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Cadillac's Volt-Based Converj Electric Car Gets Green Light: Exclusive

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Cadillac Converj Concept

Cadillac Converj Concept

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Sometimes, like Lazarus, dead cars rise again.

We've learned from an inside source at General Motors, a person close to the project, that the electric Cadillac Converj luxury coupe is now back in the GM product plan.

The Converj was recently approved for production by GM product executives. It will likely launch in 2013 as a 2014 model, though it may end up with a Cadillac-style three-letter model name.

The production version will feature, says our source, "a Generation 1.5 Voltec" powertrain.

That would be an updated version of the extended-range electric powertrain from the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, possibly with better acceleration to suit the Cadillac image--but not the fully revised second-generation version that will go into production in 2015.

Smash hit in 2009

The Converj concept car was first unveiled in January 2009 at the Detroit Auto Show. The sleek sports coupe received rave reviews, and during 2009, General Motors [NYSE:GM] approved it for production, with then-product chief Bob Lutz saying in January 2010 it had been cleared by management.

2009 Cadillac Converj Concept

2009 Cadillac Converj Concept

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Two months later, it was killed, with Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell saying the Converj program had not reached "a point [at] which development would be occurring in earnest in any case."

Two reasons were given for ending the program almost 18 months ago: First, GM could not make a profit at the low volumes the Converj had been planned for.

Now, with the Volt essentially sold out and GM trying to boost production as fast as possible, perhaps Converj volumes can go higher, meaning each car may cost less.

Second, product planners were concerned that the greater weight and additional luxury features of a Cadillac would cut its electric range and performance--reducing its appeal, much as the Lexus HS 250h has sold in lower numbers than expected for Toyota's luxury arm.

"All about profit"

Apparently, both concerns have been resolved. One reason for resuscitating the Converj, says our source, is that CEO Dan Akerson is "all about profit." The 2012 Volt lists at $39,990, and tops out (before dealer markup) at less than $50,000.

Dan Akerson

Dan Akerson

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If some Voltec cars could be sold not for $45,000 but, say, $60,000, that might enable GM to make money on its first generation of Voltec cars. Or, perhaps more realistically, to lose less money on the technology--until a less-costly second generation can be rolled out.

And if Cadillac truly hopes to compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi, it needs to have one or more plug-in offerings.

All those makes have multiple plug-ins planned, from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Plug-In Hybrid and Audi e-tron electric supercar down to the A-Class E-Cell and tiny Audi Urban Concept two-seater.

Escalade Hybrid: hardly a halo car

But despite a plug-in hybrid concept for the XTS full-size sedan that will go on sale next spring as a 2013 model, and persistent rumors of an SRX plug-in hybrid crossover, neither of those products has been given the green light for production.

The SRX plug-in hybrid was killed in May due to inadequate range from its battery pack, which had been designed for a different and lighter vehicle. So Cadillac's sole electrified vehicle remains the 2011 Escalade Hybrid full-size sport-utility vehicle--hardly a halo car to get early adopters into their dealers, as the Volt has done for Chevy.

The Converj is not the only example of turbulence in GM's product plans over the last three years. But now that a deal has been reached to raise corporate average fuel-economy standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025, insiders hope that the GM product plan will settle down.

To reach those goals, plug-in cars will clearly become a larger portion of GM's portfolio over time.

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Comments (8)
  1. Now, will the production car look anything like the awesome concept car?
     
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  2. http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110811-713248.html

    Guess what the A123 batteries are going into .....
     
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  3. Gary: I wouldn't be so sure that the A123 cells are going into the Converj. Here's our report: http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1064781_a123-gets-lithium-cell-deal-for-unspecified-gm-electric-car
     
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  4. Basically the Fisker approach: add some glamour to make the price that goes with the expensive drivetrain more palatable. Smart move.
     
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  5. This is my dream car.
     
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  6. If GM would just leave the concept exactly like it is and start mass producing them, they may have a great come back electric car that is really an electric car. But GM is noted for cutting their nose off to spite their face...unless they are only going to produce a small number to accommodate their rich republican crones.

    GM, that is a really nice looking car if you just leave it the way it looks now.
     
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  7. If they built one that looked exactly like a 1933 Chrysler Imperial Custom 8 - 4 door phaeton - with a standard straight 8 Buick engine, they would sell more than any other model of current Cadillac Sports iterations...no kidding.

    They could buy up the Owen Magnetic's patents and have a real hybrid electric...quite original.
     
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  8. A very pretty car. However the statement: "That would be an updated version of the extended-range electric powertrain from the 2011 Chevrolet Volt" in reference to the Cadillac's motive power is incorrect. As GM phases out the VOLT, it would not be feasible to use this technology only to have it fail once again...but then again, this IS GM and they DO make large, laughable and disastrous decisions on a regular basis.

    I notice the article doesn't mention the competition coming from Toyota but rather from Merceds Benz, BMW and Audi...this is good because comparing anything to Toyota involves two Toyotas for the price of any of the others.
     
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