One curious development in the recent history of General Motors is the complete abandonment of tilting headrests from every one of the automaker’s vehicles. As researched by GM Authority, GM last made these available in the 2020 Buick Envision crossover and 2020 Cadillac CT6 luxury sedan, but the Envision has since been replaced by an all-new second-generation model for the 2021 model year while the CT6 has been discontinued in North America.
To clarify, we are not talking about rear-seat headrests which can be folded down, either for better visibility or to allow the seatbacks to be folded down. Those are still available. What we’re talking about is the ability of the seat’s headrest to adjust fore and aft (forward and back) to better accommodate the seating position of the driver or front passenger.
These kinds of headrests are a thing of the past on every GM model from the 2021 Chevy Spark – currently the lowest-priced car in the United States in base LS trim level and manual transmission, a combination that starts at $14,595 including destination – to the 2021 Cadillac Escalade full-size luxury SUV, which is priced to start at $77,890 but regularly sells for over $100,000.
Once a model has a tilting headrest, there is no obvious reason why the functionality should be removed, except perhaps as a cost-saving exercise. It’s worth noting that removing tilting headrests is not a trend within the auto industry, as other manufacturers – notably GM’s more than century-old rival, Ford – still offer tilting headrests even on their most affordable vehicles. In this respect, GM is an outlier.
Although this may seem to be a minor matter, tilting headrests can contribute to comfort and, less directly, to safety and vehicle control. In the era of the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, the most significant comfort feature in any car was that it could be driven while sitting down. Today, it is unthinkable that a track-oriented vehicle, to use one example, could be compromised by removing anything which prevents the driver from having the maximum possible control over it.
Of course, tilting headrests are not generally required on competition cars because they are not driven in a way that requires them, but the principle of making things as easy as possible for the occupants applies to all types of vehicles. Yet another type are luxury vehicles, particularly ones that aim for maximum comfort for its occupants. To that end, we see no reason that the Escalade (or any Cadillac, for that matter) should not include tilting headrests.