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Automaker looks ahead to Cadillac ELR, second-generation Volt

When it comes to sales General Motors Comp.'s (GM) Chevy Volt has done modestly, moving a couple thousands units per month in good months.  Compared to other entrants such as the Nissan Leaf EV from Nissan Motor Comp., Ltd. (TYO:7201), whose sales number in the mere hundreds per month, that's not bad.

But sales have still been short of the hype that surrounded Volt, a car that was viewed by many as a "savior-car" of sorts for the automaker during its recession troubles.  The Volt has suffered a 2011 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation over battery fires and more recently has been rejected by some Chevy dealerships over high tooling costs.

Still, GM is convinced that electric vehicles are a winning proposition.  Wednesday night at the Automotive News World Conference GM's North America chief Mark Reuss boldly proclaimed, "The electric car is not dead... We couldn't be happier … with the Volt."

The Chevy Volt has seen several sales targets slip.  In 2011 GM promised to sell 10,000 Volts, but only sold 7,700.  In 2012 it predicted 45,000 units sold, but only moved 23,000.  At times the Hamtramck Assembly Plant where the vehicle is assembled was idled.

GM is forging ahead, looking to fill the idle capacity at the Hamtramck Assembly Plant with orders of the new Cadillac ELR, which is essentially a luxury reskinned Volt.  At the conference Mr. Reuss revealed that the plant would begin producing Cadillac ELRs before the end of the year.

2014 Cadillac ELR
The 2014 Cadillac ELR will begin production later this year. [Image Source: GM]

He also teased at the upcoming second generation Volt design, which he claims "will be even better".  He comments, "We'll get there.  We will see the day when we have an affordable electric car that offers 300 miles of range with all the comfort and utility of a conventional vehicle. We're talking about a transformation here. And transformation takes time."

He admits that pricing needs to become more competitive, stating, "The rest of them will come around when technology advances electric vehicles to the point where they offer comparable performance at comparable prices."

Chevy Volt at dealership
GM looks to get more competitive with Chevy Volt pricing when it releases its second-generation successor to its current EV. [Image Source: Autoblog Green]

The determination from the Detroit automaker runs counter to its previous approach from the 1990s, where it debuted the EV-1 only to bail, pulling the plug in 1999 after three years of poor sales.  GM was oft villainized for that decision for much of the last decade; now it is celebrated by EV advocates as a key proponent of the advanced vehicle push.

The optimism also contrast sharply with the grim rhetoric of Nissan at the auto show.  While Nissan is sticking with its LEAF EV, it's dropping the price (to $28,800 USD) and admitting that so far the project has been a flop.  LEAF EV sales were essentially flat, up only 1.5 percent from 2011 to reach 9,819 units.  Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn admitted this week; "It was a disappointment for us."

Others like Ford Motor Comp. (F) have been more restrained in their EV dive, but have also suffered poor results.  Ford produced 1,627 2013 Ford Focus EVs, but only sold 685 (42 percent of the stock).  Fiskar also suffered a rocky year with its Karma being panned by reviewers as "overweight".  The Karma also suffered fire issues leading to recalls and 320 of the pricey EVs were destroyed when Hurricane Sandy hit.

Tesla Motor Comp. (TSLA) also saw slow sales for much of the year, but like GM it also delivered a fair degree of good news, becoming profitable again late in the year, thanks to the launch of the 2013 Model S mid-range luxury electric sedan.  The Model S was well received by reviewers who gave it many awards for its slick handling and performance.

Source: The Detroit News

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Missing quote
By epobirs on 1/17/2013 8:22:12 PM , Rating: 2
He also teased at the upcoming second generation Volt design, which he claims "will be even better". He comments, "We'll get there. We will see the day when we have an affordable electric car that offers 300 miles of range with all the comfort and utility of a conventional vehicle. We're talking about a transformation here. And transformation takes time."

He left out the "Not in our lifetimes."

RE: Missing quote
By kkwst2 on 1/17/2013 10:49:31 PM , Rating: 1
Oh come on, the Model S is basically there now it just costs $80,000. And that is for a car that screams, but the comfort and utility are there. In another 10 years and make it a bit more practical and I could easily see it being $45,000.

RE: Missing quote
By TSS on 1/17/2013 11:53:42 PM , Rating: 2
$45,000 isn't affordable. Not in this economy and hardly in the last one.

$20,000 for a brandnew EV that can do either 250 miles (as advertised!) or can recharge in 10 minutes. Then we'll talk.

That's 2012 dollars btw, in 10 years $45,000 will probably be the price of a hamburger.

RE: Missing quote
By Richard875yh5 on 1/18/13, Rating: -1
RE: Missing quote
By jimbojimbo on 1/18/2013 11:06:52 AM , Rating: 2
He never said the Volt cost 45k. The previous poster was making a prediction of the cost of a Tesla in the future at which point he may buy. Learn to read!!!

You bring up the Prius but you're forgetting the biggest difference between the Prius and the Volt. The Prius sold well and still does.

RE: Missing quote
By Andrwken on 1/19/13, Rating: -1
RE: Missing quote
By ARoyalF on 1/19/2013 11:54:06 PM , Rating: 2
Reading comprehension fail.

Re-read your Wiki quote. Those are numbers for Chinese made Priuses for the Chinese market only. I'm all for Wiki but what's the point if people can't even read.....

RE: Missing quote
By Nutzo on 1/18/2013 10:48:49 AM , Rating: 2
Compared to a loaded Camry Hybrid that cost less than half and has twice the range?
Or a loaded 4cyl Camry at 1/3 the price and still twice the range?

Not including the fact that you can refuel the Camry in a few minutes instead of the hours it takes fo the Model S.

You think the price is going to drop to $45,000 in 10 years, but I doubt it, as inflation will increase the cost too, resulting in the car still costing around $80,000

RE: Missing quote
By maugrimtr on 1/21/2013 9:05:43 AM , Rating: 2
I'm curious. How did you arrive at your predictions for hyperinflation? Because that's what would be required to get from 45k to 80k in such a short time...

RE: Missing quote
By BifurcatedBoat on 1/21/2013 2:46:22 PM , Rating: 2
We've already been seeing hyperinflation, but it was probably what the economy needed. It's the only way to lessen the load of the national debt, and make domestic products more competitive at home and abroad.

RE: Missing quote
By wempa on 1/18/2013 11:50:48 AM , Rating: 2

The battery-only range is a big factor for me. I would still rather get a Volt over a Leaf since I don't like the idea of being limited to a certain mileage until I charge it again. There are too many unexpected situations where I'm out somewhere and then need to make a stop at an extra destination. The 40 mile range is just a bit on the low side. If they can get the battery-only mileage of the Volt up around 100 miles and still have the backup gasoline engine, I'd be all for it.

RE: Missing quote
By DT_Reader on 1/22/2013 6:49:48 PM , Rating: 2
A diesel option would be nice, too.

RE: Missing quote
By DT_Reader on 1/22/2013 6:46:43 PM , Rating: 2
All they really need to do to make the Volt better is make it like the original show car - it was much better looking than the production version. A scouch more legroom would help, too.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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