Vellum Venom Vignette: Consumerism, greenwashing, and the American EV


The joy of being a consumer in the Greatest Nation in the World is in the fact that we can have our cake and eat it too. Well, provided we don’t dig too deep into the sad reality of our situation, as I recently did when treating myself to a new suit. Personal health goals made the gift to me a reality, but someone who makes a big deal about car design on the Internet should probably look the part, too. Fashion in general is spiritual window dressing, but Fast Fashion is a problem for all. So I did a little online window shopping, seeing what all the fuss is about without contributing to our society’s demise with a foolish purchase.

I checked out the latest Chinese fashion app, the website of that Spanish fashion retailer found at my local mall, and traditional offerings from physical locations of various price points. (Time was of the essence, so no custom stuff for me.) I wound up buying a more expensive suit from an American brand sporting a webpage that’s littered, so to speak, with unabashed greenwashing. For those who don’t know, greenwashing is the practice of misleading the public about a company’s environmental impact, a derivative of the more common practice of whitewashing one’s sins for improved public perception.

2025 Cadillac Escalade interior front driver
Real talk: I look just as suave as this dude, I just lack the ‘Lades big screen on my dash. GM

Greenwashing is a fantastic feel-good sales tactic, as it lets us continue to design/manufacture/purchase whatever we want with fewer consequences. The fashion industry, fast or otherwise, is a dicey proposition: the American brand I chose gave me a suit with an admirable amount of recycled materials, but they are likely greenwashing with a consortium of questionable utility. It’s a utility not unlike that of buying a 2025 Cadillac Escalade IQ, the latest EV from General Motors.

2021 Nissan Leaf front

We can’t have our EV cake and eat it too, as seen by the Escalade IQ’s massive 200-kWh battery pack (similar to that of the Hummer), and its prestigious 750-horsepower punch. Nobody in this country fetishizes the utilitarian, downright noble demeanor of Nissan’s Leaf (even if they probably should). Nissan’s EV is the equivalent of thrift store shopping for fast fashion, while everyone else lusts for a vehicle that meets both their needs and their aspirations.

The somewhat affordable Tesla Model 3 (or any used Tesla at this point) is a mixed bag of intenders, including aspirational BMW 3-series buyers, torque junkie street racer/SCCA autocross types, and virtue signaling environmental enablers like the once-stereotypical Prius owner from 17 years ago. The cake analogy goes to full-on “let them eat cake” as the price tag climbs, because the new Escalade IQ might be the luxurious, high-performance, greenwashed Fleetwood Talisman of our era.

2025 Cadillac Escalade rear three quarter

Enough with the cake analogy, you say? Perhaps instead let’s focus on how automakers make the nut these days. Well, at least those outside of China. We almost exclusively design/market/retail EVs on the merits of prestige. Call it a cult, call it a validation of concept forged by the 2012 Tesla Model S, but the parallels between fast fashion and North American EVs end when our collective wallets open. Because while you can wear fast fashion and sit in the back of an Uber Black, you should be full on Burberry to purchase a new one for yourself.

Oh, but we love this vehicle at any age, any price point. The sheer number of zip codes that fell in love with Cadillac’s rebadged GMC Denali luxurious take on the Sport Utility Vehicle was astonishing. Suburbs needed the big Caddy over the minivan. Big cities needed it for flash in areas with poor coverage from Land Rover’s once-frail dealer network. And anyone who needed a truck or custom van for hauling big toys now had a Cadillac for recreational activities. The impact of this vehicle cannot be understated, especially since it stuck out like a sore thumb in Cadillac’s portfolio from the Art and Design era.

No doubt, the runaway success of the Escalade, the Escalade ESV, and even the Escalade EXT was a big middle finger to Cadillac’s corporate planners and designers, as they were crafting a prestigious image intended to steal BMW’s glory. Which rarely worked, and is another reason why we love the Escalade. A stunning rejection of modernity is fun, and the “IQ” derivative will likely make a similar impact in the EV space.

It’ll certainly extend the Escalade as a brand to a new demographic, and could turn into a pop culture icon just as quickly as select Cadillacs before it. The Escalade IQ’s proportioning is distinctly long hooded, looking more like a cab-backward station wagon than any SUV before it. Gone are the “real” Escalade’s upright pillars, though the latest gasoline-powered greenhouse also distances itself from tradition. The A/B/C pillars presented here are almost Land Roverian, while the D-pillar is a clarion call to soccer moms in their Lexus RX crossovers.

2025 Cadillac Escalade front three quarter

The Escalade IQ’s front end has those same large swaths of blacked-out trim and a down-the-road graphic worthy of Cadillac’s other EVs (the Lyriq and Celestiq) for maximum brand recognition. Tesla fascias are surfaced to look cheap minimalist, and Cadillac clearly wants none of that.

Cadillac, as with most premium brands, also seeks differentiation with unique lighting elements at the rear. The Escalade IQ finally deviates from a posterior heavily derived from that of a Chevrolet Tahoe. It’s about as unique as yesteryear’s tail fins and blends nicely with the DNA present in its Lyriq and Celestiq EV sisterships. It’s a softer, more approachable Cadillac SUV. Or is it?

2025 Cadillac Escalade front end vertical

While the Escalade IQ’s overall design looks like it’s catering to a “softer” EV crowd, don’t let the contours fool you: Everything is festooned on a shockingly upright fascia. That nose will be just as intimidating to pedestrians as any GM truck, making it clear this American EV isn’t here for saving the world. It might greenwash better than the Hummer EV before it, but that’s a low bar to clear.

Instead, this is a greenwashed take on what Cadillac’s SUV has always done: be an aspirational purchase for millions of fans, a place of respect and admiration for all occupants, and exist as both a noun and a verb in pop culture. Making the Escalade go EV won’t change the mission; it will only add more fans to its gasoline-fueled base.




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    Once I left the corporate world, I swore I’d never wear a suit again, so I can’t relate very well to what “fashion” says is cool nowadays (living on a ranch in rural Idaho tends to separate me from those who wear the latest trends). But I know what I like, and I’ve NEVER liked Escalades – ICE-powered or EV, doesn’t matter to me. “Working SUV” and “Pretentious SOB” don’t seem to go together very well in my lexicon.
    Only my opinion.
    Of course the marketing types are going to greenwash this type of vehicle, and of course there are going to be some Karens and Kens out there who delude themselves into falling for it. How many people still believe that drinking “pure mountain spring water” in a plastic bottle is good for them?
    B-T-W, anyone interested in buying my old office-worker tie collection? They were all created by free-range silkworms that were fed nothing but organic mulch – which, as it decomposed, put off just the right amount of warmth to keep the tie factory from needing to tap into the grid (the sewing machines were all treadle-powered). I will package them in bleach-free natural wood fiber containers and ship them via an all-EV courier to your door.

    I bought this suit for a wedding (not mine!) but many an event in Houston is formal enough to require a nice suit. So I am happy to oblige, and I’d take your tie collection if I wasn’t a full time, work from home, automotive journalist these days. And I have enough ties already 🙂

    I have a sports car book from before WW2, with very few exceptions every vehicle is under 3 liters, even Aston Martins at the time were only 2.5 liters. Oh yea and they had one other thing going for them long since forgotten, they were FUN.Of course you couldn’t drive an Austin 7 around today as our overweight safety influenced culture not to mention cell phone zombies would roll over you.
    Still it might be worth noting lots of coal running out of Australia to Asia is fueling the Green Revolution as both necessary in making steel and running the factories making the batteries and electronics.

    Cadillacs 80s up never really caught my eye, until “art and design era”… some of those are great.

    Escalades have always felt silly to me. I do get a kick out of the backyard hotrodders swapping the front clips onto older truck platforms around here (not sure that is so easy to do on the more-recent generations). Factory-esque phantom customs I can appreciate.

    big EV = more weight and bigger batteries and seems entirely counter-productive to the whole reason for chasing this tech in the first place (smaller environmental impact). Maybe when body panels are solid-state battery cells made from pressed cellulose hung over a birdcage chassis of laminated bamboo the math will add up?

    Wow, that last sentence should get at least 1,000 automotive engineers fired for not thinking of those ideas! I love it!

    Contrary to what they say automakers are not hugging trees. They are just trying to meet regulations and still sell products people will buy.

    I think you will find few folks lining up for solar bamboo cars.

    There is a ton of things they could do to be greener but the buying public as a whole still want larger vehicles with some utility to do as they like.

    Most sedans today will not carry 75% of what a mid sized 1980’s car would carry. People do not want to be unboxing or getting to parking lots to find models where they can fit a cube shaped box in their trunk.

    The size of a 1940 Ford sedan is about the average size of most popular vehicles over the years. Today that size is closest to the SUV and medium CUV models. It has a similar foot print and space.

    My father never owned a truck but his Chevelles all could carry plenty in the trunk and on the roof he hauled a number of panels and plywood with 2×4 tied on top. It did not smash the sheet metal back then.

    This is all about survival of the industry from government regs and still supply models people will want to buy.

    Large SUV models are built because they sell and they make money.

    EVs are the biggest greenwash going. As long as electricity is made burning fossil fuel EVs will have much larger environmental impact than ICE. The manufacturers are the ones pushing EVs because of lower manufacturing costs. Consider how many precision parts go into making an engine as opposed to making an electric motor/battery combination. Plus all of the logistics and expense of assembling all of those ICE components. That all adds up to a higher profit margin for maunfacturers!

    The EV is lower mfg cost labor wise but more material wise. They still cost more than ice until they can get a cheaper battery.

    What you say may be true in the future but right now it is near impossible to make money on a low priced EV.

    The automakers are struggling to to pay for these programs. Ford laid off 6,000 engineers to fund their coming platform and still may need to partner with another mfg to fund their full program.

    GM is using their truck profit to pay. FCM merged to find theirs. Sone mfgs may not survive.

    Even Honda has had to partner with GM to jump start 5heir program.

    Any greenwashing is by the far left political folks and by the radical environmental groups.

    I often ponder that their goals are to cripple our economy so that we would be more open to global decrees or laws that we have resisted. Giving away our sovereignty to others is a very shaky deal for our country to remain strong and independent.

    They pass the material costs to the consumer. No money off the bottom line but lower manufacturing cost at the same price point. Win to the bottom line.

    Please supply your source of information that proves that EVs cause a greater environmental impact than ICEs. All of the reports I’ve seen so far that have made that statement have had numbers quoted have been total fabrications.

    Think about it. You burn fossil fuel to heat water to steam to spin a turbine (about 30% efficient). Then you use the steam pressure to spin a turbine (about 85% efficient). The turbine then spins a generator to make electricity (95% efficient). Send the power through the grid to somewhere near your house (90% efficient). Transform the power to an intermediate voltage to be able to distribute it through a locality (90% efficient). Transform the power once it gets to your neighborhood to something your house can accept (90% efficient). Run the power through a charger at your house to something that your EV can use to charge with (90% efficient). Convert the electrical energy to chemical energy in the EV batteries (80% efficient depending on charge rate). Convert the chemical energy to electrical from the batteries (80% efficient depending on acceleration). Modulate the power from the batteries to the motor(s) so you can control the speed/power output of the motors (90% efficient). Convert the electrical energy to mechanical energy via the motor (90% efficient). Extra weight of EV due to batteries and motor controls. (A Tesla model 3 weighs about as much as a 3/4 ton pickup fully loaded). There are some other losses that will also be in ICE vehicles so I will ignore them.

    ICE motor 30% efficient.

    Taking this into account you will put more CO2 in the air with an EV and more other pollutants as well.

    By the way I worked at the Solar City solar panel manufacturing plant (later Tesla) and they refused to install solar panels at any of the plants due to high cost.

    This article seems to discount those of us that have a number of kids and are engaged in fun activities. Perhaps the cadillac badge and trim is excess, but the size is nice for those of us hauling mountain bikes, snowboards, camping stuff, etc.. If you think that having fun is excess, and we must give these things up for the green future and tiny electric cars, you and I have different views on what an ideal future should be.

    Also, you changed the word “greenwashing” from what many of us naysayers have been using the word for, which is disregarding the ethical labor practices and resource sourcing for these EVs (including the Leaf), and you applied it instead to those that produce and want a bigger nicer vehicle. An interesting move, but can’t help but wonder why.

    I specifically mentioned how the Escalade is a great alternative to a truck or custom van for recreational activities: there was no discounting intended, I assure you.

    Greenwashing is a broad term that accommodates your definition. In fact, your definition is also part of my definition. Perhaps I apply it more broadly than most in the autoblogosphere (because I also mentioned Fast Fashion) but Greenwashing is a big tent with room for all.

    Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

    A couple of decades ago when Ford rolled out their Excursion to outdo, in length, Chevy’s Suburban, I recall a droll comment about a 100lb woman using a 6000lb vehicle to shop for half a dozen eggs.

    Or like the contractor I used that pulled a trailer and bobcat with his and supplies in the back.

    Free country to use it as you wish. If she wants to pay for the gas that is on her.

    Currently, any number above “0”, due to all the paraphernalia society now mandates you “must have” to raise, entertain, and lastly, by a large margin, educate a modern human child.

    I had a 63 ford that could hold two mountain bikes in the trunk with the lid closed.

    My Acadia can still do the same job at twice the mpg.

    My Malibu could if I disassemble them. Not a good thing.

    My wife has large items she needs for work and her Acadia moves them all very easy and averages 21 mpg all day around town.

    We needed our SUV to haul out only child’s soap box derby car. The wife also uses it for hauling at work. It saved us a trailer and lower mpg pulling that trailer.

    21 mpg all day my Malibu 19 mpg.

    Lets be fair and honest here. There is truth but also some bias in this story.

    Lets take the Cadillac example here and lets apply the truth of what really is going on.

    The automakers including GM are not really wanting EV models. The laws and regulations in this country with the EPA and CARB are forcing them into this.

    Also you have now several younger generations that have been highjacked by the environmental groups and fed their lies to the point they shop thinking green.

    GM and most other companies are now scrambling to perfect technology that is not perfected to meet these regulations and dead line made by activist politicians.

    While doing the EV thing they are also still trying to make cars people will want or like. They are not out to save the planet with an EV Cadillac SUV they are just trying to make the sale in a package that has been popular with ICE.

    If one was observant enough you will note GM is really becoming two companies. One will have EV models and one will ICE focused till they can no longer offer both. This is why we have a Gas Blazer and EV Blazer. This is why we have a ICE Truck and EV Truck. This is why we have an EV Hummer to appeal to those who are not all that green but will buy it.

    This is all about survival and making money in a very difficult future.

    The Green movement has forced most MFG to act and promote green or they will get trashed in the web media. The special interest groups have been holding out mfg hostage to do what they want them to do or say.

    At the end of the say it is all about making enough money to make the stock holders happy and you generally have to invest in and say things you normally would not do due to the forces pressed on you.

    Cadillac is going all EV early as one they can support the higher price and two they have nothing to lose as these luxury divisions do not need the volume. Chevy will walk both sides as long as they can.

    GM is not making a new V8 because they are giving up on ICE. They may not make a big deal out of it but the trucks and Corvette V8 models make money and they will mine that market till they can no longer build them.

    Now ask your self do you really think Subaru really cares about starving Kittens? No it is all marketing. They all do it and if they have to send a check to a cat sanctuary to sell a car well they damn well will do it. Why because their customer base has been programed.

    As they say the customer is always right even when they aren’t.

    Nicely venomous and smooth diss of the Escalade and its latest spawn. But then, I am an extreme version of the stereotypical Escalade-hater: give me a Denali or better yet, a GMC-badged Suburban any day. If I could get a very plain one with crank windows, steel floors with heavy rubber mats, and manual vinyl seats, I would. Maybe even if it were electric, or or a hybrid. But a modest straight six diesel with a manual overdrive transmission and a long-geared differential would be icing on the cake. In short, I want the opposite of everything the Escalade is/stands for, but in the same size envelope. I would even break the habit of a lifetime and buy a new GM vehicle if such a unicorn were available. Me and the three other people left who think like me, I guess…

    This will likely sell better than the prescription drug named Celestiq or Lyriq as the Escalade name has the biggest following in modern Cadillac. I will continue to call this toaster the Escalade LowIQ™.

    I have zero interest in an EV, but I recently considered purchasing a 2010 CTS with 80, miles on it . After reading forums regarding these cars, and the number of reported issues, I decided to do some rust repair on my 2010 Malibu that owes me nothing and drive it for a couple more years. Now, I have a desire for a 2009 Pontiac G8, aka Holden Commodore also with 80k on it, but am resisting going to look at it. This car will be more of an albatross then the CTS in the years to come. .

    Beware 80 miles is not always a good thing. Old tires, dry seals, rust, old fluids mouse damage etc all can be issues of a car never driven.

    I just bought a 30k mile car over a 9k mile car as the Lower mile car needed more work. Cracked leather, paint damage a need for tires before I even drove it. The top was dried out. Etc. cars need to be driven regularly.

    Another Government mandated hoodwink. Does anyone really believe the the manufacture of lithium and disposal is better for the environment than traditional methods of making car? If you believe that I have some water front property in the Okefenokee swamp that would be a great homesite. One of these days when the tree huggers are hit with high battery recycling cost. They’ll say that “EV wasn’t such a deal after all”. You see that’s one on the things they don’t want to talk about. Imagine the billions of batteries that will be illegally dumped to avoid recycling fees. That my friend will make Chernobyl look like child’s play. Our car manufacturers have worked for decades complying with Government mandates at our expense because the R&D costs were passed on in the price tag of cars and trucks. They have gotten emissions down to a very clean level. Now the game has changed, just because John Kerry and his lame brained side kick wants to take gas powered cars off he roads. I’m an old guy and may not live to see that day when my car that goes veroom veroom is outlawed but I feel sorry for future generations that will have to live under further government control. Its all coming to fruition. Nikita Khrushchev said in 1960 “We will bury you. we will bury you from within.” It appears that our leaders are going down that road hellbent.

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