Thursday, September 26, 2013

General Motors to pit Cadillac against Tesla

No more smoke and mirrors. General Motors intends to compete directly with Tesla for the lions share of the fledgling but growing electric vehicle market in the US. The more luxurious Cadillac brand will be its champion.
“If you want to compete head-to-head with Tesla, and we ultimately will, you want to do it with Cadillac,” GM chairman Dan Akerson confirmed to the Detroit News.
Two-hundred miles range on a single charge in an electric car costing $30,000 is the new standard for ambitious electric vehicle makers. It’s currently a two-horse race between General Motors and Tesla, although both would discount Volkswagen and Renault-Nissan at their peril.
While Tesla’s junior Model S is expected in 2016, General Motors are yet to set even a provisional date to launch its rival car, at least not publicly. Even 200 miles range leaves Akerson doubtful of success, however.
“What we see on the line of sight is a 200-mile battery car, but at the same time 200 miles is great, but it’s not going to satisfy the range anxiety that persists,” he said. “It’s still a major issue with the purchasing public and I think you’ve got to have a generator on board so that you basically have unlimited range.”
Both the Chevrolet Volt and its upmarket sibling, the upcoming Cadillac ELR, feature range-extender generators that boost range to more than 300 miles.
Akerson was gracious concerning Tesla’s so-far successful efforts to establish itself in the market, but reminded us that once Chevrolet Volt sales pick up it will be more profitable (read less loss-making) than the Tesla Model S.
So far, however, Tesla has GM over the proverbial barrel in terms of public opinion. The Model S earned the highest score Consumer Reports has ever awarded and scored full marks in its recent NHTSA safety test. Tesla’s free Supercharger network has also provided owners with more than 3.2 million miles of electric drive and the Model S has outsold rivals from Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW.
At the same time, Chevrolet has had to cut the price of the Volt by $5,000 just to keep it competitive. Come 2014 General Motors will have a new environmental competitor in the luxury sector in the form of the Cadillac ELR, although Akerson said mass-production of the range-extender is not an option.