Hybrids & Electrics

Cadillac Pulls the Plug on the Electric ELR

2016 Cadillac ELR
Source: Cadillac

The Cadillac ELR plug-in has always been like the nerdy girl at homecoming. It waits for attention in vain, an intelligent wallflower, left adrift on the outskirts of the dance floor. It may not have the retainer, zits, or awkward attitude, but neither does it command the American public’s affection. The problem with the ELR was that it was never allowed to become a sensual, unassuming librarian like its cylinder-deactivating aunt, the CTS, or as desired as its CTS-V stepmother. At its core, this vehicle was branded by the public as a luxurious reincarnation of the Chevy Volt, and most buyers look the ELR up and down, laughed at its $75,995 initial asking price, and then padded off to more attractive dance partners.

Automotive News recently did a brief eulogy for the the ELR luxury plug-in hybrid coupe, as Cadillac has announced that it will be retired once the product cycle runs out. Overpriced and underappreciated, the ELR has been a slow seller since its debut in 2014. According to reports, Cadillac dealers only sold 1,024 units in all of 2015, which Cadillac marketing chief Uwe Ellinghaus calls “a big disappointment.” During the CT6 sedan launch, Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen confirmed that there would not be a second generation of the ELR, though the current model could remain in production up until 2018.

Source: Cadillac
Source: Cadillac

“I plan to continue admiring it as one of the most beautiful cars on four wheels,” de Nysschen said in a statement. “But we don’t plan further investment.”

It sounds like this is an opportune time to buy a snazzy new ELR, but we recommend waiting to see if prices dip even lower. This still is a pretty pricey piece of machinery.

Dealers have long said that the sticker price of $75,995 is preposterously high, and even though Cadillac has slashed about $10,000 off the top for the 2016 model year, we’re skeptical whether this will help. By now, almost everyone knows that the ELR is based off the first-generation Chevrolet Volt, and even though Cadillac has boosted performance from 217 horsepower to 233 ponies with an additional 78 pound-feet of torque, things are still grim for the automaker’s electric offering.

Source: Cadillac
Source: Cadillac

What could have Cadillac done to save the ELR? While it may not make a lot of sense to some people, the art of blending electric power with forced induction engines offers a winning one-two punch for a lot of car buyers, and the ELR could have been a real winner if it had been offered in such trim.

What if there were three tiers of performance/efficiency one could opt for at the dealer? In addition to the sedate electric plug-in version, or choose a re-tuned, turbo four-cylinder hybrid version if an all-out bonkers twin-turbo V6 model looked too insane. That’s three levels of environmentally sound performance for marketing purposes, and a trio of different powerplants for various driving styles, all in one slick-looking chassis. The ELR looks like it should go much faster than it does.

GM didn’t go that route, instead relying on the notion that a $75,000 plug-in with the bone structure of the Volt would enamor the public. There are a few reasons why offering a trifecta of ELR coupes would have proven difficult: Frame compatibility, emissions quotas, drivetrain layouts, and cannibalizing the ATS coupe are just a few. But who’s to say it wouldn’t have worked either?

It will be interesting to see what GM learns from this debacle. Americans love performance and want to hear the snap and snarl you get from behind the wheel of a CTS-V. Performance car sales numbers back this up. Even an all-wheel drive 2.0-liter turbo option would have been a solid contender, but alas, it never came to fruition. So as the lights begin to dim and the dealer prices steadily drop, maybe it is time to take the ELR out for a spin on the dance floor, because she really does deserve some attention regardless of what the other kids may think.