It was no secret that the ELR would share a platform and drivetrain with the Chevy Volt, but what might have spelled disaster was just how close the too cars were. For a luxury buyer looking for an eco-conscious car, there was a need to focus more on luxury than making sure the MPG stayed high, and the ELR always felt like a cramped afterthought based on the Volt—a car that didn’t have the highest-grade fit-and-finish itself. The ELR had Caddy’s fetching interior, but you could never get away from describing the ELR to newcomers in any way other than “Well, it’s a Cadillac Volt.”
You don’t become one of the largest (and most profitable) automakers in the world by creating a unique platform for every single vehicle in your portfolio. You’d go bankrupt doing that. A lot can be achieved by vehicles sharing platforms and assembly lines. But when you are creating a supposed luxury green car, basing it on the Volt–and its inherent limitations–you are never going to compete with a Tesla Model S. GM claimed it was never competing with Tesla, but at $74,000, it was more expensive than the dual-engine Model S P70 D. So who was the ELR for then?
The Price of Fuel
Yesterday, we ran a story on a report explaining that with this recent run of low fuel prices, sales of hybrids are down, and yet electric cars are sticking around. GM loves to call the Volt and ELR “extended-range electric vehicles,” and the American automaker tends to hide behind that ambiguity so as to avoid direct comparisons with other vehicles. Call it what you want, but you eventually have to put gas in the damned thing, and green cars that require gas are actually down with low fuel costs. Fully electric vehicles are holding, and it looks like this trend will continue as long as fuel stays cheap–a trend that has no end in sight.
It Was a Coupe
I hate to say it, but being a coupe did not help its cause. I love coupes. I think there is something cooler and more independent about a two-door convertible or SUV. But four-door vehicles are inherently more useful than their two-door counterparts. Even in the luxury market, where two-doors do better than in other vehicle segments, the sedan and compact crossover are still king. There was just no chance the ELR could have achieved its full potential, despite the amazing lines of the coupe body.
It Came Out Too Early
The Volt was a breakthrough vehicle for General Motors, and the ELR seemed like a great way to offer a vehicle that could defer some developmental costs. A luxury hybrid seemed like the perfect fit for a buying public that is both eco-conscious and enjoys premium goods. But The first-generation Volt didn’t have the European-feel ride, and neither did the ELR. Furthermore, Cadillac has actually built more of a brand reputation in the last year or two with its current product portfolio. Had Cadillac waited to roll out its first ELR based on the second-generation Volt, it might have been a much more popular product.