Cadillac to become “lead electric vehicle brand” for GM to rival Tesla (Updated)

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2014 Cadillac ELR

2014 Cadillac ELR

General Motors’ Cadillac brand has fought to restore its luster as a brand for technology and innovation, with repeated attempts that fell short of a resounding success. Finally, it appears that Cadillac might be turning toward a future that may have a better chance of restoring the brand’s glory days: electric luxury cars.

In an investor conference call on Friday, GM announced that Cadillac will be the first of GM’s brands to get a vehicle based on the automaker’s so-called BEV3 platform—the global electric vehicle platform that is expected to launch starting in 2021 and be the basis for 10 or more vehicles.

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This reaffirms what Cadillac’s former president, Johan de Nysschen, said—that electric vehicles would be “at the forefront for the brand in both the U.S. and China. After his departure and Cadillac’s move-in-progress from Manhattan back to Warren, Michigan, it’s good to hear that Cadillac still plans to keep to that goal.

GM CEO Mary Barra said the company has determined that the sweet spot for range is 300 miles, and company president Mark Reuss, who most recently headed product development, said that is the target for all the company's upcoming electric vehicles.

2014 Cadillac ELR revealed at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

2014 Cadillac ELR revealed at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

The new BEV3 platform will support front-, rear- and electronic all-wheel drive, and will support a variety of battery sizes through an "ice-tray" like battery pack that can be filled with as many of as few battery cells as the automaker wants.

That could indicate that the company could offer 300 mile versions of each of its cars, but could also offer shorter-range options in the same models.

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In recent months, GM has been caught in the middle of several politically charged topics relating to electric vehicles. Last fall, GM became a vocal proponent of extending the federal EV tax credit. Then, after the company announced sweeping production cuts including axing the Chevy Volt and idling several U.S. factories, President Trump threatened to end federal subsidies for GM's electric cars and said that the company's plan to eventually go all-electric was not going to work.

Globally, GM plans to launch 20 new hybrid, plug-in, and electric vehicles by 2023. It also aims to launch 10 vehicles on its dedicated EV platform—including a three-row SUV, a low-roof model, and a van.

GM CEO Mary Barra with 2016 Chevrolet Volt - Detroit Auto Show

GM CEO Mary Barra with 2016 Chevrolet Volt - Detroit Auto Show

At the end of 2017, Barra called GM's investment in electric and autonomous vehicle development the “biggest business opportunity since the creation of the internet.” She said that the company aims to create profitable, affordable 300-mile (range) electric vehicles by 2021.

READ MORE: GM wants Trump administration to consider national electric-vehicle mandate

Both of Cadillac’s other recent plug-in vehicles, the 2014-2016 ELR coupe and the 2018 CT6 Plug-In, have been discontinued in the U.S. The ELR was very stylish but felt compromised in many ways, including a cramped interior and an all-electric driving range that was lower than that of the closely related Chevy Volt.

While those models arguably did very little to turn the brand’s image around, a fully electric (U.S.-built) Cadillac electric vehicle, if it arrives soon enough, could be the key to keeping the luxury brand relevant.

 
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