The Great Cadillac ELR and GM's Dilemna

By · January 23, 2013

Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid at NAIAS

Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid at NAIAS

Along with the new Corvette, the Cadillac ELR was one of the most eagerly awaited cars at the Detroit motor show this year. But while there have been six generations of Corvette before, there has never truly been a green Cadillac. Yes, the brand which has been best known for its land yachts is now making plug-in hybrids.

It's a great moment and from what we know, a great car as well. The ELR is a Chevrolet Volt on steroids redesigned by a plastic surgeon who could make a fortune in Hollywood. Everything good in the Volt has been made better, while things less good have been rendered less important. Only two people can sit in the back of a Volt and its trunk is smallish, but this ELR is a two-door so nobody will complain here. The better is more performance, with smart engineering because the hardware is the same as the Volt.

The only real difference is in the software. The electronics pump out more juice from the battery, translating into more power sent to the wheels. GM has not revealed any official data yet but the rumor is that it has shaved one second in the 0 to 60 mph exercise. Pretty good considering the Volt is no slouch.

There's a downside though. The extra power and extra weight due to all of the luxurious appointments and equipments have slightly reduced the ELR's range in electric mode. It's down to 35 from 38 miles.

Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid at NAIAS

Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid at NAIAS

Thankfully, this is a car that could sell on looks alone. The Tesla Model S sure looks fine, but it looks like several other cars whereas this design is truly unique and distinctive—it stands out everywhere. The two-door CTS was nice but this ELR is even better. As a green-minded European, I may add that this is the first Cadillac ever I would be happy to own and drive everyday (OK, I have said once that I wanted a '59 Eldorado, but I was drunk).

In Europe, this Cadillac ELR may even sell better than the Volt, because Chevrolet is seen as a value brand on this side of the Atlantic. It's quite successful with little Korean imports like the Spark or the Sonic, but everything above the Cruze is a hard sell. With an upmarket badge, the ELR may have more of a chance, though sales shall remain marginal. It's the American market that matters here, and that is where GM's plug-in hybrid technology will face its ultimate test.

Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid at NAIAS

Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid at NAIAS

The Chevrolet Volt has sold poorly so far. By this I don't just mean that sales were below expectations (though they were,) I mean the transaction prices have been very low. The Volt's $39,145 MSRP is for little old ladies. Most cars were leased under very customer-friendly conditions. It is possible to lease a Chevrolet Volt for less money than a Lexus with a similar price.

Cadillac has yet to give any information regarding pricing on the ELR, but the brand has a tough question to answer. How much more will customers be willing to pay for the ELR compared to a Volt? What are a sharper design and a luxurious interior worth?

On the one hand, Volt owners may hope that the ELR is expensive. They will think they had a great deal with their car. A high price for the ELR may even help make the Volt more desirable. But on the other hand, I hope that the ELR will be successful in the marketplace (so that I can soon afford a used one,) and that will require more aggressive pricing and lease terms.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

Here's why I think the ELR has a good chance of selling quite well. The Volt is more expensive than the Leaf but the Volt is selling much better than the Leaf (in the US). The Leaf is more expensive than the Mitsubishi i-Miev but the Leaf is selling much, much better than the i-Car. People are willing to pay more if they have the feeling they are getting a better vehicle.

· · 1 year ago

ELR will be a limited production car. They will easily sell all of them.

· · 1 year ago

Laurent,

I think saying that the Volt has sold poorly is disingenuous. Name any other $40k+ Hybrid, EV, etc... that has sold more? If they Volt was the price of the Prius then the numbers wouldn't be as good. Heck for a $40k+ car it is selling better than a lot of traditional ICE vehicles as well.

· · 1 year ago

Laurent wrote this:
"Most cars were leased under very customer-friendly conditions. It is possible to lease a Chevrolet Volt for less money than a Lexus with a similar price. "

That is b/c the Leasing company gets the US federal tax credit of $7,500. So, the discount is due to that. I would sure hope the writer knows that...

BTW, Volt sells better than more than half of the all US models and It is selling way better than your Leaf in the US...

· · 1 year ago

@ · ModernMarvelFan ·

Laurent is talking about Volt sales in EU - which have been disappointing.

· · 1 year ago

No EVnow, Laurent did not specify EU,where the car is mainly sold not as a Volt but as an Ampera which he did not mention.

How is 35 AER miles a dilemma compared to ZERO AER for a $75k BMW 640i coupe and ZERO AER for a $72k Mercedes Benz CLS550 coupe? I don't know why so many people are demanding the ELR be fairly priced in the low $50k range when GM is probably licking their chops as they target these 'base model' coupes of two of the most prestigious brands in the world.

The ELR has no competition among any rank of automobile, and I hope GM makes as much money as they deserve to make on a car that will undoubtedly bring pride and high satisfaction to any well-heeled buyer who has the $$ and the smarts to get one.

· · 1 year ago

@Tra2S,

Technically, he did specify EU in the preceding paragraph.

"In Europe, this Cadillac ELR may even sell better than the Volt...

...photo...

The Chevrolet Volt has sold poorly so far..."

The implication is pretty clear, especially if you are a regular reader here. It's pretty much a given that Laurent speaks for the European market.

· · 1 year ago

@Brian -

I have not been here very long, but since when do writers expect readers to read their minds? When a writer says "The CHEVROLET VOLT has sold poorly so far...." how can a reader be expected to conclude otherwise? Anyone speaking for the European market where both the Volt and Ampera are sold needs to mention both if she means both. We are readers - not mindreaders.

· · 1 year ago

I meant Volt sales were low in the US. Actually, low in America and very low in Europe. Expectations were higher. There were 23,000 Volt sold last year in the US and 84,000 Camaro. That is a very valid comparison. As long as the Camaro outsells the Volt, there is something wrong.

· · 1 year ago

Laurent, I think you are taking the 'glass is half empty' point of view on Volt sales. You mention expectations - whatever people believed could happen back when the Volt was nearing its debut was based upon little more than hope. No automobile reliant upon electricity up to that point in history had ever found the kind of success the Volt was hoped to receive. The Volt had much going against it - skepticism against it was raging, GM was bankrupt and widely disrespected and even hated, yet within two years in the US, it broke past the early adopters, began attracting the mass market consumer and became by far the biggest selling plug-in with consistent sales. So - please justify your opinion that Volt sales are a disappointment.

· · 1 year ago

And by the way, comparing the Volt to the Camaro is like comparing apples to oranges, and thus is a poor argument.

· · 1 year ago

I stand corrected on Laurent's statement.

As for the Volt's headwinds, you make some good points. Also, don't forget the fact that in the US, it was a political football in an election year. Using the fires especially to scare people, many politicians were using the Volt as proof of Obama's failures. As a result, many people who were anti-Obama were instantly converted to anti-Volt. As the election neared and passed, the anti-Volt rhetoric all but died. And sales have been going up. I doubt that there isn't a connection here.

· · 1 year ago

@Laurent,

Can you list all the cars that is $40k or more that sell more than the Volt?

Also, Can you list all the cars that is $40k or more that sell less than the Volt?

You should see why comparing a Camaro to the Volt is silly...

Also, let us comparing the other "EV darling" Leaf's sales to Toyota Corolla and your point is?

· · 1 year ago

@Laurent,

Hi! Could you give me your impression as to whether the Volt and ELR are considered "Large" cars in Paris? Thank you.

· · 1 year ago

Just to comment on Laurent's prior point, Petrol is (or do they call it gasoline in Paris?) Euro 0,73 per litre at the highest in the US with electricity Eur 0,09 / kilowatt-hour, in most of the US. So, unless there are governmental assists, EV's will remain a fringe item unfortunately here.

· · 1 year ago

There are many options for the Camaro, a convertible also. With the tax deduction for the Volt, I believe both cars sell for about the same price, but I see that the Camaro which needs lots of expensive fuel finds more buyers than the Volt which costs peanuts to run on cheap electricity.

I understand the 2 cars are different, but I think it would be more logical for the Volt to attract more buyers. Volt sales are much higher than the Leaf, and that's a good point, but many had hoped them to be even higher.

The Volt is not really a large car in Europe, Mercedes E-class is.

· · 1 year ago

The "knucklheads" that buy Camaro are certainly NOT the same demographics that buy Volt.

Also, Camaro is a "value" sports car and Volt is a "green" car. Different segment.

Did you complain about Prius's sales in its first 2 model years too?

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