Home » GM Learned Nothing From The Cimarron By Selling A $76,000 Chevy Volt With A Cadillac Badge: Unholy Fails

GM Learned Nothing From The Cimarron By Selling A $76,000 Chevy Volt With A Cadillac Badge: Unholy Fails

Cadillac Elr 2014 Unholy Fail Ts2
ADVERTISEMENT

The history of General Motors is fascinating when you consider that the marque has had so many hits and simultaneously so many misses. One of those hits was the criminally underappreciated Chevy Volt, a shining example of a fantastic plug-in hybrid that was overshadowed by flashy EVs. Yet, somehow, General Motors managed to screw up the concept of the Volt when it tried to make a flagship hybrid for Cadillac. In 2014, the Cadillac ELR was a sexy luxury hybrid flagship, but its performance didn’t match the looks – or its $76,000 price, more than double the Volt’s MSRP in 2014. GM accidentally repeated the Cimarron.

Before I continue, I must admit that given a few more dollar signs in my bank account, I’d buy a Cadillac ELR in a heartbeat. I don’t care how the ELR performs when it looks like a Cadillac-badged fighter jet. A used ELR today can be had for under $15,000, an 80% cut from its original price. Still, it’s hard to ignore what GM tried to do but ultimately failed.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The early 2010s were an enthralling time for automotive technology nerds. Countless automakers both small and large were cranking out alluring electric cars and hybrids. Tesla followed up its incredible Roadster with the game-changing Model S, Toyota introduced a line of Prii consisting of the Prius, Prius C, and Prius V, while startups sprouted from the Earth with their own flavors of green technology. The Fisker Karma entered and ended production in the early 2010s, as did the Th!nk City EV. Fiat made its 500e while Smart produced multiple generations of its Electric Drive, which has the unfortunate abbreviation of ED.

Mini Dodge 2

The domestic establishment also showed a lot of promise. Chrysler’s brands spent the 2000s teasing such vehicles as the Dodge Circuit EV while putting hybrid powertrains in oddballs like the Chrysler Aspen. Ford trotted out its C-Max Hybrid, Focus Electric, hybrid variations of the Fusion, and more.

ADVERTISEMENT

Over at General Motors, buyers had a flurry of choices from as small as the Chevy Spark EV to as large as the Silverado 1500 Hybrid. General Motors was once called the brand that killed the electric car, but it showed commitment to electrifying a number of vehicles in its lineup.

Images Cadillac Elr 2014 5

Arguably the coolest vehicle in all of GM’s 2010s efforts was the Volt. It still looks like the future and the original model provided 35 miles of all-electric range before a gasoline engine kicked in to keep the party going. Many Volt owners will happily tell you how awesome it is to do the work commute on just battery but have the engine there in case you want to do a road trip. One Volt owner I’ve met told me they drove 1,000 miles before needing to use the gas engine for extra range.

The problem was when it came time to give Cadillac an electrified luxury coupe flagship. The Cadillac ELR looked the business but was a businessman with a book of bad checks. In some ways, the ELR was proof that GM hadn’t learned its lesson from the embarrassment that was the Cimarron.

The Polished Cavalier

ADVERTISEMENT

Let’s set the stage. It’s the early 1980s and America’s car industry is embroiled in what we now call the Malaise Era today. What were once roaring V8s were dialed down to a whimper. Automakers traded power for efficiency as fuel economy was in vogue and reducing emissions was the mission. At the same time, the land yachts of the prior decades lost girth, becoming closer to dinghies.

Cadillac needed a cheaper, smaller vehicle to help pad its fuel economy numbers and also to attract the youth. Maybe those buyers couldn’t afford a thirsty V8, but what if Cadillac had something a young person could buy now and trade in for a bigger Cadillac at a later date? As Hemmings writes, the seeds of what would become the Cimarron were planted in the late 1970s when Cadillac wanted a sedan to deal damage against European imports. At the time, Cadillac had the smaller Seville, but that was more expensive than larger Caddies and not much better at the pump.

Cadillac Cimarron 1986 Images 1

Cadillac’s wish would be made a reality with the General Motors J platform. Development of the platform began in 1976 and by November 1979, Cadillac was slated to get its car from the platform. Unfortunately for Cadillac, coming in late to the program meant engineers didn’t have the time to differentiate the Cadillac from the lesser Chevrolet Cavalier, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza, and, Pontiac J2000. As a result, when the Cimarron hit the road in 1982, it bore the roof, doors, fenders, quarters, and hood of a Cavalier. Cadillac’s designers had to do their best work with the car’s face, rear, and interior.

What buyers got was more or less a Cavalier with leather seats that called itself a Cadillac. Oof. You still got a base 1.8-liter four making just 88 HP and the top engine was a 2.8-liter V6 that made 130 HP in its best spec. Period reviews didn’t exactly shower the car with praise, but it wasn’t destroyed by the press, either. Going against the Cimarron was its $12,181 price, a hefty rise from a four-door Cavalier, which was $8,137. Despite that, Cadillac managed to sell 132,499 copies.

ADVERTISEMENT

Photos Cadillac Cimarron 1983 1

Even though those sales numbers equated to about 20,000 units sold each year, that was below GM’s expectations. Cadillac also managed to lose market share during the period the Cimarron was on sale. Eventually, GM brass voted 9 to 1 to discontinue the Cimarron to focus on redesigns for the Cadillac Eldorado, de Ville, and Fleetwood models. In the years since the Cimarron failed to breathe fresh life into Cadillac, the car has been used as an example of GM’s unapologetic badge engineering and the cheapening of a brand that was once known as “The Standard Of The World.” In the modern day, the Cimarron routinely makes worst lists.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Cimarron is how period reviews didn’t mention issues such as the fact that overheating during regular operation wasn’t just a possibility, but was expected. Take this paragraph from a review in Automobile magazine from 2012:

“The cooling system may temporarily overheat during severe operating conditions,” warns the manual. Such conditions are defined as “climbing a long hill on a hot day, stopping after high-speed driving, or idling for long periods in traffic.” Stopping after high-speed driving? Am I expected to do cool-down laps every time I pull into a rest-stop Burger King?

That’s right, A V6-equipped Cimarron can overheat in traffic or just fresh off of the highway and according to GM, that’s normal! In many ways, the Cimarron deserves the mockery it continues to get today. So, you’d think GM would try its best not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

One Of GM’s Best Cars

2012 Chevrolet Volt Hov 061

ADVERTISEMENT

General Motors gets a lot of flak in the motoring world for its missteps, but I think it doesn’t get enough credit when it hits a home run. The Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky are future classics and the Corvette holds its own at doing what it can to try to beat the world. Don’t forget that one of the greatest modern diesel trucks wears a Chevrolet bowtie and this was a company that was happy to give Americans Australian muscle.

One of the underappreciated GM gems out there is the Chevrolet Volt.

As Wired explains, the idea for the Volt came from none other than Bob Lutz, who grew tired of hearing the truckloads of praise being dumped on the Toyota Prius. This was also 2005, when a little startup known as Tesla was making waves with its promises of a hot electric sports car. Reportedly, Lutz believed that Toyota didn’t deserve green cred because it touted the Prius as a car to help save the world as Toyota moved to compete with the Big Three on trucks and SUVs.

Of course, GM already had some scars from the cancelation of the EV1, but Lutz wanted to prove that GM could still build a world-class electric car. At first, GM’s board shot him down. Then, Lutz grabbed GM veterans, including those who worked on the EV1, produced a white paper on the idea for a new GM electric car called the iCar, and presented it to GM’s Automotive Strategy Board in 2006. This time, Lutz got the green light.

Wallpapers Chevrolet Volt 2007 1

ADVERTISEMENT

What proceeded was an incredible development program. GM didn’t just have to create a new vehicle, but an entirely new powertrain to power that vehicle. And they had to put it together as a concept car that would be ready to roll for the 2007 Detroit auto show. Designers had 9 or 10 months to make it happen. Soon after, GM tapped EV1 veteran Tony Posawatz.

As the book “Why GM Matters” explains, the Volt’s development was pretty wild at first, GM assembled a team of some brilliant minds at the company, then told them ‘Try to find a way to displace petroleum.’ Lutz wanted a pure electric car, but engineers pushed back. Further, even the engineers couldn’t agree on what was really the future. Reportedly, the engineers debated about whether the future was diesel, E85, fuel cell, hydrogen, methanol, some sort of hybrid, or pure EV.

Chevrolet Volt 2007 Wallpapers 2

Engineers started by tearing down what they felt was wrong with the EV1. Those came down to the fact that the car had just two seats, used bespoke parts, was powered by lead-acid batteries, and required homeowners to rewire their electrical systems to charge the thing. The engineers also debated about how many miles the new car needed to go on a charge. Eventually, they landed on 40 miles, because most Americans cover less than that distance during their commutes. However, the engineers would do a step better by giving the car a gas engine. The engine would never power the wheels, instead acting as a generator to extend range beyond 300 miles.

It was Posawatz who figured out how to reel in the engineers by coming up with the E-Flex architecture that would later be named Voltec. The idea behind E-Flex was to standardize an architecture and thus future-proof GM’s future alternative fuel vehicle. Should diesel turn out to be the future, that wasn’t going to be a problem because, with the E-Flex architecture, the gas engine could be swapped out for a diesel. Maybe you like fuel cells? Sure, just toss out the engine generator and plop the fuel cell in its place. That way, all of the engineers got something they wanted in case their chosen technology won out in the future.

ADVERTISEMENT

For example, GM’s concept images for the Volt include what the platform would look like with a fuel cell:

Photos Chevrolet Volt 2007 2

By November of 2006, before GM even had the chance to display a concept car in Detroit, development on what would become the Chevrolet Volt began in earnest. The history of the Volt is ridiculously long. If you’re interested in getting down to the very nuts and bolts, Professor Dariush Rafinejad from San Francisco’s Presidio Graduate School wrote a 29-page study sponsored by GM. There’s so much good stuff in there, from this piece:

Volt software (SW) has 10 million lines of code to operate 100 electronic controllers. In contrast, a Boeing 787 has 6.5 million lines of code23 and an average GM car in 1990 used one million lines of code (Ref. 2.) Developing defect-free software was a challenging undertaking. In SW development, it is the rule of thumb that there will be 0.1 to 1 software defects per 1,000 lines of code (not counting comments) and the cost of fixing bugs rises exponentially in subsequent phases of product development.

Volt’s rapid product development was enabled by deploying a model-based design approach and automatic code
generation. Nearly 100 percent of software was generated automatically which is believed to have improved SW engineers’ efficiency by 30%. In the model based design approach engineers model the system dynamics and control algorithm, including diagnostics, while the hardware is being developed, instead of waiting for completion of the hardware design and prototyping of new components and technologies.

Images Chevrolet Volt 2007 1

And how the battery is made:

ADVERTISEMENT

The 16 kWh LiOn battery pack comprises 288 cells that must work flawlessly because failure of one cell can cause
failure of the entire pack. A large design-of-experiments study was carried out to gather data for battery management calibration and to develop a battery life model.

The battery cell temperature is actively controlled by a liquid cooling/heating system which is integrated in the battery pack with the thermal management and power control subsystem. The 5.5-feet long, 140 dm3 (~1/2 meter cube) battery pack weighs 198.1 kg and supplies energy to the 111 kW (149 hp) electric drive unit. The T-shaped housing of the battery pack serves as a semi-structural member of the car and is secured properly to eliminate any movement of the batteries during shock, vibration and impact.

The LiOn battery cells, liquid thermal management and battery pack assembly posed the biggest technical risks of the program and presented many R&D and manufacturing challenges including cell chemistry stability (for safety and efficiency) and cost. When the program started, there was extensive battery research at leading universities and companies in Japan, U.S., France, Germany, Korea and China. Taking advantage of these research activities, GM’s battery team conducted an exhaustive analysis of two dozen battery cell chemistries and suppliers and selected the Korean company LG Chem for its advanced technology, responsiveness and manufacturing capabilities. LG Chem battery cell electrolyte used nano-phosphate, a benign and ultra stable compound instead of cobalt that was used in LiOn batteries of computers and portable devices.
Compact Power, Inc. (CPI), a U.S. subsidiary of LG Chem was contracted to build the battery pack and thermal management system. The development of battery cells by Korean engineers and design of the battery pack by CPI and GM engineers were tightly integrated. They worked very hard to overcome the technology and integration issues on the tight project schedule. The initial manufacturing cost of the batteries was estimated to be $10,000 and it was expected to go down to $5,000 (or $312/kWh) at 40,000 cumulative production units.

X11ch Vt224

To say that engineering the Volt was a global effort would be an understatement. The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science says that the research on what would become the Volt’s batteries began in the late 1990s, when California was still expecting automakers to sell EVs in the state.

The Volt’s development also hit some roadblocks. The design of the slick concept car didn’t fit the platform and its required energy efficiency. So, designers went back to the drawing board and created the still awesome shape the Volt ended up being. And while GM insisted the Volt was an electric car with a range extender, the Volt’s engine was able to drive the front wheels in some situations. GM even claimed an incredible 230 mpg, even though the real EPA result was 35 miles on battery, 37 mpg when running the gas engine, and 60 mpg when you math it all up.

2012 Chevrolet Volt Hov 067

Still, even though the Volt’s development was fraught with weird advertising, delays, and the infamous GM bailout, what came out of the other end was an excellent car. At launch, the 2011 Volt got a 16 kWh battery pack, which fed two motors making 149 HP and 273 lb-ft of torque. The range extender was a 1.4-liter four generating 84 HP. The EV-only range was 35 miles, but up to 379 miles once the engine kicked on. GM used to say that the engine would never drive the wheels, but later, it was revealed that the engine can assist the electric motors when the vehicle is above 70 mph and in charge-sustaining mode.

ADVERTISEMENT

As I said before, while these cars had just 35 miles of EV-only range at launch, and were later upgraded to 38 miles as the battery got slightly larger. I’ve talked to people who have gone so many miles on EV power alone that the only time the engine runs is to make sure the gas in the tank doesn’t get all rotten.

History Repeats Itself

Cadillac Elr 2014 Images 2

Before the Volt even hit the road in production form, GM was already thinking about what it could do with the Voltec platform. In 2009, Cadillac presented the Converj concept to the auto show circuit. Both crowds and automotive media were wowed, but then things got weird.

In 2009, it was reported that the Converj was going into production. However, GM fired back, stating “The status of the Cadillac Converj concept has not changed – it’s still a concept vehicle undergoing a review that has not yet concluded.” Reportedly, the Converj was then shelved and then revived when those who opposed the Converj left GM. Bob Lutz was a champion of the Converj, thinking a high-tech coupe would boost Cadillac’s image. In 2010, the green light was given to the Converj, then taken away that same year. Finally, in 2011, GM rebooted the Converj, called it the Cadillac ELR, and said it would cost less than the Tesla Model S, which was priced at $57,400 back then.

Photos Cadillac Concepts 2009 1
Cadillac Converj Concept

The first Cadillac ELRs hit the road in 2013 for the 2014 model year. At first glance, Cadillac knocked it out of the park. The ELR looks like the Converj but as a production car. The interior is also a sight to behold with leather, sueded microfiber, chrome, real wood, and carbon fiber trim. It’s befitting of a vehicle that’s positioned as a flagship coupe. Technically, the ELR has four seats, but the rear seats are best for kids or the shortest folks in your entourage.

ADVERTISEMENT

Things start falling apart when you look into what’s under the hood. The Voltec architecture made it over, with the same 1.4-liter four making 84 HP and working mostly as a generator. The electric motors make a return, but in this case, they’re pumping out 217 HP and 295 lb-ft of torque. The battery is a 16.5 kWh unit, also carried over from the 2014 Volt.

Cadillac Elr 2014 Wallpapers 2

Something I noticed from reviews from 2014 is that none of them praised the ELR for its speed, but for its fuel efficiency and exclusivity. Take what Motor Trend wrote:

OK, no Cadillac ELR owner will care about how easily they’ll be trounced by a 6000-pound luxury SUV in a stoplight-to-stoplight race, but as with other plug-in hybrids and electric cars, the coupe has more juice from a stop than you’d expect. The sudden whoosh of acceleration tapers off before long, and on the track the ELR hit 60 mph in 7.8 seconds — add about a second to that if you’re in full electric mode. The ELR is clearly not in its element through the quarter mile, with a time of 16.2 seconds at 87.1 mph (the 2015 Escalade ESV gets the job done in 14.6 seconds at 95.2 mph). The ability to accelerate at a decent pace without waking up a gas engine is what makes the ELR special.

Cadillac Converj Concept

The 2014 Cadillac ELR test car was no lightweight, with 61 percent of its 4036 pounds over the front axle. Not surprisingly, a 3767-pound 2012 Chevrolet Volt (the car on which the ELR is based) had the same front-to-rear weight distribution, and our long-term Tesla Model S weighs 4731 pounds, with a 46:54 front-to-rear weight distribution. On the road, the ELR is mostly quiet, though you may hear the four-cylinder gas engine (and occasionally feel it through the brake pedal immediately after it turns on). The ride on the ELR’s standard 20-inch wheels is far from cushy, but it’s more than tolerable. The backseat can fit passengers as long as both the front and rear passengers aren’t especially tall.

Car and Driver was less kind when describing the ELR’s performance, stating that the ELR completes a quarter mile in 16.5 seconds at 87 mph, or about what a $16,000 Honda Fit was able to do.

ADVERTISEMENT

Still, the ELR did improve on the Volt’s handling thanks to GM HiPer Strut technology up front, a Watt’s linkage in the rear, variable dampers, and sharp power steering. It’s noted that while the ELR shares the Volt’s powertrain, floorpan, and firewall, the rest is all Caddy.

Wallpapers Cadillac Elr 2014 2

Most reviews of the ELR were positive, complimenting the ELR’s luxurious interior, drop-dead gorgeous looks, and frugal powertrain. The 2016 model benefits from a 17.1 kWh battery offering 39 miles of electric-only range and total power uprated to 233 HP and 373 lb-ft of torque, good enough to slice acceleration to 60 mph down 1.5 seconds.

Cadillac expected to sell 2,000 to 4,000 ELRs in 2014. However, a grand total of 2,958 ELRs were built over just two model years, 2014 and 2016.

Wallpapers Cadillac Elr 2014 3

ADVERTISEMENT

You might wonder what happened, and it starts with what I noted earlier. The ELR was supposed to cost less than a base Tesla Model S. Instead, it came out with a high price of $75,995, or about twice the cost of the Volt that birthed it. Cadillac attempted to rectify this by dropping the price $10,000 for the 2016 model year, but not even that was enough to bring people into showrooms. Autoblog‘s review illustrated what could have been part of the problem:

Even though we had started on a good note, in the end, the Cadillac ELR left me frustrated and disheartened. While its sleek sheetmetal and luxurious appointments had my heart racing, its lack of innovation where eyes don’t peer is inexcusable in the premium segment.

There are many impressive pure electric and hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles on the market today (the Tesla Model S and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, for instance), and just around the corner (the Audi A3 e-tron comes immediately to mind), but the ELR isn’t one of them. GM’s misstep is that the company is peddling the Chevrolet Volt’s five-year-old E-REV technology in its brand-new 2014 Cadillac ELR, and then asking $75,995 for the privilege. The company is clearly hoping the coupe’s exquisite styling will overshadow its uninspired powertrain, but in this case, its beauty is only skin deep.

Cadillac Elr 2014 Images 3

Perhaps, like the Cimarron of old, the constant comparisons to the Volt didn’t do the Caddy any favors. The fact that the original ELR wasn’t much faster than the lowly Volt didn’t help, either. Remember, the ELR was supposed to be a flagship, so you want to give buyers a flagship experience. At the very least, the ELR does have a unique body, so GM didn’t make exactly the same mistakes as the Cimarron.

Green Car Reports gives its own explanation, concluding (among other things) that the ELR didn’t deliver enough value to back its high price; wasn’t in the same league as the Tesla Model S; and GM had made a sales-hindering mistake by slotting a $76,000 car into the compact two-door coupe market.

Photos Cadillac Elr 2014 1

ADVERTISEMENT

Either way, Cadillac quietly killed off the ELR, marking Cadillac’s first PHEV as a really cool car, but still an Unholy Fail. It’s a shame because if this car had the performance to back up its looks or a much lower price, I bet Cadillac could have hit its sales target.

The good news is that time cures the ELR’s biggest problem. Now, it’s not hard to find one of these cars for sale for around $20,000 and under. That’s still much more expensive than a used first-generation Volt, but is much easier on the pocketbook than $75,995. The other good news is that the ELR’s design has aged incredibly well, and only car enthusiasts will know you’re driving a decade-old car. Fail or not, this is a car that would look great in anyone’s fleet, and it’s something I seek to own one day.

Popular Stories

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
93 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 month ago

I didn’t know that the V6 versions were prone to overheating. This makes me grateful that the 4 cylinder Cimmaron pile I regularly piloted up and down Lake Shore Drive during the late 80’s didn’t have the big engine. I was a young buck regularly tasked with helming the vehicle loaded with four people in violent traffic while it mooed it’s 1.8 liter best to keep up. I constantly cursed that weak ass motor, but now I realize I would have probably cracked the block halfway through the first drive if it had the V6. I only had two throttle positions in my toolkit then; foot on brake or WOT. I would have cooked the block so fast.

One comment about the Cimmaron. For whatever reason, the dash controls were the part that most conveyed cheap car. For example GM used basically the same cable controlled climate system in all their cars, but for whatever reason, the Cimmaron version absolutely screamed cheap ass badge engineered POS.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
1 month ago

Does anyone on earth do more research than you!? Every article goes so hard. Thanks for writing for this find publication

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 month ago

Yes… but it looked fantastic. 🙂

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
1 month ago

If that had a slightly bigger back seat I would own one. I loved the way that car looked.

Six
Six
1 month ago

I prefer a full BEV (the Bolt is underrated even now), but I’d drive an ELR. It’s way more than just a rebadged Volt.

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
1 month ago

I miss the Volt. It made it to Australia as the Holden Volt, but never made any headway in the market – over the 3 years it was available (2012-2015?) Holden sold about 250, so the updated model was not even considered for sale here.
A good friend and his mum bought one each – they knew someone who was a long-time employee at Holden in Testing and Evaluation (he often turned up to visit in camouflaged LHD imported models that were being tested at Holden’s Lang Lang Proving ground) and were able to score a great deal via his employee discount combined with the fact Holden just wanted to be rid of the remaining stock – I believe their cars came straight from Holden rather than through a dealer. Besides their 2 examples, I think I have seen maybe 3 others in the last decade, although due to their rarity a couple of those spottings may have been the same car twice!
It was a very impressive little thing – at one point he travelled all the way from Melbourne up to Mt Isa in outback Queensland looking for work and living out of the back of the car, and got very good at finding unattended power outlets in out of the way places to recharge, to save spending money he didn’t have on fuel.
Unfortunately it ended up as a Statutory Writeoff – on a dirt road he hit a rock that put a small crack in the battery casing, which didn’t cause any coolant leaks or loss of function in the battery, and could probably have been patched with JB Weld to keep water out and the car would have been fine, but the insurance company decided that the whole battery had to be replaced and wrote it off since a new battery pack was unavailable. I’m not sure if he still has it sitting unused and unregisterable, or if it was eventually scrapped.

Lotsofchops
Lotsofchops
1 month ago

I had no idea it was supposed to be a flagship, I always thought they were a half-assed attempt to gussy up a Volt. Didn’t realize how much effort they put into making it its own thing.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Lotsofchops

What he said.

SBMtbiker
SBMtbiker
1 month ago

I don’t like the comparison to the Cimarron. They learned that they need a unique body and interior, and even the drivetrain and suspension wasn’t exactly the same. The comparison should have been to the 1975 Seville based of the Nova platform (X). It too was the most expensive Cadillac and didn’t quite sell as many as they hoped. The difference is that the Seville set styling trends for years to come! I agree that the ELR didn’t have enough performance and the price was too high, and also coupes were going out of style. Neither the Volt or the VLR lived up to the hype, but they did some things really well!

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  SBMtbiker

Yeah lots of poor comparisons, the Cimarron was mere badge engineering, at best. Also comparing the 1/4 mile time to a Fit? That’s just lazy.

John Burkhart
John Burkhart
1 month ago

I really like this series, but this one was exceptional. The Volt made so much sense, in a reversal maybe a great car that they couldn’t figure out how to effectively market.

I don’t get why it’s taking so long for the public to stumble onto PHEVs with 50 or more EV mile capability. They just make sooo much sense to me.. but hey we don’t buy cars based on logic..

Michael Han
Michael Han
1 month ago

Y’all need to stop introducing me to niche old cars that I suddenly and irrationally want

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Han

For your own good then… Whatever you do, don’t google “right hand utes”.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
1 month ago

When I bought my 2014 Volt, I really wanted an ELR. I thought they were just as cool as the Volt, but looked better and had a much nicer experience. Finding one was hard and I settled on the Volt instead. It’s a great car with good build quality, excellent road dynamics, and the hybrid system does get me to and from work with no gasoline usage!

The ELR had an image problem too. It tried to look like the CTS Coupe but be different at the same time. Then you add those godawful “America is fucking awesome!” ads that Neal McDonough did for the car and it just ruined the reputation further.

Fun fact, the Volt concept was installed at the Test Track ride in Epcot at Disney World. The entire ride was rethemed to a GM Design center and the ride vehicles and screens were all based around the Volt and it’s UI. It’s why my Volt has affectionately been given a “TESTRAK” license plate now.

Defiant
Defiant
1 month ago
Reply to  rctothefuture

It’s where I first saw the Volt before locating one in NJ!

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  rctothefuture

Ugh, that was one of the worst re-theming’s in Disney history. They scrubbed every bit of humor out of the ride and left a bunch of sections of the ride in place that make no sense and/or aren’t fun anymore (things like the crash test and the old hot/cold/acid test rooms).

Then again, a poorly executed re-skin of something good is very appropriate for an article about the ELR. 😉

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

I never found the re-theme to be that bad, it just felt like it was done on a budget. The semi jump scare doesn’t make a lot of sense in a “virtual grid”, however the hot and cold room kind of work because they turned that into the wind tunnel test section, which has a cool effect.

I agree the “Power Test” where you drive towards the wall doesn’t make sense anymore.

The original Test Track was so 90’s that it felt like a joke by 2005. I mean showing the potential of ABS and TCS systems was quite humorous. Especially when people went “Oh wow!” like it was some special feature. I do miss the charm of that ride. Hopefully the retheme brings some of that back!

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
1 month ago

I had a 2012 (1st gen) Volt and I loved it. It felt like a bank vault and I loved the looks though I know not everyone does. I didn’t care for the premium gas requirement. Never had a single problem with it until it got totaled while parked in front of my house.

I now have a 2017 Volt which is maybe less distinctive but improved in almost every way. It’s considerably quicker, gets better EV range, has a quieter engine, and uses regular gas. I bought it for $14,500 in 2021 with only 20k miles on it because nobody understands these cars and they depreciated like crazy.

The ELR is gorgeous but I understand why nobody wanted to pay 70 grand for one.

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
1 month ago

As an aside, is the Cimarron the only Cadillac in history to have press photos of the car shod in white letter tires?

Cyko9
Cyko9
1 month ago

I wonder sometimes if products fail because they’re that bad or because they’re not marketed well. I know the Volt, but I’ve never heard of the ELR! Granted, I’m neither a Chevy or Cadillac guy, but as a guy interested in cars, you think I would’ve run into it somewhere. Was Chevrolet secretly ashamed of a budget Cadillac (again) and buried it? Or, did they think buyers going to Cadillac dealerships would be swayed from their luxury performance oriented options to buy a small, semi-efficient PHEV? The fact that GM was bristling at the Prius’s popularity indicates they didn’t really understand the issue. The fact that they continue to kill affordable, efficient vehicle models caps it off.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
1 month ago

The only thing that was wrong with this Cadillac, IMO, was the MSRP.
Now that lightly used ones can be had under $25k (when you can find them on the used market) an ELR is on my short list of cars I’d like to buy for my next commuter. It’s a beautiful, distinctive, comfortable luxury coupe that would use exactly zero gallons of fuel on my ~15 miles each way commute, and I wouldn’t have to think twice if my plans changed and I wanted to drive from San Antonio to Houston this afternoon, instead. It’s hard to see what’s not to love…

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

Agreed, it’s a great-looking, more upscale version of an already great car. The problem is they wanted you to pay double for some nice leather and a Cadillac’d exterior.

One caution on used ones – isn’t this the car that has unobtainium LED tail lights? And given the miniscule production numbers it seems unlikely anyone is going to make aftermarket ones.

Regorlas
Regorlas
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

The legend of unobtanium LED tail lights arose from the Cadillac XLR.

https://www.theautopian.com/the-cadillac-xlr-was-more-than-just-a-neutered-corvette/

Not to say ELR tail lights are necessarily cheap, just that’s not the source of legend.

Getting ELR and XLR names confused is understandable. Cadillac naming and brand identity is an entirely separate rant.

That One Guy
That One Guy
1 month ago

This was so close to being great. It had the great bones of a Volt plus some minor upgrades as you noted, and just as you said it comes down to it needed more performance (even if you sacrificed range, I think it would have been acceptable) or a lower price. Those who got them cheap for whatever reason got themselves a great car.

That One Guy
That One Guy
1 month ago

Yes, totally agree. It’s probably more interesting to look at the could-have-beens than the obvious garbage. They have one more chance at it … if they can harness the energy of this (luxury space-ship) with plaid-mode type of EV performance it could make for an interesting experiment – just don’t know how big that market would be.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
28 days ago
Reply to  That One Guy

If they’d managed to wedge in a second electric motor driving the rear wheels for the same price, I think it could have been way more successful. Even if the total power output didn’t increase much (probably limited by the battery). Better weight balance and acceleration to give it some of the performance to match the looks.

Serge Storms
Serge Storms
1 month ago

I’ve owned one for nine years now since new. The only thing more beautiful than the exterior is the Kona Brown interior. It’s been flawless since the day I drove it off the dealers lot. I’ve got a lifetime electric usage of 83% and never a bit of range anxiety. The MSRP was 82k. I bought it, new, for 46k. The federal, State and electric company rebates brought that down another 10k. So 36k plus tax and registration tags was a deal of a lifetime that I’ve never regretted. Beautiful car.

Defiant
Defiant
1 month ago

Since I was concerned about re-sale on any (then new) PHEV’s, I leased (had never leased before) the first year Volt (out of NJ, since they weren’t offered in FL yet; only 5 states or something) and loved it. It leased out well with the $7500 tax credit off-setting the MSRP purchase price and it had a “reasonable” residual.

It was perfect for my commute 17-18 mile each way commute. I joined the website that allowed you to share your cars energy usage (don’t remember the website, but they had one for the ELR as well) and was stunned the amount of miles I was able to go on electric vs. gas (about 80% over the course of ownership and electicity down here was much cheaper than gas!) The GOV even subsidized a Chargepoint in my house (that later caught fire – no more GOV subsidized equipment period. (Lowest bid usually the winner, right?)

Then I saw the Converj concept not long after… I immediately went to the two local Cadillac dealers and left a (albeit small) deposit with each requesting to be their first. This was back before crazy (normalized now?) ADM’s were a thing. Both put in writing it would be at MSRP.

Around 3 years later, the ELR was announced and one of the two Caddy dealers honored my “first spot” request (the other didn’t and gave back my deposit)… Then they and I saw the price. Full-stop. Insane. What was Caddy thinking. I had planned on purchasing this one after a full three years of ZERO problems with an early Volt… no more.

The dealer was as shocked as I, but they suggested I order/spec the car as I would want it and they’d call me when it arrived. Black with all options and the Brown leather interior with the Carbon/wood… beautiful. Truly stunning.

But, I still had a few months left on the Volt lease and just couldn’t justify the sales price or lease price at that time. It moved onto their showroom. And sat. And sat. and sat some more. They didn’t even allow test drives I guess as the mileage never increased the later times I saw it.

Many months later I received a call they said I should come in as they had figured out a solution. I agreed, with reservations as I didn’t know what they could do.

They must have been tired of floor-planning this or something, but via GM, they had a lease that was at least not absurd now. Still waiting for the other shoe to drop, it didn’t, and I drove it home.

AMAZING. It wasn’t fast (beyond 40mph, up to then, the accelleration was fine) but was perfect for an around-town car. Cadillac even paid to have their branded charger put in (still have the outer protective, Cadillac-branded, charger cover if someone who currently has an ELR wants it) so I had that one installed at my office’s garage (without the branded cover over it… this unit also blew a fuse and fragged itself after about 5 years of use – early chargers were not great!)

Over the 3 years I had this, ZERO problems and I was one of the “highest scoring” users on that website… I think I was able to get over 14k miles to a single tank of fuel according to the site. Just a wonderful place to spend time in a commute. The sound system was great, you got used to the early CUE (never great) and the “secret panel” was always a hit with the small-at-the-time children in the back.

At lease turn-in, I really wanted to buy it, but because of the stupidly high subsidized residual, they wouln’t sell near what they were going at auction for. Bummer as it would have been a keeper.

Fantastic car; bad price. Nobody ever knew (other than magazine readers) it shared anything with a Volt as it looked completely different. The Cimarron argument doesn’t hold up to the end-users actual use. Luxurious A-B-A commuting use? Perfect.

Serge Storms
Serge Storms
1 month ago
Reply to  Defiant

I still own my ELR since new, I’d love that branded cover.

Serge Storms
Serge Storms
1 month ago
Reply to  Defiant

I’d love to have that branded cover. I’ve had my ELR over nine years now. Bought it new and still love it.

Defiant
Defiant
1 month ago
Reply to  Serge Storms

Let me know how to reply to you since I can’t find a way to send a PM!

Serge Storms
Serge Storms
30 days ago
Reply to  Defiant

I can’t figure it out how to PM either. Damn, that cover would look cool in the garage.

Defiant
Defiant
30 days ago
Reply to  Serge Storms

If you figure it out, let me know! It’s only the cover that went over the charger Cadillac installed back in the day. It doesn’t say “ELR,” but does have the Cadillac logo on it and the cover is black/silver.

MP81
MP81
1 month ago

That last model year of ELR was considerably better, especially given the still-slightly-too-expensive $10k drop in price. Huge torque increase, better HiPer struts, stiffer springs, stiffer CABs, damper rebound spring, stiffer bushing in the Watts link…

Especially when you factor in the optional performance package: Summer tires and Brembos up front.

Even today these cars are absolutely stunning on the road. Being in Metro Detroit, it’s infrequent I see one, but not incredibly rare.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
1 month ago
Reply to  MP81

That’s how GM do. Launch a car mediocre car with lots of potential, act shocked when it fails to meet expectations, quietly revise the car so it’s actually good, and then drop the vehicle because the changes were made too late and there’s no recovering from the established public perception. Fiero, anyone?

Protodite
Protodite
1 month ago

Oh and a note on the small back seats: I once had someone describe my ATS-V coupe as having “a nephew backseat” and I cannot think of a better description for such a thing. It’s perfect!

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
1 month ago

The sad thing was at the time Chevy also had the Spark EV, that could do 0-60 just about as quick as the ELR, so it wasn’t even like they had to look outside their company to see they weren’t doing good enough.

BMW did the same with the i8 to some degree, looks the business but a Model S was still quicker at the time.

The price is the crazy thing about the ELR, but it was when Cadillac was moving their management to NYC and naming everything with letters instead of actual names so they were all messed up thinking they were still the Cadillac of automobiles.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 month ago

The ELR was and is the best-looking Cadillac – especially coupe – in many decades. Still holds true today.

How and why they didn’t do a better job of evolving and spreading that design to their other models is still somewhat surprising. They’d definitely look better than the chromed wannabe-locomotive look they have going now.

I suspect they wanted it to be a failure and/or a low volume “halo” car like the whatever-iq is now:
– The price alone was absurd.
– The haptic seats were and are such an awfully horrible idea, and very gm: take an established system that works and is familiar (parking sensors with audio tones indicating range to an object) and replace them with a seat the vibrates and makes you think you’re having muscle spasms or worse (imagine any elderly driver you know suddenly experiencing this system with no warning, and remember that they are/were cadilliq’s core audience).
– With all the fancy powered gizmos on the thing, you think they’d have managed to put an electronic assist on the doors. They were horribly heavy IIRC, and even more ungainly than a Challenger’s and well more than a camaro’s (comparing contemporary coupes).
– In that same vein, why bother making it a coupe? It wasn’t sporty, the CTS coupe was already a thing, and it made it even less practical other than ingress/egress.
– The infotainment system is better than the one in the volt (not saying much) but goodness does CUE suck.
– While the controls are better than the volt – especially the volt’s gear selector with that dumb plastic arch around it in Park that seems designed solely for the driver to bash their knuckles on – the designers had nearly a clean slate on a new fresh supposedly-exciting platform, and they could only do what they did?
– +10 design points for not having the dumb fake window blackout treatment the volt got. Yikes, was that awful. It didn’t look good on the concept, it looks silly on the production car.
– -10 design points for the grille being so large yet so fake. Yeah, it fits with the ICE stablemates’ motif, but could have set the company on a better direction. Now we have vehicles where the front is apparently just lights and grilles.

93
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x