Electric Cadillac Timeline – Part 1 – Ancient History, the Volt, ELR & CT6

Cadillac’s Electrification History:

1912 – Cadillac was the first company to mass produce a car with an electric starter

“Indeed, until Charles Kettering invented the electric starter you could die starting a car. In early 1908, a woman stalled her Cadillac in Detroit, Michigan. She did not have enough strength to crank the engine to restart it. A passing motorist offered to help. His name was Byron Carter and he just happened to be a friend of Cadillac founder Henry Leland.So Carter cranked the Cadillac’s motor. It backfired .The crank hit him in the face breaking his jaw. Carter was admitted to hospital but infection and gangrene set in and in those days without antibiotics he died.Carter’s death led Leland to vow that Cadillac would rid its cars of the hand starter crank. And so he called on Charles Kettering, who owned Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company. You and I know it better by its acronym: DELCO.  SOURCE

1912 – Cadillac was the first company to mass produce a car with electric headlights
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2000 – Cadillac Deville was the first passenger car sold with LED tailights

Voltec?

Here we are going to take a diversion into GM’s 2009 Bankruptcy and Chevrolet Volt history because you can not talk about electric Cadillacs without understanding these two inflection points.

2006 – January – GM Vice President and industry maverick, Bob Lutz, had enough of hearing how wonderful the Toyota Prius hybrid was and after seeing the Telsa Roadster plugin using lithium-ion batteries he decide to fast track the development of a plugin hybrid show car.  The car was not intended to go into production.

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2007 – February – At the Detroit auto show Chevrolet debuts the worlds first plug-in hybrid (by a major manufacturer).  The Volt concept car looked more like a large prototype 4 door Camero.

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2008Chrysler pledges to produce an electric vehicle by 2010 and sell 500,000 units by 2013, as part of their $4 Billion US Government bailout even though Chrysler had virtually no EV research, patents or design concepts.
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2008 – June 3 – GM green lights the production of the Chevrolet Volt plug in hybrid but will not show or discuss what it will look like”…The Volt marks one of the first attempts to adapt lithium-ion batteries, widely used in consumer electronics, to power a car. Toyota is also racing to market its own plug-in hybrid by 2010 using the same technology.
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Getting the pioneering plug-in hybrid to the market first has become more urgent for GM as it copes with high gasoline prices the automaker now sees as a permanent threat to its business. GM is also under increasing pressure from the government and environmentalists to improve fuel economy.
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“…We intend to show the production version of the Chevy Volt publicly in the near future,” Wagoner said. ” SOURCE

2008 – December 4 – General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner arrives in Washington DC in a Chevrolet Volt/Cruze mule to request billions of dollars in ‘loans’ from Congress

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… And now back to Cadillac

2009 – January – Cadillac shows off the astonishingly good looking 2 door coupe Converj concept car at the North American International Auto Show.  It wins the shows “Best Concept Vehicle” award although it is clearly developed well beyond the concept stage and is almost ready for production.

2009 – April – MotorTrend reports that the Cadillac Converj is approved for production.

“…According to Todd Lassa at Motor Trend, the Converj has been given the green light for production in 2011, a year after the Volt launches. When we talked to GM’s Bob Kruse at the Detroit show, he indicated a production Converj would likely use exactly the same powertrain as the Volt although it could have different calibrations to allow somewhat higher performance than the Chevrolet….” SOURCE
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2009 – May – GM denies a decision on the Converj has been made
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2009 – August – Bob Lutz tells BusinessWeek magazine that the Cadillac Converj could go into production as early as the 2014 model year (summer 2013).
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2009 – June 1 – With its stock below $1/share and $170 billion dollars in debt, General Motors goes bankrupt with the support of the Obama led US federal government.  GM was given $30 billion ‘loan’ in exchange for 60% of their shares and the Obama administration requirements that GM to produce a mass market plugin electric vehicle.
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2009 – December 7 – GM announces $336 million dollar investment into the aging Detroit-Hamtramck Michigan factory (originally built in 1904 by the Dodge brothers), to produce the Chevy Volt and its siblings, the Opel Ampera (Europe), Holden Volt (Australia) and Buik Velite 5 (China).
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2010 – January – GM Vice President, Bob Lutz announces:

“…“The Cadillac Converj is cleared for production,” Lutz said. He wouldn’t commit to a production date. “You’ll see it when you see it. It won’t be next year or the year after that.” SOURCE
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2010 – March – GM quietly kills the Cadillac Converj production development project because it does not think it can generate a profit
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2010 – November 1 – The first Volt rolls off the famed Hamtramck, Michigan assembly line
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2011 – August – GM announces the Cadillac Converj will go into production as the Cadillac ELR
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2012 – Summer – The first Cadillac ELR test mules are spotted

2012 – October – GM announces $35 million upgrade to Hamtramck plant to enable it to also produce the Cadillac ELR luxury coupe using a more performance tuned version of the Voltec electric hybrid powertrain
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2013 – May 30th – The first Cadillac ELR rolled off the line

2013 – December 18th – GM starts shipping ELR’s to dealerships and 10 are sold (6 in the US and 4 in Canada) with a base price of USD$75,000

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2014 – January 22 – Green Car Journal awards the ELR ‘Green Car Technology Award’ for the Regen on Demand system, which allows the driver to use paddle shifters on the steering wheel to temporarily regenerate energy and store it as electricity in the battery pack for later use.
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2014 – 2015 – GM thought they were selling the ELR agaist $100,000 Telsa Model S’s but their main competition was the $40,000 Chevrolet Volt and sales were so slow that they did not produce any 2015 ELR’s:

Calendar Year Total sales United States Canada
2013 10 6 4
2014 1,354 1,310 44
2015 1,049 1,024 25
2016 545 534 11
Total 2,958 2,874 84

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2015 – April 15 – Cadillac drops the ELR price $10,000 and announces a slight revisions for the 2016 model year:

  • 25% faster take off power
  • Updated Cadillac CUE – The 2016 has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and more importantly, will read text’s to you while the 2014 will not
  • New steering calibration tuned to complement the revised chassis and suspension systems
  • Front Brembo four-piston brake calipers
  • Different RIM options
  • Making nearly all of the safety options standard (i.e. rear cross traffic alert, intellibeam headlamps…)
  • Fold down rear seats
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2015 – April 19 – At the Chinese car show in Shanghai, Cadillac announces its largest sedan and technological showboat, the CT6, will have a plugin hybrid option shortly after the gasoline engine version goes on sale in December 2015.  Limited specifications are released:

  • two electric motors
  • 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, producing 335 hp and 432 pounds-feet of torque
  • a General Motors’ lithium-ion battery pack is located between the rear seat and the trunk, can be charged on either 120V or 240V
  • it will be sold only in China, the US and Canada

2015 – Fall – ELR sales do not improve
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2016 – January 15 – Cadillac has started shipping gasoline CT6’s announces the plug in hybrid CT6 will be manufactured in China and shipped to Canada and US due to the size of the PHEV market and financial incentives from the Chinese government.  Cadillac also announced that its autonomous driving system SuperCruise is delayed so it will not appear on the CT6.  This is a major blow for the Cadillac flagship.

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2016 – February 18 – the last Cadillac ELR rolls off the line in Hamtramck.  It is not clear if the decision to cancel the ELR had been made at that time or if they just did not have more orders.
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2016 – Spring – The Cadillac ELR earns its Vincentric Best Value in America award supported by the lowest maintenance and lowest repair costs in its class.
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2016 – April – Cadillac had sold just 357 2016 ELR’s  and decided to end production:

“…Cadillac ELR production recently concluded. A very small quantity of ELR units remain available at dealers today,” Cadillac said in a statement. “The beautifully designed electrified coupe marked an important step in Cadillac’s ongoing expansion. Cadillac remains committed to delivering new technology, including advanced propulsion. Cadillac will soon launch a new plug-in hybrid edition of the remarkable new CT6 sedan.” SOURCE

The End of the Cadillac ELR

Cadillac head Johan de Nysschen - ELRThese three quotes from Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen in 2014 and 2019 sum up Cadillacs position on the ELR and the electrified future:

“…All I can say is that the financial performance for the car was catastrophic…” SOURCE
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“…I plan to continue admiring it as one of the most beautiful cars on four wheels but we don’t plan further investment” [in the ELR]…” SOURCE

“…Cadillac has got some really compelling electrification entries that I think are going to dramatically change people’s perception of the brand and in particular give it a far more progressive image than it somewhat unjustifiably has in the minds of a lot of young people today…” SOURCE

Cadillac CT6 PHEV is Cadillac’s Halo Car

2017 – Cadillac ships the CT6 PHEV with a 220V home wall charger and eats the cost of installation as part of the sales package.  It  has an impressive US EPA rating of 31 miles (50K’s) of all electric drive and a MPGe rating of 65. Cadillac also included a 220V

“…It shares the 18.4 kWh battery from the 2017 Chevrolet Volt, but largely adopted the electrification to its own platform with its 2.0-liter LTG turbocharged four-cylinder, foregoing other characteristics of the second-generation Voltec powertrain.”  SOURCE

2018 – November – The PHEV version of the CT6 still does not have SuperCruise even as an option and US/Canada sales are too slow to continue.  The car live on in China where is it manufactured as a “compliance car”.  CT6 sales of all variants remain very low at just 10,000 per year and a break down of the PHEV sales is not available, but cannot be good.

“…Cadillac remains committed to electrified systems for our vehicles. Although production of the CT6 PLUG-IN for North America is discontinuing for the 2019 model year, alternative fuel vehicles remain a part of our future product portfolio as we move deeper in to our 10-year plan.” SOURCE

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