GM Comes Clean: Cadillac ELR ‘Really Not’ a Tesla Rival

For all the armchair pundits and paid journalists out there sloshing around the data bits regarding ELR versus Model S, recently GM said the Volt-based coupe is not positioned as GM’s response to Tesla, but GM has previously said it is a competitor.

Last Thursday the Detroit News quoted Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development unequivocally stating the ELR is not GM’s answer to Tesla.

“People like to say the ELR is, but it’s really not,” said Reuss. “It’s a different car, it’s a different price point. It’s way-different technology.”

Already other Web sites have re-reported the quote, and one GM supporter commented under a GM Authority story that the entire notion that GM ever positioned the ELR against Tesla was a fabrication without merit.

“Show me where GM or Cadillac ever stated that this car was targeted directly at the S model Tesla? Where?” said reader scott3 on GM Authority. “You will not find it because no approved official ever stated it.”

You asked for it, so here it is:

“It’s an electrified luxury coupe that uses the EREV technology from a full-line luxury automaker with hundreds of dealers provided service and maintenance from coast to coast in the US. So there’s really nothing like it,” wrote GM’s Cadillac ELR media rep to HybridCars.com in an e-mail in February. “But we consider Tesla a competitor given its price point, EV technology, customer base and interior and exterior design.”

While Corbett did call out clear differences between the two cars, the second half of his quote makes Reuss’ statement appear like a near inversion of GM’s former position.

What would you rather park in your driveway?

What would you rather park in your driveway?

Reuss: “It’s a different car, it’s a different price point. It’s way-different technology.”

Corbett: “[W]e consider Tesla a competitor given its price point, EV technology, customer base and interior and exterior design.”

It appears these statements and criteria they specify directly contradict one another. … Technology, design, price point. All three.

To be sure, Corbett did say the ELR is unique, but Cadillac was initially willing to more clearly suggest it’s positioned against the Tesla.

Meanwhile, U.S. sales for Tesla Model S 60- and 85-kwh variants since January – when ELR began its official dealer debut – have outnumbered Cadillac by 16 to 1.

Tesla sold an estimated 9,400 through July next to Cadillac’s 578 ELRs. What’s more, Cadillac has been offering free home charger installation, serious rebates and discounting up to around $14,000. And Cadillac offers a $699 per month lease as some dealers have chopped this to $499 with lease deals of their own.

But to clarify here also, GM never stated it would beat Tesla in sales. It actually predicted low volumes but it’s left some plug-in car tech observers scratching their heads as to what the plan really was.

The ELR was based on the 2009 Converj concept with powertrain borrowed from the Volt as a premium tech halo product.

ELR_Tesla_BMW

So what question is the ELR an answer to?

Cadillac has a Web-based comparison positioning the ELR not only against Model S, but even against a conventionally powered BMW M4 coupe. It’s expected buyers of these products are not only looking at green-factor, but just as much general wow-factor.

That GM is shooting for the stars appears evident considering a price more than twice the Volt’s and loosely comparable competitors it names.

Our tendency – just as we did with the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid vs. Tesla Model S comparo – is to steer wide comparing “apples to oranges.”

And if Tesla aspires to be the next Apple, maybe apples are in season, and oranges aren’t selling as well because they’re not as ripe and flavorful?

Another question now is what will be GM’s answer to Tesla, if the ELR is not, and never was?

Despite industry watchers reacting, and GM tasking a Tesla watch team, are those same watchers also waiting to see if the Tesla Phenomenon will slow down?

Some reports have recently said maybe the market for well-heeled early adopters has reduced momentum. Maybe instead of Tesla, buyers are heading to the Sharper Image catalog or somewhere else to find a new gee-whiz toy for less cash?

GM's Poolside ad showed a proud American man choosing the ELR when he could have anything.

GM’s Poolside ad showed a proud American man choosing the ELR when he could have anything.

Or maybe not. Maybe Tesla will keep surfing this 50-foot wave it’s riding as the beachcombers stand and predict what will happen next. Maybe also, major automakers will develop alternatives at their own pace, and reel Tesla in, as a Mercedes executive said this year, and former GM CEO Dan Akerson said to The Detroit News last year.

“If you want to compete head-to-head with Tesla, and we ultimately will, you want to do it with a Cadillac,” said Akerson.

No doubt plenty more could be said. Please pardon us if we did not make this an exhaustive analysis. The rest of the blanks, we’ll leave for you to fill in.