Cadillac makes the case for the ELR electric luxury coupe - and wants to compete with Tesla.
It would be reasonable to state that the Chicago Auto Show (CAS) is not generally known for its showstoppers since many manufacturers choose to focus their attention on the Geneva Auto Show instead and only showcase a small portion of their lineup and often omit their new prototypes. Despite it's somewhat disappointing reputation, this year's Chicago Auto Show held at the city's McCormick Place displayed something quite special, Cadillac's breathtaking ELR Coupe.
Though the Cadillac ELR shares the same propulsion system as the Chevrolet Volt, it develops 201 hp (61 hp more than the Volt) and whilst this isn't an abundance of power, Cadillac's Global Marketing Director Jim Vurpillat believes that there's enough to "enjoy the hell out of it". The car also features "regen on demand" shifter paddles that drivers can apply as a breaking mechanism and recharge their battery. Other luxury features are generous amounts of wood, suede and carbon fiber trimmings that are well above both the Volt and Cadillac CTS coupe. The driver display is based on the software that we first saw in the XTS sedan, but features some updated graphics and there is, of course, Cadillac's CUE entertainment system that could use some improvements especially in the performance department.
The ELR will also integrate GM's flexible app framework, which will allow drivers and passengers to download apps to the car's entertainment system and its proprietary Linux OS version. GM currently provides an SDK and encourages developers to create HTML5 apps that can only read APIs at this time and will be offered through a curated GM app store. The manufacturer told us that the technology will become available in 2014 model year cars and may offer apps that, for example, encourage effective driving or allow drivers to select between private and business trips that may provide a detailed expense report.
According to Vurpillat, there is confidence at Cadillac that the ELR will be profitable and attract a different kind of attention than the Volt, which has so far sold well below expectations and results in a rumored $2,500 loss per unit sold. Vurpillat told us that the ELR will find male and female buyers among "well-educated, wealthy individuals" and will be cross-shopped with Tesla's cars. Though competing with Tesla is new territory for GM, Vurpillat believes that the fact that the company has manufactured cars for "100 years", has a known dealer network and a credible service history may bring buyers to Cadillac showrooms. He also noted that the electric vehicle market "will dramatically change over the next three years" and that the company will be able to leverage the ELR as a flagship and "halo car" in this transition. Rather than creating a new brand and building cars that have their own design language such as BMW's i cars, Vurpillat believes that a vehicle that seamlessly integrates with an existing lineup will be key to success.
As a "luxury offering", Vurpillat mentioned price points in the range of the BMW 6-series, Mercedes E-class coupe, as well as the Tesla Model S but has remained tight-lipped on an exact price and only state that their would be a $5,000 difference between a base and fully-loaded ELR. Given the car's stated competitors, it appears that the starting price will be between $50,000 to $75,000 and is likely closer to the latter price in order to differentiate it from the aforementioned CTS coupe.