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Can Cadillac beat Tesla in a full-size luxury EV war? We just might soon find out

2014 Cadillac ELR
The ELR extended range EV might just be the start of something wonderful.

It’s becoming hard to recognize the Cadillac brand. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, it sold nothing but soft slush-mobiles to rappers, members of the mafia, and old people in Florida. Now, though, Cadillac is on the attack. It has shifted its focus and is going after young people…with powerful luxury EVs. 

Cadillac revealed to the Detroit Bureau that its ELR extended-range EV is just the start of a new brand focus. Chief of global sales Bob Ferguson said that the ELR will bring “a lot of new customers, I‘m sure.”

The Cadillac ELR might start at $75,995, but, despite the high price, it is still a Chevy Volt in Louis Vuitton drag. It might be a luxury EV, but it is at best an indirect competitor to the Tesla S.

We are unsure just who is going to buy the ELR at such a high price, particularly given its Volt underpinnings.

Yet if Mr. Ferguson’s sales expectations turn out to be correct, then expect to see Caddy go squarely after the Tesla Model S with a long-range luxury EV.

Ferguson said that he would “certainly like to see a larger vehicle, something even more luxurious.” While he didn’t offer details, other news in the conversation might just offer a hint about the direction Caddy is going in. 

In August Cadillac unveiled the gorgeous Elmiraj concept car. This amazing retro-futuristic coupe has received rave reviews from the automotive press – us included. And rightfully so. Its probably the first car that Cadillac has produced since the 1967 Eldorado that has the majesty and presence that all Cadillacs are supposed to have.

Now thats what a Cadillac should look like.
Now thats what a Cadillac should look like.

The good news is that, according to Ferguson, Cadillac is seriously considering using the Elmiraj concept as a replacement for the XTS that currently sits atop the Cadillac range. The head of sales said that he wanted to see an Elmiraj-based vehicle “in showrooms as soon as possible.”

He didn’t go so far as to hint that the Elmiraj might feature an extended-range EV drivetrain, but, if the ELR sells well, it would make sense as an additional powertrain option to the 4.5-liter twin-turbo V8 already under the sleek bodywork of the Elmiraj. 

The concept may have featured GM’s excellent new small-block V8, but GM has been aggressively developing alternative fuel and green tech vehicles, with everything from hydrogen to diesel.

Given the established success of the Tesla S, Cadillac would have the advantage of entering a known market – potentially ahead of most of its competition.

Unfortunately this GM we are talking about. It’s not precisely a company historically known for visionary strategy.

We may just know soon, because Cadillac has adopted an aggressive development cycle. It took a mere 30 months between the appearance of the Converj concept and the ELR hitting showrooms. Even better the Elmiraj was designed to be more than just a concept, it was designed to be “operationalized.”

 Even if it is never offered with an EV drivetrain, the Elmiraj is a sign that Cadillac is heading in the right direction…at least in our book.

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