With all the hubbub about the 2016 Chevrolet Volt being thoroughly revised, a closely related car that’s largely escaped attention is the Cadillac ELR, but General Motors has said it will be revealing 2016 ELR details in Geneva March 3.
UPDATE: 2/16: GM of Europe says plans have changed and Geneva is not the location now for any ELR related announcements. The rest of this story remains OK and we’ll report where the new ELR will be shown when GM lets us know.
With its U.S. sales last year of 1,310 units despite heavy discounting, the $76,000 2014 ELR that uses a modified variant of the Volt’s drivetrain barely sold better than the $99,000 – and typically optioned much higher – Porsche Panamera S-E Hybrid (879 sales). Nor did ELR hold a candle to the all-electric Tesla Model S sedan which sold 16,563.
Since launching Jan. 2014, the ELR has been panned as poorly timed, over priced, and if you look at Cadillac’s website, you’ll note – despite various media outlets with “2015 ELR” reviews published – there is no 2015 model year ELR according to its maker.
Rather, the ELR carries forward in limp-home mode as a 2014 model year selling in 2015 awaiting the 2016 – which GM is about to unveil. True, the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant did upgrade the ELR’s original 16.5-kwh battery to 17.1-kwh as we reported it would well in advance last year, but officially, it’s called a 2014 by Cadillac.
A question few have examined is: Could the new 2016 ELR now mirror key changes from the 2016 Volt? That is, could it get the 18.4-kwh-hour revised LG Chem battery, new drive unit, new range extender and control electronics that make the second-generation Volt so much better? If so, could ELR get close to 50 miles EV range? The 2015 ELR is rated 37 miles and only trails the 2015 Volt rated 38 miles by one mile in EV range.
Further, might a 2016 ELR get much-improved fuel efficiency in gas-only operation? The 2016 Volt’s all-new 1.5-liter Ecotec generator is estimated at 41 mpg – a 4 mpg improvement and it runs now on regular gas instead of premium.
A brief statement on Cadillac’s European media site this week says only the ELR will receive “enhanced performance.”
But we know a precedent has been set already that the ELR has followed the Volt in key improvements – and the need is certainly there given GM is committed to keeping the ELR.
In Detroit last month at the Volt revelation, we inquired among European Cadillac reps and they hinted between the lines big changes were coming. Cadillac’s ELR is gaining interest in certain European markets where incentives and interest particularly help it, and it was stated ELR would be improved without more specifics.
On the U.S. side, mum’s the word at General Motors but one might ask: would GM leave the ELR even further in the dust as perceptibly dated goods even as it approaches new markets in Europe?
From its inception the ELR has been positioned above the Volt as GM’s only other “extended-range electric vehicle.” Its price of $76,000 some have said was a bold-as-brass move pushed through possibly by outgoing CEO Dan Akerson, a proud-to-be-non-car-guy, or so go the anecdotes, although the allegedly outlandish pricing rumor has not been confirmed.
Though insults have been hurled its way, the ELR is a beautifully executed car inside and out. It also boasts the second-best EV range next to the number-one Volt among plug-in gas-electric cars sold in the U.S. (not counting BMW i3 REx).
Speaking further of Volt-following precedents, GM never actually recertified the ELR’s efficiency ratings when it got the 17.1-kwh battery which should have been worth 2-3 miles more EV range and boasting rights.
The U.S. EPA does list a 2015 model for its own reasons and says it delivers 37 miles electric range. However, this is the same as the 2014 ELR.
This same strategy was used by GM for the lame duck 2015 Volt compared to the 2014.
Last year GM saved itself the expense and enhanced its PR value as it knew the new 2016 Volt with 18.4-kwh battery and new everything else was coming.
When GM announced the 2016 Volt Jan. 12 this year, it was able to tout “30-percent” range improvement over the 2015 model.
The ELR could very well be set up for the same promotional angle in before/after comparisons.
ELR Needs a Makeover
The ELR was based on a 2009 design study before the original Volt was even in production. The Converj concept did wow show goers in Detroit that year and even today makes quite a presentation having been kept very true to the concept.
But despite being the ostensible elder sibling commanding double the price for similar performance, it has always been concealed in the shadow of the Volt – itself also having had its share of PR issues, many of which fans are hoping are ready to be swept away.
For the past few years, talk was of the second-generation Volt and leaks and as the January revelation drew near, teaser videos preceded its arrival but GM’s Cadillac press release has one sentence stating an enhanced performance 2016 ELR will be revealed in Geneva.
GM is also preparing a CT6 plug-in hybrid which could be revealed April in New York, and it is also working toward other electrified Cadillacs yet unannounced.
As the range-topping EREV with disappointing market reception, one might surmise the ELR must get the mechanical benefits of the 2016 Volt, possibly refreshed styling here and there, and we’ll see whether this is so.
And if so, among many more open questions is how well can GM turn the ELR’s ruffled market perception around?