Finally, the recent shifts toward working from home, meeting remotely and having commerce delivered (perhaps via drone) all suggest that obviating our trips is lower-hanging fruit than moving those trips into the air.

OGI Toyota invests in Joby VTOL startup

Joby Aviation acquired Uber’s flying rides business and has attracted major investment from Toyota, evidence of interest in its vision of an eVTOL that is piloted, not autonomous.


Toyota/Joby

Charlie Vogelheim

Aside from an uncanny resemblance to “Maverick” Mitchell, Charlie Vogelheim has experience in both the auto marketing business and the aviation world.


Charlie Vogelheim

But Charlie Vogelheim has far fewer reservations about the idea than I do. He’s a long-time car market executive, auto journalist, pilot, flight instructor and host of a flying car podcast. If he can’t convince me, nobody can. In the video above you can hear the conversation we had a few hours after the flying Cadillac was announced. Maybe it will answer some of your questions as well.





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