Published: August 15, 2014
2014 Cadillac ELR
By John Voelcker, special from Green Car Reports
Mark Reuss, the head of global product development for General Motors, has acknowledged that GM may not have a vehicle that competes directly with the Tesla Model S electric luxury sedan.
Speaking yesterday at a business breakfast associated with the weekend's Dream Cruise event in Detroit, Reuss called Tesla “completely serious competitor in every way." His quote appeared in The Detroit News this morning.
But, he acknowledged, the slow-selling and very expensive 2014 Cadillac ELR range-extended electric luxury coupe introduced last December is "a different car" at "a different price point" that uses "way-different technology."
The ELR is based on a higher-performing version of the Voltec range-extended electric powertrain first launched in the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.
In the ELR, a 117-kilowatt (157-horsepower) electric motor drives the wheels directly using energy stored in a lithium-ion battery pack, giving 35 to 40 miles of range.
After that, a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine switches on to power a generator that produces more electricity to give it another 300 or so miles of range (and occasionally clutches into the drivetrain directly to assist the electric motor).
The Tesla Model S is a battery-electric car without a range extender, with a choice of a 270-kW (362-hp) or 310-kW (416-hp) electric motor that powers the rear wheels, giving EPA-rated ranges of 208 or 265 miles.
The prices of the two vehicles are relatively similar, however. A base Tesla Model S starts at $69,900 and the ELR starts at $75,000 (both prices before any incentives).
GM's then-CEO Dan Akerson said last fall that to compete directly with Tesla, the company would have to use its luxury Cadillac brand, whose products share little with most other GM vehicles and are mostly based on rear-wheel-drive architectures.
The company planned to take on Tesla Motors with a Cadillac at one point, he suggested, without describing how it would do so.
Through the end of July, Cadillac had sold just 584 ELRs over eight months, and the coupe is now being offered with five-figure incentives.
The Dream Cruise, incidentally, is a weekend event in which tens of thousands of classic, collector, and new cars cruise many miles of Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
It started as a sort of hot-rod gathering, but has grown into a huge cruising and marketing event watched from the sidelines by hundreds of thousands of people in the city of Detroit and several suburbs along the avenue.