General Motors (NYSE:GM) says that it will launch the 2014 Cadillac ELR early next year.
As you can see from the photo, the ELR is a good-looking coupe that takes Cadillac's recent styling in a swoopy, sporty direction. Its interior is exceptionally plush, in keeping with the latest new models we've seen from GM"s luxury brand.
The ELR will come with a Cadillac price, too. It will start at $75,995, GM has said. That's a lot of money, but the ELR is an opulent luxury coupe with dramatic styling.
But in some important ways, the ELR isn't like other Cadillacs. Instead of the powerful engine you'd expect in a high-end Cadillac, the ELR comes with a tiny four-cylinder -- and an electric motor.
In fact, the ELR turns out to be a plug-in hybrid. It's the Chevy Volt in a fancy suit.
Is this a good move for GM?
It's a good car, but is it worth $75,995?
A few reviewers have had the chance to test-drive the ELR, and their reviews started to appear this past week.
The general consensus is that the ELR is a nice car, worthy of the Cadillac name. But so is the similarly sized Cadillac ATS sedan, which is roughly half the price of the ELR. (As is the Chevy Volt, which shares the ELR's drivetrain.)
At least one reviewer -- Motor Trend's Michael Febbo -- pointed out that the ATS is actually the faster car. And while the ELR's interior is very nice, so is the ATS's. Febbo wrote that "stepping up from an ATS to an ELR really isn't going to feel that different."
But the ELR comes with something that the ATS can't match, and that's green-car cachet. GM seems to be betting that some of the folks who are willing to pay up to $100,000 for a Tesla Model S might be intrigued by a sharply styled Cadillac that is also a plug-in hybrid.
But here's the thing: The Tesla is a landmark car, a hot American-made luxury sports sedan that is also the best-yet battery-electric car. It's stylish and fast and fun and super high-tech and as green as cars get.
Isn't it fair to argue that if Cadillac wants a piece of that action -- especially at a Tesla price -- they're going to have to come up with a car that's as impressive as the Tesla?
The ELR isn't the car GM needs to take on Tesla
I don't think there's anything wrong with the ELR. Recent new Cadillacs like the ATS and the new 2014 CTS -- the car that followed the Model S as Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" -- have in fact been very impressive vehicles in their own rights.
I'm sure the ELR will be a fine package, and I'm sure its buyers will be pleased. The ELR's mechanical sibling, the Chevy Volt, is ranked third in customer satisfaction out of all vehicles in a new survey by Consumer Reports. Volt owners really love their cars. It seems likely that ELR owners will like their new rides a lot, too.
I just don't think there are going to be very many ELR owners. In fact, I think the ELR will turn out to be a placeholder in Cadillac's lineup. GM CEO Dan Akerson and other GM executives have hinted that a proper electric Cadillac, a car that can challenge Tesla head-on, is coming. It's likely to be the first fruit of a major GM effort to get serious about electric cars.
I think the ELR is just holding a spot until that electric Cadillac arrives.
Assuming that GM delivers something that's genuinely competitive with Tesla's Model S, hat's the car that will get these buyers' attention. The ELR is an interesting design exercise, and it will probably be a quality product. But unlike other recent Cadillacs, I don't think it's a compelling one.
What do you think? Is Cadillac's take on the Chevy Volt worthy of praise? Or is it a product that isn't likely to be around very long? Scroll down to leave a comment and let me know.
Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of General Motors. You can connect with him on Twitter at @jrosevear. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.