Cadillac Executive Admits ELR Plug-in Coupe Was Overpriced as Dealers Offer 35 Percent Discounts Off MSRP

It was supposed to be Cadillac’s glorious entry into the plug-in car market, combining the brand’s reputation for sporty performance and high-end luxury with zero-emissions capability and high fuel economy. Based on the same drivetrain and chassis as the highly-popular Chevrolet Volt, the brand had hoped the Cadillac ELR would help it compete directly against Tesla’s high-end Model S high-performance electric sedan.

Cadillac hopes the 2016 ELR can make up for poor sales of the previous 2015 model.

Cadillac hopes the 2016 ELR can make up for poor sales of the previous 2015 model.

Yet since it launched back in 2013, only 1,835 Cadillac ELR range-extended coupes have been sold by General Motors’ luxury arm, causing it to offer massive discounts again and again to both customers and even dealers in an attempt to shift its massive inventory. From its original MSRP of $75,995 when it debuted in October 2013, some dealers in the New York area are now reportedly offering the outgoing 2015 model-year three-door plug-in for under $50,000.

The Cadillac ELR is on average currently selling more than $11,000 less than its MSRP across the U.S.

Initially, Cadillac executives tried hard to justify the high-sticker price of what was essentially a $35,000 well-spoken Chevrolet Volt wearing an expensive tuxedo, but poor sales figures and customer feedback has led the automaker to be a little more honest with itself about the model’s unmitigated sales disaster.

“One thing is fair to say: We’ve had a great learning exercise with this car,” admitted Cadillac head of marketing Uwe Ellinghaus in an interview with Bloomberg yesterday. “The MSRP was, indeed, a mouthful.”

2014 Cadillac ELR

Cadillac had lofty goals for the ELR, but they haven’t yet materialised.

As data from car valuation site TrueCar shows, the Cadillac ELR is on average currently selling more than $11,000 less than its MSRP across the U.S., by far the biggest difference between sticker price and price paid that we’ve seen in a long time. By comparison, the next biggest difference between sale price and MSRP comes courtesy of the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive, which is currently selling on average at $4,000 below MSRP.

The BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe meanwhile, is selling at more than $1,500 above MSRP, betraying that vehicle’s limited production and high demand.

Despite the marketing rationale of pricing the original Cadillac ELR at a price point closer to the rest of the Cadillac range than the Volt on which it was based, Cadillac has discovered that buyers have been split. Those who value performance over environmental concerns have stuck with other, higher-performance Cadillac models, while those who value the eco-friendliness of its range-extended electric drivetrain have opted for the far cheaper Chevrolet Volt instead.

Those who have wanted both have simply gone to Tesla, whose Model S electric sedan can’t compete with the ELR in terms of luxury, but makes up for it in other ways with blistering performance, super-fast charging at Tesla’s free-to-use Supercharger stations, impressive range, and of course, high-end tech features.

“We just wanted to make this a statement for the brand of how progressive we are,” Ellinghaus said of the original Cadillac ELR MSRP. With many features included as standard that other luxury marques only offer as expensive extras — electrically-activated door mechanisms, fully heated cupholders and motor-driven cubby-hole covers, for example — Cadillac had hoped that customers would at least see a reason for the massive price difference between it and the Volt.

It takes quite a lot of lush cockpit leather, LED headlamps and olive wood to justify a two-fold price hike.Kyle Stock, Bloomberg

As Bloomberg’s Kyle Stock notes however, “It takes quite a lot of lush cockpit leather, LED headlamps and olive wood to justify a two-fold price hike.”

“We overestimated that customers would realize our competitors were naked at that price,” admitted Ellinghaus.

As we noted a few weeks back, the mid-cycle refresh for the 2016 Cadillac ELR should offer some redemption for the model thanks to a massive list of improvements that are normally reserved for ground-up redesigns rather than mid-cycle refreshes. In addition to giving the Volt-based drivetrain a serious performance boost thanks to some software tweaks that raise the overall top speed and shaves 1.5 seconds off its 0-60 mph time, Cadillac engineers have given the car’s suspension system a complete overhaul to give a more refined yet sporty road handling experience befitting of the badge.

No matter how you cut it, the ELR hasn’t sold well to date.

Despite being based on outgoing 2015 Chevrolet Volt technology rather than the redesigned, longer-range, more efficient drivetrain found in the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt, the 2016 Cadillac ELR does at least attempt on paper to differentiate itself from the affordable family hatchback.

But most importantly, its new sticker price — $65,995 before incentives, $58, 495 after the $7,500 Federal income tax credit has been applied — makes the high-end plug-in a far more appealing deal to those who want a plug in that is more opulent than the Model S but don’t care about its limited 33-mile electric range.

Only time, and sales figures, will tell if Cadillac’s latest attempt to appeal to environmentally-conscious, affluent buyers will pay dividends.


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  • Ed

    Gosh…this whole ELR affair seems misguided…and is nicely summed up in the quote, “We just wanted to make this (The ELR at a high price) a statement for the brand of how progressive we are.” This quote is from the ongoing head of marketing, so I wonder what the future holds for Cadillac in this category?! And listing electrically heated cupholders as a distinguishing feature suggests that Cadillac has no clue as to what drives car buyers, especially environmentally responsible buyers. Only 33 miles of electric range tells us where Cadillac’s heart really is; it is an insult to the intent of the laws that require ZEVs!
    Right now, Cadillac’s goal is to “move the iron”, getting ELR inventory sold and forgotten as soon as possible. I suggest that anyone interested in an ELR just sit tight for another 60 days, and the MSRP will likely fall another $10,000.

    • EricR

      For the last two weeks, I’ve been getting 50 miles per charge on my ELR (it is rated for 38 rather, not 33- I think you are talking about the sport option with performance summer tires rather than the standard low rolling resistance tires- bot 20″ though). This is far better than my 2011 Volt was.

  • LOL another example of GM doing it wrong thinking that they could compete with Tesla. Not even in the same ball park.

  • jeffsongster

    Love the look and drive of the ELR… even better if they just got rid of the nearly useless back seat and filled the rear floor with batteries to add another 40 miles to the electric range. All the baubles and crap should be useful…( love my LEAFs heated steering wheel and seats) not sure that heated cup holders would keep my tea much warmer than a thermos bottle. Cadillac should take a hint from Nissan and add all around cameras… a marvelous and highly underrated feature, more valuable than self parking to me. ( just let me see what I am about to bump please).

    I could see a 5 to 10 k bump over Volt would probably go… but if not… just turn it into a 2 door Volt variant and sell it as a Chevy.

    As to the Mercedes pricing woes… add the quick charge as standard. Currently do they even offer it? They’d be going much better.

    • EricR

      I need the back seats for the emergency kid hauling 🙂 I don’t think the cup holders are heated. If so, I would be pleasantly surprised. Although the ELR does not have cameras all around, it has sensors so it tells you if you are close to something (when a part of your car is near something, it displays an image of the car with up to 4 bars near the collision point, depending on how close something is. If you get too close, the seat vibrates subtly. Also, if the car thinks you are overtaking something too fast, it will buzz seat and flash a red light on the windshield. And if you are backing out and the a car or pedestrian is approaching from the side, the backup camera screen warns you by flashing a red arrow in the direction of the car/pedestrian and it vibrates your seat. Similar for lane drifting when you don’t have your directional on- it vibrates the side of your seat that indicates the side you are drifting. Now that I have all these safety features, I want all my future cars to have them.

  • offib

    “Sporty road handling experience befitting of the badge”, hmm… Wasn’t Cadillac supposed to be the American Citroen?

    If I had the will and wallet to buy a Cadillac (which would only be an ELR), I would not be buying it for a sporty ride and wouldn’t be expecting one. I know there’s been a whole image problem way back then with the average age of a Cadillac owner was identical to the average age of a Fox News viewer, but it’s sad to see an established brand or model of car to abandon its key signature.

    • EricR

      It is a true luxury ride. The 20″ wheels and its sophisticated suspension has it hugging the road beautifully. While I would never say no to more torque/hp, it moves nicely. And between the silence of the electric drive and its excellent sound baffling, it makes a Lexis sound loud. Give it a test drive for the heck of it (and test out a Volt for the comparison)- I don’t think you will be disappointed.

  • Mark Benjamin David

    “One thing is fair to say: We’ve had a great learning exercise with this car,”

    This is what GM says about everything. They never learn, they don’t give us the cars we want.

    To compete with Tesla it must be ALL battery electric. I’m getting tired of carmakers dropping that name…drop us a real battery electric car, then you can claim it is to compete with Tesla.

    We shall see if the “Bolt” lives up to it’s car show concept hype, but, I have my doubts, GM is best at marketing B.S. Makes me embarrassed to be american. Although, BMW has been at some pretty slippery B.S. claiming the i3 is as revolutionary as Model T…nope…Tesla has already done this with the Model S…sorry BMW, but, I’m getting more and more disinterested. The i3 is nothing like it could have been…considering the Mini-e and Active-e.

    • Mark Benjamin David

      BTW, this one, and pretty much all Cadillacs today, are pretty ugly, if you ask me.

      • EricR

        And yet, for me, it was as if Cadillac read my mind to design my dream car.

  • Benjamin Corcoran

    GM Execs:

    ‘We overestimated our customers would be smart enough to realize this was a good deal’.

    These idiots. GM execs are so out of touch they make my head spin. You design a fugly hatchback that looks reminiscent of your models from 10 years ago, slap some leather seats in it, and just because you glued a “Cadillac” logo onto its bulging rear end it’s somehow worth EIGHTY THOUSAND DOLLARS?

    What freaking morons. I agree with the consensus, GM should fire everybody at Cadillac in charge of this program and start over. Including Uwe.

    The only people likely dumb enough to overpay for this debacle, yet somehow managing to earn the requisite income to afford it, are GM’s own OVERPAID, idiotic execs. I don’t think that is an “overestimation”, Uwe.

    • EricR

      And me, I guess 🙂

    • D. Harrower

      Forget “overestimating” or “making a statement”.

      The only thing Cadillac execs were thinking when they released the ELR was
      “Let’s see how much these tree-huggers will pay for a Cadillac badge.”

  • CDspeed

    “whose Model S electric sedan can’t compete with the ELR in terms of luxury”, yeah right. Cadillac isn’t as luxurious as your making them out to be. GM destroyed Cadillac’s reputation long ago, and to this day Cadillac is still fighting off the reputation of being a big land yacht driven exclusively by elderly people. And they’ve been dressed up variants of GM’s econemy brands for a very long time.

    • D. Harrower

      That statement struck me as a bit odd as well. Is this Nikki’s actual opinion or just something she’s forwarded from other articles? Has she driven an ELR?

      • CDspeed

        I’ve been a long time BMW owner, and I think Teslas are equally as luxurious as any European luxury brand. Maybe like some people she has misinterpreted the minimalist look as being sparse. But if you look at what auto makers are doing, they are all using technology to make interiors clutter free.