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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