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GM plans to roll out Cadillac ELR, a luxury electric compact car

The Cadillac ELR will use a drivetrain similar to what GM developed for the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt.

August 18, 2011|By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
  • The Cadillac ELR luxury compact car will use a drivetrain similar to the one on the Chevrolet Volt.
The Cadillac ELR luxury compact car will use a drivetrain similar to the… (General Motors )

Cadillac, the upscale General Motors Co. brand, plans to come out with a luxury electric compact car — based on the decidedly blue-collar Chevrolet Volt.

GM said Wednesday that the Cadillac ELR will use a drivetrain similar to what it developed for the Chevrolet Volt, which will enable the new model to travel some distance on only electricity before a gas motor kicks in to act as a generator and extend the vehicle's range.

Such a system is known as a series plug-in hybrid vehicle, but others, including GM, call it an extended-range electric vehicle. The Volt can go about 35 miles on electricity before the engine starts and extends the range at least an additional 300 miles.

"Like other milestone Cadillac models of the past, the ELR will offer something not otherwise present — the combination of electric propulsion with striking design and the fun of luxury coupe driving," said Don Butler, vice president of Cadillac marketing.

The automaker did not release information on pricing or when it goes on sale, but the Volt — which is by no means a luxury car — is expensive compared with other compact cars. A mid-trim-level Volt is about $35,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit but before sales tax and registration fees.

The electric car is part of a strategy by Cadillac to broaden its offering to better compete with German luxury car builders and other upmarket autos, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with auto information company

"They want to attract the lifestyle purchasers who aren't necessarily concerned about saving a few dollars on gas, but want an environmentally conscious choice without giving up the amenities they are used to," Toprak said.

Sales could be decent "if they execute it well," he said.

Cadillac said this month that it plans to come out with a compact luxury car aimed squarely at BMW's highly successful 3-series models, filling a gap in its product offering. Cadillac trails luxury makers BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus in annual sales, but is ahead of Audi and Infiniti.

The ELR will compete with vehicles such as Tesla's Model S, a battery-electric vehicle that is scheduled to go into production next year, and the Lincoln MKZ hybrid, which packages conventional hybrid technology in a luxury car and has started to gain some traction among eco-conscious drivers.

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