Cautionary tale: Cadillac's Volt-based ELR finally gets deep-sixed

2016 Cadillac ELR
Cadillac has finally pulled the plug on the Chevrolet Volt-based ELR after years of dismal sales.

Executives initially had high hopes for the ELR, which was hailed as the company’s first full-production plug-in model when it was introduced at the 2013 edition of the Detroit Auto Show.

“We’re only going to make so many. I actually think you’re going to see a scramble for that vehicle,” predicted Bob Ferguson, the former boss of Cadillac, in an August 2013 interview with Automotive News.

Ferguson’s foresight seemingly failed to take into account the coupe’s jaw-dropping base price of $79,995. To put that figure into perspective, the ELR was over twice as expensive as the original Volt that it shared most of its mechanical components with, and it was positioned in the same price bracket as the markedly more advanced Tesla Model S. It consequently failed to meet its sales target as soon as it hit the market.

Cadillac slashed the ELR’s base price to $65,996 for the 2016 model year as a last-ditch effort to lure buyers into showrooms. It also made an array of improvements, including tweaking the drivetrain to increase both torque and horsepower, and tuning the steering system and the suspension to make the coupe more dynamic. However, the updates were too little, too late.

Read more: Cadillac will take on BMW M and AMG with more V-Series models

It goes without saying that the ELR won’t be replaced, but its demise doesn’t mark the end of alternative powertrains for Cadillac. The company remains firmly committed to taking on the Germans, so it will shift its green car strategy to building plug-in hybrid models like the gasoline-electric variant of the CT6, its current flagship.

Déjà vu

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that Cadillac has tried to sell a dressed-up Chevrolet and failed in a spectacular manner. The firm tried to break into the booming compact luxury car segment in 1981 with the Cimarron, a sedan that was little more than a re-badged first-generation Chevrolet Cavalier.

Designers didn’t do enough to mask the Cimarron’s economy car roots, and it went down as one of the least successful models in the automaker’s illustrious history. John Howell, one of Cadillac’s former product directors, even kept a photo of the Cimarron on his office wall captioned “lest we forget.”

We’re willing to wager that phrase will make a comeback at Cadillac headquarters in the coming years, under a picture of the ELR.


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