Cadillac ELR A 2014 Blunder Of The Year?


2014 Cadillac ELR - Image Credit: Tom Moloughney

2014 Cadillac ELR – Image Credit: Tom Moloughney

With the New Year now upon us, Automotive News examines what it believes were the Top 10 Blunder of 2014.

Fortunately for us, only one plug-in vehicle made the blunder list: the Cadillac ELR.

Here’s why Automotive News believes the ELR deserves a spot on the list:

Cadillac’s Excessively Large Retail price

Cadillac executives said the $75,995 price for the Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid was meant to convey an air of exclusivity. But that lofty sticker proved way too exclusive. Cadillac sold just 1,192 of the coupes through November, well short of an AutoPacific Inc. forecast of 2,100. Cadillac “surprised the world” with the coupe’s knockout styling, Aaron Bragman, Detroit bureau chief, wrote in his ELR review. “Then it surprised the world again by pricing it out of consideration for anyone who’d likely buy one.”

We find the end result of almost 1,200 ELRs actually a lot higher than we expected given the very optimistic MSRP GM put on the car.

Of course to be fair we have seen almost $15,000 being offered off the sticker price of the extended range Cadillac (and heard rumors of much, much more being offered at the dealer level to close a sale), with few being sold near the $75,995 sticker price.   One would be hard pressed to consider the sales results of the ELR a success.

GM said in September that the Cadillac ELR production was on hiatus – so there is/will be no 2015 model year of the car, but promised to return with “engineering enhancements” at some point this year as a 2016 model.

Historically not "pro-EV", New Cadillac Boos Johan de Nysschen Isn't Making The ELR A Priority For The Brand

Historically not “pro-EV”, New Cadillac Boss Johan de Nysschen Isn’t Making The ELR A Priority For The Brand

However, since that hiatus announcement by GM, the 2016 Cadillac ELR was scheduled to be presented at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, but was pulled at the last minute due to “due to system integration difficulties” – no further announcements have be made.

Even more recently in November, new Cadillac CEO boss Johan de Nysschen admitted that GM didn’t position the car properly, and cast some doubt on the future status of the ELR (full article and quotes here).

“I absolutely believe that we need not only a successor to ELR but more vehicles of that caliber and they will be part of our future. We must not give up on the car. I cannot have 50 priorities at the same time. The team and I will get around to working on ELR, but it is clearly going to be a niche car.”

Source: Automotive News

Categories: Cadillac

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40 Comments on "Cadillac ELR A 2014 Blunder Of The Year?"

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Now that we know Volt 2’s range, two questions:

Will 2016 ELR ever show up, with 50 miles? Price?

Is 50 Volt2 AER enough to pull remaining 2014 ELR buyers away? Many ELR buyers come from Volts.

I was offered $24,000 off the sticker, I basically liked the car, but there were 2 big deal brakeres for me.

1). Almost no rear seat room for adult males.

2). Funky dashboard choices, which unlike the Volt which I got used to, I didn’t see myself ever getting used to it. (never saw any complaint about this at all in print, which goes to show you never precisely know how you’re going to react to a car until you actually get near it).

Other minor things were the ‘soap box derby’ styling of modern cadillacs that was a minor turn off, and those “UNIVERSALLY ACCLAIMED” paddle ‘regen on demand’ things that make the car lurch forward when you’re going around a curve.

So it was a “Close, but no cigar” moment for me. I disliked the car for reasons I wouldn’t have known if I had never seen the car in person.

Its no surprise to me that Caddy’s sales are overall down for the past few years. Don’t know precisely who their intended customer is, but it isn’t me.

Oh the other queer thing about the dealership experience was 8 of 10 Caddys had the ‘glove box’ cd option, which took up 40% of the very small existing space, such that the remaining space was about as big as my Roadster Glovebox (almost non-existant). Although It would be convenient to have the Volt’s arrangement where you load CD into the volts hard drive, in the Caddy it took an external operation, and I’m not even sure the transfer facility was there. Now, obviously on an S, I’d have the slight additional chore of loading the CD onto my puter, then putting it on a USB stick, then moving that to the Radio. So strictly speaking this is no more of a Pain than it would be in the S. The queer thing is that apparently the dealers think their typical customer would not go through that rigamorole and just want an ‘immediate facility’. So the Dealers obviously disagree with the ‘feature count’ included with the car, and are just trying to band-aid features to make the car saleable. This begs the question: Doesn’t GM consult with their Dealers in the slightest to find out what features are mandatory to… Read more »

“Its no surprise to me that Caddy’s sales are overall down for the past few years.”

Cadillac sales are actually generally up since the CH11 filing.

Year US Canada
2009 109,092 4724
2010 146,925 7398
2011 152,389 7577
2012 149,782 6644
2013 182,543 9608
2014 170,750 10,538

Of course, the fact the total market went from under 12 million to 18 million is irrelevant.

Ouch, and true. Market share is measured in %, never units.

I guess strictly speaking, they lost market share (total sales/total market) However, their percent gains in sales are greater than the percent gains in the market, using the numbers posted here for total market increase and for Cadillac sales increase.

The ELR should have had not just a 30GB media hard drive like the 2011 Volt, but instead a silent “120GB solid state” media hard drive.


How about a USB port that holds 128GBs? At least move up to a Ford Focus.

$15k off…I recently looked at one that was being offered at exactly $25k off sticker price. Tack on another $7500 for the tax credit and the car was probably just about reasonably priced. Considering it’s a coupe with limited storage capacity and it’s a tough sell.

I don’t see how anyone could look at the ELR effort and not consider it a big ol’ stinking pile of failure, for all the reasons everyone here could recite from memory.

I really have to question how the heck something like this happens at an organization as large as Cadillac (or GM), where they don’t switch brands of paper clips without multiple management reviews and signoffs. (I’ve worked for some really big companies and fought this mgmt style and culture many times.)

And to chime in on the discount reports: The biggest offer I’ve seen advertised was $18k.

None of this means they can’t turn this disaster into a success story, but it will take some heavy lifting (mostly between the ears of mgmt) to make it happen.


They did say it was a “Limited run….”
Those sales counts qualify!

The ELR was DOA at release.

i think that the biggest mistakes with the ELR concern EV range and performance. with respect to EV range, electric driving is a premium feature, so the ELR had to offer more range than the Volt; given that the ELR is an EREV, they really only needed to get the range to 100 miles – they did not have to match the range of the Tesla Model S. with respect to performance, the Volt was designed with economy of operation in mind, so decisions were made in the interest of maximizing efficiency. when you are selling a luxury car, there is a certain amount of waste that goes with it, and that the customers of such cars expect (who could spend $1 million on a Porsche 918 and defend the decision as being *not* wasteful). in this regard, the ELR needed to provide an option for better, albeit less efficient, operation by increasing the performance of the ELR relative to the Volt.

It was a huge blunder. GM just has to realize that the Caddy brand is for big land barges driven by seniors.

If they want to take on BMW, Tesla, and Audi . . . they need a new brand.

Cadillac (and Buick) are attracting more younger buyers every year. I have friends in their late 20s and 30s that drive both.

True – but the younger set won’t support and service model refresh – like at Tesla
that do it a new way …. not tie you in to expensive GPS map updates etc. and an old fashioned service model.

There are new ways of looking after customers and I wonder if GM as a corporation is actually willing to do that ?

ELR is incredibly embarrassing for GM. It is a giant poster advertising that GM doesn’t have a clue about how to make an electric vehicle. They seriously think a fancy interior and raising the price makes it somehow compete with Tesla. The ELR is an embarrassment in every way. Not to mention its advertising.

I think the car is great. The blunder was the price. I’d say they did the same blunder on the Gen1 Volt because what happened was the initial price stuck in people’s heads. I still have to correct people that the Volt’s base MSRP is not over $40k. So even with GM maximizing their profits by starting high, then reducing profits, the problem is everyone just remembers the initial price.

the main problem was not the price, it was the label: the offer proposition was $40,000 for a Chevrolet that was not a Corvette; in terms of market perception, that is a lot of money to pay for a Chevrolet nameplate. compare that to the reception for the BWM i3, which in my view is an inferior car in many practical respects and is designed to look like a car half it’s price. yet, people don’t complain about the price of the BMW i3. if the Volt had been introduced with a BWM nameplate, nobody would have complained about the price, instead they would have raved about the engineering and design (as another problem with the Volt is that it doesn’t “look” like a Chevrolet). in any event, i think that early pricing of the Volt was intended to limit demand. this is something that is often done with cutting edge products so that you can roll the products out more slowly to not only adjust the manufacturing cycle, but to reduce recall and reputation expenses if there are problems with first delivered products. the Volt was definitely not priced to “maximize profit” because by the time you allocated fixed… Read more »

Regarding maximizing profits, I was referring to the ELR.

I agree that the Volt would have been better off without the Chevy baggage. All Voltec vehicles should have been their own line. They could have been sold at all GM dealerships that wanted to participate, and not be affiliated with Chevy/Buick/Cadillac. There could have been different models and different luxury levels, etc.

it is very difficult, and expensive, to create a new brand. among other things, aside from creating the brand, you also have to create a brand identity. look at how difficult it was for GM to establish a “Saturn” brand.

By this logic, the Corvette shouldn’t be a Chevy either (and you acknowledge this in your comment). The entire point is that GM is trying to create “another Corvette” with the Volt: a halo car that stands out among their other products.

IMO, the problem with the ELR was precisely the price. It was priced to compete with a Model S, and it could compete with a Model S in exterior styling and certainly in interior quality, but in performance (which is what buyers in that price range look for) it simply got smoked.

The ELR should have been a $10-15k premium over a fully loaded Volt, instead of a $30k premium.

when you attempt to do an analysis, you have to compare apples to apples. in the case of the Corvette, that is a car that has been in production for over 60 years. after 60 years you can safely assume that the Corvette has an image all its own. in 2011, the Volt was a new model, which therefore did not inherently have its own image. when the Volt was introduced it was an expensive car for a generic Chevrolet. by contrast, the Corvette has an established image of being *not* a generic Chevrolet. i suspect that the issue that Chevrolet has been trying to address is that the Corvette is more of a “baby boomer” car (in much the way that Harley-Davidson motorcycles are) and Chevrolet is trying to appeal to younger generations of auto buyers. but that is a different challenge from the one facing the Volt.

…so the Volt and the Corvette is not an apples to apples comparison even though both carry a Chevrolet nameplate.

The ELR is damn nice, one of the nicest looking cars on the market.

The problems were price and offering. They should’ve given it better acceleration than the Volt to help justify a higher price (not that it matters in reality, but people shopping look for those metrics), and the ELR also should’ve been a much lower price than what they assigned it.

$60k with a 0-60 time that was 2 seconds better than Volt, everything else unchanged. Boom. Success.

Otherwise, it’s quite an amazing car.

We have both a Volt and ELR. Its a shame Cadillac did not price the car lower to begin with and worse yet, their initial advertising campaign. They built up so much ill will, it was almost impossible to dig out of. I also agree that as a minimum the ELR needed better performance over the Volt. As an actual owner though I can tell you it is a very nice car to own (well lease). We have only owned a handful of domestic cars out of the many cars we have owned over the years. The Volt is one of the best cars in our opinion, there is no ICE replacement for the EV driving experience and the ELR had the bells and whistles we had hoped would be an option on the Volt 1.0 and likely are available (well most) on the Volt 2.0 The lease deal we got was so good it will make a wonderful bring to Volt 2.0 or other EV platforms that might be available in a few years. We have no regrets. Our hope was GM would have a 2016 model year and slide in the Volt 2.0 improvements. Love the looks of… Read more »

Good to hear from an ELR owner. How do you like the paddels (and now they will be in the Volt Gen2)?

Speaking of grills, I don’t know what’s going on with Lexus, but looking at their cars at the Detroit Auto Show, they all appeared to have giant fish nets on the front of them.

The paddle shifters are actually not that good. To me they are a gimmick. Why? They are not progressive and do not modulate at all.

Is on or off and there is no smooth transmission. I suspect Volt 2.0 has taken care of the shifter shortfalls.

We leased our ELR for less than our Volt, it was a no brainer. There are deals out there that seem to good to be true , but you’ll have to be at the right place at the right time.

Our dealer had 2 ELR’s that they had from December 2014 and we leased ours in September 2014. It probably helped that we are active in the renewable energy and sustainability community and the ELR got and continues to get good exposure.

Whoops meant to say December 2013

On/off I think is better than people shifting their cars into L mode momentarily.

one of the aspects of brand management is that you use pricing to distinguish brands. so a “low cost” Cadillac would have probably not been such a good idea – GM really did need to price the ELR higher than the Volt but they needed to offer a better value proposition to support the price difference.

as it turned out, the ELR ended up, in some respects, as being the EV equivalent to the Cadillac Cimmaron.

Higher.. yes. But not over 2 x the price.

If it had been around $55k to $65K like many were expecting, there would not have been as much backlash.

There’s an owner on the Volt forum who got $40K off his ELR… now that a decent discount!!

Two ways making this seem possible.
-GM granted an additional 5k, on demos
(for one car if dealer had 7 inventory)

-He/She was in Georgia, and is bragging about $7,500, plus that state’s $5,000 rebate.

GM Credit Card points are sometimes added. The ELR is eligible for up to $3,000 there, too, and it amounts to a “cash back” card rather than a discount. Many ingredients end up in what folks report. You had to put 60000 on a credit card, to get 3000 off the car.

I too have a Volt and an ELR in the family. Granted the original asking price was a big mistake and to me, that, the pricing of the car is the big blunder, not the car. But if you remember in the beginning, they weren’t going for big sales. The ELR itself is actually a very nice car and most owners are happy with it. I think if Cadillac priced it at 50-55 range it would have been a huge success.

i don’t agree that the pricing of the ELR was a mistake. part of what goes into pricing decisions involves product positioning. the ELR was priced for the market position that they sought for the vehicle. the reality is that cars are not always priced based *solely* on manufactured cost; there is a lot more that goes into it and much of that is informed by strategic marketing decisions. in the case of the ELR, the marketing strategy failed somewhat; in part because, i believe, that GM did not identify the important product attributes that would make the ELR “premium”. i think that GM thought that upgrading the trim and ride characteristics would create a “premium” image in the minds of consumers (a kind of “Cadillac Cimarron” strategy, if you will). in my opinion, the biggest premium feature was extended EV range, because EV operation is itself a very premium feature. if GM could have achieved 100 miles of EV range *with* an ICE generator, i don’t think that you would have seen anywhere near the number of complaints that you have. such a car would have effectively operated in EV mode almost exclusively for local driving, and combined with… Read more »

The problem of ELR is either price or lack of performance.

You can’t charge $80K for a slowest Cadillac in the brand line up. It needs $80K performance to back it up.

Or you need to price the car accordingly to its price which is more a $45K to $50K car at most…

“you need to price the car accordingly to its price which is more a $45K to $50K car at most…”


you need to price the car according to its performance which is more a $45K to $50K car at most…

In my opinion, the ELR is not practical, functional or user friendly. It shouldn’t have a back seat If no one can use it. This car should have had 4 doors and seating for five.

I’ve said it before, but rather than try to pawn these off at an unrealistic high price they would be better to offer them at just a ridiculously low initial price. Can you imagine the press if the offered these at say $30,000 or maybe exactly the same price as a Volt and start taking orders? Once they create some demand they can drive the price up. It may be viewed as marketing genius instead of a total marketing failure.

Sorry, the ELR is a massive blunder reflective of old GM thinking.

This is one of those “what were they thinking?” moments.
They can take it the next step by offering fuel cell version.

My money will stay in my pocket.