August 14, 2014 at 10:10 pm

GM exec: Cadillac ELR not automaker's answer to Tesla

Cadillac ELR. (Jordan Strauss / Invision for Cadillac)

A General Motors Co. executive said Thursday he sees Tesla Motors Inc. as a “completely serious competitor in every way,” but the plug-in hybrid Cadillac ELR is not GM’s answer to Tesla cars.

Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, said he is not sure GM has a direct answer to Tesla.

“People like to say the ELR is, but it’s really not,” said Reuss, guest speaker at WWJ Newsradio 950’s annual Dream Cruise Business Breakfast. “It’s a different car, it’s a different price point. It’s way-different technology.”

The luxury ELR coupe starts at about $76,000 and has an estimated electric range of 37 miles before a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine takes over, offering a driver total range of more than 345 miles. Tesla’s Model S sedan, which is all-electric with a range of 208 miles for the base car, starts at about $71,000. Tesla also is adding a Model X SUV next year and has said it will offer a third, cheaper vehicle in the future.

GM’s former CEO Dan Akerson in September 2013 told The Detroit News that the automaker planned to confront Tesla with its Cadillac brand. “If you want to compete head-to-head with Tesla, and we ultimately will, you want to do it with a Cadillac,” Akerson said.

Sales of the ELR have been slow since it went on sale. The automaker has sold 578 through July this year.

Reuss said the GM Tech Center in Warren, some of which remains closed because of the massive flooding that hit the area Monday, had serious problems and “there is a lot of damage.”

About 15,000 of the 19,000 employees initially affected by the Tech Center closure have returned to work. He said water came into basements in a lot of historic buildings.

“There’s a lot of water in those places,” he said. “We’re pumping it out right now to see exactly what happened.”

Dream Cruise-goers may catch a glimpse of GM’s new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks on Woodward this week, including some models with powertrains not seen before by the public. He said GM engineers and staff may drive them as part of the company’s captive test fleet that wants to log 1 million miles before the trucks go on sale this fall.

Reuss said GM is still working on fuel economy certification for the new midsize trucks. He also dropped a hint about possible diesel cars to come, that GM wants diesels for the Cadillac brand, and he expects the American market for the engines to grow.

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