By on May 20, 2016

2016 Cadillac ELR, Image: Cadillac

In the first paragraph of Car And Driver’s first full test of the 2014 Cadillac ELR, K.C. Colwell wrote, “The ELR’s entry price is nearly double that of the Volt.”

By paragraph two of the New York Times first ELR review, the Grey Lady called it, “bracingly expensive.”

AutoGuide called the ELR, “Surprisingly good, disappointingly expensive.”

Money undeniably played a big role in bringing the Cadillac ELR’s short life to an end. We knew months ago that the ELR wouldn’t make it through to a second-generation. Now we know that production of the Cadillac ELR, only 29 months after launching in December 2013, has come to an end.

While closely related to the first-generation Chevrolet Volt — which was by no means a marketplace success itself — General Motors upped the ante with the ELR, asking $76,000 for a front-wheel-drive coupe, a coupe that couldn’t crack 60 mph in less than eight seconds, a coupe that was a relative of a $35,000 Chevrolet.

But the ELR wasn’t just a Chevrolet Volt twin. There was unique suspension, added features in the car’s drivetrain, a genuinely premium interior, and exterior styling that looked like nothing else on the road, aside from Cadillac’s own CTS Coupe, which the automaker similarly discontinued.

It didn’t matter. From the start, consumers didn’t take to the ELR. Demand was all but nonexistent. A letdown after a hot launch? Not at all. There was no hot launch to speak of, no hype-infused rush of buyers to Cadillac dealers, no interest in forking out serious coin for an impractical coupe when its technology seemed three-years-old and the all-electric Tesla Model S was enticing 1,500 buyers per month.

Just how rare was the ELR? Cadillac sold just 2,697 ELRs in the United States between December 2013 and April 2016. In the ELR’s best month, August 2014, only 196 left Cadillac showrooms. The following month, volume tumbled 43 percent. One year later, in August 2015, ELR sales were down 77 percent, the third month in a half-year span during which ELR volume would plunge 60 percent.

And it’s not as though U.S. Cadillac ELR sales were legion before the sharp decline. In that best month of August 2014, uncommon vehicles such as the Lincoln MKT, Lexus LX570, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Mini Paceman, Scion iQ, Acura RLX, and Nissan GT-R all managed to outsell the ELR — at its peak.

2016 Cadillac ELR rear

To get an idea of the likelihood of spotting a Cadillac ELR ahead of you in the Starbucks drive-thru, consider the fact that, all-time, Mercedes-Benz USA sold more SLS AMGs than Cadillac has sold ELRs. The Chevrolet SS sedan, which no man hath ever seen at any time, produced more U.S. sales in calendar year 2015 than the ELR has all-time. Between the end of 2004 and the end of its run in 2007, U.S. sales of the Ford GT totalled 3,596 units, exactly one-third more than the ELR has during its similarly lengthy lifespan.

In what turned out to be a last-ditch effort, Cadillac improved the ELR for the 2016 model year with what they called “a host of upgrades.” The ELR’s 0-60 time was cut by 1.5 seconds, GM said. The top speed was elevated. Suspension was stiffened for more athletic handling and, said GM, “more precise control with no loss of ride quality.” There was even a new grille and new Cadillac crest and a performance package with summer tires and Brembo brakes.

And the base price fell below $60,000, noteworthy if not for the fact that it was never assumed by any critic in his right mind that the 2014 ELR could cost more than $50,000; if not for the understanding that the consumers who were originally willing to spend money on an ELR received extraordinary discounts. Remember those incentives?

Yet the updates for the 2016 model year were far too little, far too late. The ELR was not in need of updating. The ELR was in need of a time machine that would take Cadillac product planners back to the circa 2009-2013 drawing board between the dawn of the Converj Concept and the launch of the ELR. Cadillac targeted the high-end coupe market when buyers were moving away from coupes. Cadillac targeted the green market with a range-extended gas-electric when the Tesla Model S was an all-electric performance wonder. Cadillac targeted an unknown group of reverse-Euro-snob Americans with a bizarre marketing campaign that required every facet of the ad to be explained away.

Cadillac flubbed it, reviewers flayed it, consumers flew the other way, and the ELR flopped. Don’t act surprised — the ELR’s demise was a story TTAC covered back when ELR sales were at their best.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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58 Comments on “The Cadillac ELR Is Dead: Here’s Why...”


  • avatar

    It was TOO SMALL and too expensive.

    $83,000 (sticker I reviewed).

    It was ultimately going to be compared directly to the Model S when it fell into this price range.

    Despite a Model S:

    -carrying a cost between $70,000 and $140,200 (P90D)

    – having an interior not as luxurious as a $50,000 Genesis/Impala/300c and a bunch of other cars I can name.

    – and having RANGE ANXIETY for people who normally do very long road trips…

    The Model -S succeeds because IT IS SPACIOUS. It seats a family of 4 comfortably and up to 7 people – like an olde station wagon.

    It’s like a crossover in size and the Model X is so large it’s like an SUV inside.

    Because the car uses no gasoline, and can recharge in a garage or a nearby supercharger, it actually is more economical than a luxury car of similar value. Unfortunately, Tesla needs to improve interior quality to have a “finished product”.

    The Cadillac ELR should have been an EV version of the CTS. Or an EV version of the XTS. The XTS sees duty as a livery vehicle and rest stops are usually near superchargers where they can wait for an hour to regain their range.

    It works out fine for my personal Uber drivers because they just use the JFK supercharger (which I’ve made videos about).

    As a PHEV, a 4-door sedan Cadillac would have been a STEAL at the $85,000 mark.

    The ELR looked exactly like a CTS-coupe (the OLD CTS coupe) and wasn’t special at all. The CTS-V was more exciting (and still is).

    This product had tremendous potential but was executed with neolithic incompetence.

    There’s a bigger picture going on here:

    The economy is NOT GREAT because so many people are so deep in revolving debts. They need a single vehicle – in most cases – that does “everything”. Carries groceries, carries the kids, uses less fuel, looks good, etc.

    The ELR was IMPRACTICAL – an unforgivable sin.

    Had I been working at GM I’d have made the ELR a 4-door CTS PHEV.

    Swing for the fences: make the ELR a PHEV version of the XTS.

    Swing harder: PHEV SRX/XT5.

    Build it IN AMERICA…not China.
    Make America GREAT AGAIN.

    It doesn’t need to be “fast” cause old people don’t drive like that and they are the demographic driving these things mostly.

    I liked the interior of the ELR.
    I liked the build quality of the ELR.
    I liked the exterior design of the ELR – despite it being dated.
    But I wouldn’t give you more than $50,000 for it.
    And as it wasn’t big enough to be practical so I’d never buy one.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I think this is a notable moment. Not a single mention of hellcat.

      Although the it seems hellcat has not been replaced with “make America great again”. Building an ELR spin off certainly won’t make that happen.

    • 0 avatar
      VenomV12

      America was it’s greatest when slavery was prevalent, you know free labor tends to create bigger profit margins. Somehow I don’t think you would be too much for that plan though:)

      • 0 avatar

        America is in competition with 3 BILLION SLAVE LABORERS IN ASIA.

        That is why the free market needs protectionism.

        They devalue their currency and keep us the consumers and themselves the productive class – growing their economy while we fight for scraps.

        MY ONLY OBLIGATION AS AN AMERICAN IS TO ENSURE THE POWER OF AMERICA.

        ANYTHING AND ANYONE THREATENING THIS COUNTRY MUST BE DEALT WITH.

        WE WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

        Not through slavery – but through production and innovation.

        The slaves of old did what they had to do to ensure that future generations would be free.

        I appreciate their suffering and their sacrifice.

        And now I run 2 small businesses and drive HELLCATS in their honor.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          UNSUBSCRIBE

        • 0 avatar
          rentonben

          I can honestly say I want my children to be like BTSR. At least I know they wouldn’t be clutching at pearls and posting on Tumblr.

        • 0 avatar
          Bunter1

          “That is why the free market needs protectionism” These words you are using…I do not think they mean what you think they mean.
          “”fight for scraps” Yup. Those slaves sure have a better standard of living than we do. Really envy them.

          Suggestion-read some von Mises or Hayek, it will help on economics. Seriously.

          Have groovy day.

          Bunter

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Oh god, please no. Don’t turn BTSR from bad to worse. If there’s one thing worse than a protectionist it’s a member of the Austrian cargo cult. Most of what those guys wrote has been discredited by literally everything that’s happened in the past forty years, and their cult members still go around telling us that what we need is a money supply that’s dependent on whether some miners are having a good day and government budgets that shrink exactly when people need the most help.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          Automation ate more American jobs than Asian low cost labor. Manual labor is doomed. There’s a reason our GDP is still so high. And GDP has no adjustment for US ownership of profits from foreign production. America IS great, it’s just very narrowly held by a group that doesn’t much value our efforts. It’s not the robots that will eventually revolt IF THESE TRENDS DON’T CHANGE. My working assumption is that the trends will change and being American will continue to be an ever growing privilege.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Right.
            Trumpsters don’t want to hear this, but China faces the loss of 5 million blue collar jobs in the coal and steel industries. China is actually losing manufacturing jobs, and has been for a while.

        • 0 avatar
          TOTitan

          “I’m independently self-made rich so I’m not phased by low payouts – initially.”

          One of my best friends and employer has a net worth in excess of 300 million yet he never says “I am rich”, or brags about how much money he has. Anyone who needs to say they are rich…probably isn’t.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I actually see a couple of these in my area. I’m always very surprised, not because of how they look (although they are more attractive than almost any other Cadillac), but because I’m surprised to actually see one. Usually followed by a thought such as, why did you choose that car?

  • avatar
    jhefner

    I have seen only one in the DFW area, a couple of weeks ago.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    There are still plenty of ‘new’ 2014 Cadillac ELRs on cars.com. Who will buy them when they’re so inferior to the market crushing supply of new 2016 Cadillac ELRs?

    • 0 avatar
      Sobro

      And they are asking $79,000 for new 2014 ELRs. I would pay $25000 for one if I could get $5000 or more back for being socially conscious.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        You would really make a used car salesman’s day if you were willing to pay $35K for a 2014 with 10K miles on it.

        The sales manager would lose $10K on it, but still be deliriously happy to get it off the lot.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          There are three ‘new’ 2014s listed for $39,995 before you start negotiating at one dealer. How did that dealer come by three 2014 ELRs? How many jobs were lost as a result? What’s the floor-plan bill? Inquiring minds would like to know.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    Guy across the street has a red one, it’s actually a pretty nice vehicle, the interior is quite nice. I think the biggest downfall of the vehicle is that it is a coupe, I think it might have done better if it was a sedan, maybe. Another guy down the road has a silver one and that is actually quite beautiful, it looks so much better than the red ones or even the black ones. Won’t that be something if these become high dollar collectibles down the road.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I agree; they’re very pretty, and quite luxurious when in electric mode (that iron lump of 1.4 spoils the experience a bit). There is just no way they were ever worth more than $50k. At $50k ($42.5k after tax credit) they would have done OK as a niche vehicle. Maybe even $55k for the 2016 with more power and Performance Package.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    The downfall of the vehicle;

    It’s a Cadillac.

    Someone shopping for a premium niche coupe nowadays wants a premium brand reputation to come with the car.

    Cadillac ain’t it- GM may as well have called it the Buick ELR for all the relevance Cadillac has in the luxury market among younger folk.

    I’ll say it again-they need to return to what the brand is known for best:old school American luxury. Why is the Escalade so popular? Because it’s the SUV equivalent of an old school Fleetwood , and thus the closest thing to a historical Cadillac still being made.

    Ditch the me-too Eurocar copies and get back to basics.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    A tough ask, but the ELR could have been a game changer for Cadillac had it been

    – cheaper
    – more powerful
    – a true 5 passenger car

    A big gamble for sure, but in my completely unsubstantiated opinion doable for $40-50K OTD. A fully loaded Volt is $40K but then there are all the rebates… a bigger gas motor + battery and a better interior could be done for $10K. That sounds like a much better proposition than the Alpha cars. PHEVs are hot, sports sedans are cold.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    The ELR was stillborn. There were never signs of life.

  • avatar

    “No, my darling,” said Jensen, from the doorway of the glass house, “I do not see the cameras of the roving plebians here.”

    Sometimes, if they were crazy enough, the paparazzi followed him. And they often were crazy. Scary men with bags under their eyes and gaunt, skeletal features, propped up by circulatory systems saturated with nicotine and caffeine and other substances ending in “-ine” that Jensen knew were not found at the food depots the peasantry bought their sundries from.

    They were everywhere, following his movements, analyzing his finances and ready to spring on him at each exclusive public juncture his well-appointed feet graced with their steps.

    —-

    Standing in the distance, Cindy watched with trepidation, hand propped on a stainless steel i-beam. Her heart thrummed in her chest, but she felt cold, and distant, staring at this man who had seemed so alive on the dance floor last night.

    She had learned, too late, there was something missing in him, as there had been in his vehicle, that vacuous *thing* that had promised an engine and then delivered nothing more than an empty hum as it sluggishly took her from the safety of the city she knew, off into the mountains, then to the apex of the volcanic caldera the lunatic called home. She had not seen the danger, that prior night, as she had been too busy snapping selfies from his passenger seat, the wash of cheap liquor still flowing through her.

    But in the chilly morning there, on the peak, after hours and hours spent listening to him wax about “celebrity worshipers” whom she hadn’t seen herself, after watching him methodically pace back and forth in front of the glass as his rants rose to a crescendo, Cindy had realized with abject horror just who she had gone home with.

    Now Jensen stood in the door, looking for men that would never come, holding a bag that could contain anything. If she could get the keys, perhaps escape was possible.

    No. Cold realism spilled upon her like the morning air from the doorway. She knew even the car would not be enough.

    It was an electric Cadillac.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Everyone understands why it died. A good idea priced WAY out of its league. All the pundits (myself included) thought the 50 – 60K price range would have been reasonable. I feel that Cadillac did do enough to differentiate the ELR from the Volt. It could have lived on as a unique niche vehicle for Cadillac if they hadn’t priced into the stratosphere from the start.

    This isn’t the first flop from GM nor will it be the last. Remember the Pontiac Fiero? Great idea in concept but the bean counters got a hold of it before it went into production. Therefore, it came out cheaply made and woefully under-powered. By the the time the Fiero’s short life span ended, It had a decent engine and was credible two-seat sport coupe. But again it was too little, too late

  • avatar
    Russycle

    The ELR might have worked if it had been released before the Volt, and Tesla didn’t exist. But GM really had to get the Volt out ASAP without playing the Caddy-to-Chevy trickle down game. Paying Cadillac money for a dressed-up Volt coupe is a tough sell, especially when Tesla has raised expectations for luxury electric performance to ludicrous heights. I like the ELR’s looks, but I can’t say I’d really want one.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      I’d like to assemble a list of all the things the B&B have pointed out that would need to be different for the ELR to sell more than 100 units/month:

      – introduced before Volt
      – alternative universe where Tesla doesn’t exist and people are shuttled around on the backs of dire wolves
      – 4 doors; roomy back seat
      – $50K price tag
      – no associated coffee house
      – no room for deadhead bumper sticker
      – Cadillac stays in Detroit where it belongs (not Soho where liberal hipsters drink coffee and don’t buy Cadillacs)
      – RWD
      – 708 hp ICE; manual transmission
      – instrument panel NOT from 1984 Chevy Cavalier
      – comes in colors besides white, grey, black and red. Especially Brown
      – rebranded as BMW i6 GrandCoupee

      Have I got it all?

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “especially when Tesla has raised expectations for luxury electric performance to ludicrous heights. I like the ELR’s looks, but I can’t say I’d really want one.”

      Everyone views things differently i guess. I consider my Volt more luxury than a Tesla, at least on the inside. The ELR simply blows any Tesla right out of the water when it comes to luxury. Sit in both and then tell me you think the Tesla is nicer.

      And the engineering and technology under the sheet metal in a Tesla cant compare to either a Volt or ELR. Show me Tesla with 300K miles that has a battery pack performing as well as this Volt.

      http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1102736_durable-2012-chevrolet-volt-300000-miles-no-battery-loss

      The engineering in a Tesla is like an 8th grade science project compared to what you get with a Volt or ELR, at least when your spending my money.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Really? This needed an explanation?

    ;^D

    Bunter

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    The idea is right, expanding the Voltec line into more cars. But not the weird cramped bolt, not the fugly egg Bolt. Mainstream cars, with a slightly smaller trunk due to batteries, and a charging door and tiny badge being the only indicators of whats driving the wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Why not the “fugly egg” (subjective) Bolt? CUVs are where it’s at right now.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      You can’t have 50-mile EV range with just a “slightly smaller trunk.” Either you have to have the battery underfloor like Tesla (requiring a completely new platform for any mainstream maker), or you’re going to have a thick tunnel.

      “Slightly smaller trunk” gets you 10- to 20-mile EV range, like the Toyota and Ford plug-ins. My C-Max Energi has the smallest volume under the cargo cover that could possibly be useful and gets 16-19 real-world miles before needing gas.

  • avatar
    wumpus

    I have to wonder how much of the ELR would take zero cost to put on the Volt, but couldn’t be done because of ELR’s need to justify its price. And how much of this still won’t go on the Volt because Caddy and Chevy are bigger enemies than Ford and Lincoln. There’s also the bit about “caddy stuff” being seen in a “chevy peasant mobile”, but that isn’t nearly as big (now anyway) as the first two.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    I think even an expensive, impractical two door coupe COULD have worked if Cadillac had any balls, but they don’t, so it didn’t. When the i8 launched, it made people’s jaws drop. It was the new “it car” like the R8 was back in 2006. No BMW doesn’t sell a ton of them, but I don’t think that was the goal. You’re not going to sell a ton of $140K+ cars no matter what, especially when it doesn’t necessarily have the “Mr. Green Jeans” allure of a Tesla. It’s just a very unique, very cool looking, more efficient alternative to a 911 Turbo.

    Here’s the thing though, the i8 may not be able to hang with GT3s or R8s in the corners (nor is it supposed to) but despite the fact that its running with a 3 cylinder Mini engine, it does 0-60 in a little over 4 seconds. That’s fast enough for a car with a $140K price tag.

    You CANNOT ask $70K+ for a car that does 0-60 in about the same time as a 4cyl Camry. Not in this country. You might be able to sell a BMW 7 series in Europe with a 2 liter diesel, but not here, which is why none of the German luxury trio import any of the tiny engined variants of their megabuck cars. They’d all be dead in the water over here.

    So despite the fact that the i8 costs twice as much as what Cadillac put on the sticker of the ELR back in 2014, they sell more than twice as many a month. Even though it’s a similarly small and impractical luxury coupe. Why? It’s fast enough to not be embarrassing against a 911. It looks like no other BMW, and nothing else on the road at all. The ELR looked almost exactly like an OLD Cadillac that they were ALREADY SELLING.

    I also doubt that BMW is putting $20K cash in the hood to move them.

    Would a more expensive PHEV CTS, a car that nobody buys already, really do that much better? I don’t think the problem was just that the ELR “wasn’t big enough.” The Tahoe hybrid was pretty big. How’d that do?

    How about the Lexus GS450h? Plenty of room there and four practical doors. Big seller? Nope. And unlike the Cadillac brand, Lexus isn’t a joke, and they still barely move them.

    I think their ONLY shot at any kind of real numbers would be to put some kind of PHEV system in a product like the XT5. And even then, it would probably only do as well as the RX hybrid does, if that.

    The ELR was doomed to failure from day one. The interior was nicer than a CTS, but it had the same terrible CUE system and the same terrible touch buttons, and it was NO S-class coupe on the inside. It was WAY too slow for what it cost, and the range extender powertrain was just not exciting.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I have seen two Chevy SS sedans in the wild with regular plates.

    A black one up in Skagit County and there is a green one in my town.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    Another basically an EV dies. How many so far have failed? Quite a number.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      How many ICE cars have failed? Just at Cadillac?

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        EV’s seem to be dropping like flies. Tesla is promising an absurd 500,000 by 2018. I was surprised the Cadillac was even built. What was the rationale? It was pretty well guaranteed to fail

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Eldorado, Fleetwood, CTS Sportwagon, STS, BLS, XLR, Deville, 60 Special, Caterra, Seville.

          Why were any of these built? The ELR died not because it was a hybrid, but because it was a Cadillac.

          And your point about Tesla ramping up production actually shows how strong expectations are for a rapidly growing market for electric cars (the opposite of the point you are trying to make).

          And by the way, the ELR isn’t an electric car; it’s a hybrid.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            Hybrid or EV really not much difference in the final analysis. Died because it was a Cadillac? No because it was a Hybrid.
            Tesla ” ramping up ” production, hardly. Musk’s some what outrageous claims are tempered by the reality he is barely surviving, with boutique car levels of production

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            OK, RR,
            In your world, all Cadillac ICE cars are complete success stories, and the ELR only failed because it’s electric. Or hybrid, whatever, is there a difference?

            And Tesla is “barely surviving” with a market cap of $30 Billion.

            Thanks for the brilliant insight!

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Try speaking Oz:

            Bloody li’le thing would cramp a Jap; that’s woi it doid.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    If the ELR was designed and built as a bigger, faster, 4 door luxury Volt, it would have sold a little better. I liked it, but it was slow and impractical. A PHEV shouldn’t be about compromises and the ELR was full of compromises.

    If you’re in a major metro, a PHEV is the way to go. Considering Cadillac is in NYC now, I don’t see how they jacked this up.

    My XC90 T8 still has a full tank of gas and I haven’t been to a gas station in weeks. It has a lot less range than a Volt or an ELR. 20 miles worth of EV range. But, it’s fast (0-60 in 5.5 seconds), practical and as long as I plug it up every day, I barely use any fuel unless I get on the throttle.

    Cadillac needs to electrify the XT5 and make it fast. Stop sandbagging, GM. I’d spend my money with you if you just stop sandbagging already. Give me something to buy so I can support the home team. By God, I want to, but you make it so hard.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Many of the B&B here finally seem to get it; the problem with the ELR was not its price, but rather its performance. As BTSR points out, it’s small inside, and most cars on the road could dust it.

    Lots of other cars sell for $80k, but the ELR was outclassed by them all.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    Most of the reasons given for the failure of the electric doorstop could apply to all current Cadihacks – if they aren’t cramped they are expensive; if they are roomy they are tacky looking. If it has four doors you can’t come equipped with legs to sit back there.

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