Was the Cadillac ELR the Electric Vehicle Flop of 2014?

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Source: General Motors

When we rounded up the coolest electric vehicle concepts of 2014, that got us thinking about the other side of the equation. What about the newly released cars that confounded consumers, frustrated dealers, and got panned by the critics? Being the world of EVs, there weren’t enough examples for a list, so we narrowed it down to a single car that keeps popping up on the “biggest blunder” lists of 2014: the Cadillac ELR. Here’s a look at how one stylish plug-in hybrid became the consensus flop of the year.

A regular on ‘Worst of 2014′ lists

When Motor Trend reviewed the Cadillac ELR in June 2014, GM’s luxury plug-in had already a beating from journalists, bloggers, testers, and other citizens of the free world. The chief complaint came with the car’s pricing ($75,000), which matched the Tesla Model S and exceeded many other luxury cars on the market. With the Chevy Volt’s powertrain (181 horsepower) and electric range (38 miles), the sticker seemed excessive to everyone who weighed in on the ELR.

By year’s end, Automotive News had the electrified Caddy leading its “blunders of 2014” list. A Forbes post showcasing 2014’s “biggest new-car busts” also had the ELR at the very top (bottom?) of the class. Then CarGurus took the club to Cadillac’s plug-in hybrid, suggesting it could become “one of the biggest automotive flops of all time.”

An appearance on these lists would matter little if the car had found an audience somewhere in the U.S., but the ELR struggled to win over consumers, even with its ultra-low sales target.

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Source: General Motors

A losing sales formula

According to Automotive News, analysts projected Cadillac ELR sales would break 2,100 cars by year’s end, but GM struggled to post half that figure. News of huge dealer incentives and slashed prices started coming early in the PHEV’s life. (One West Virginia dealer was offering the ELR for $54,825 — $25,000 less than its MSRP — at press time.)

Even with those huge reductions, the ELR only managed to sell only 1,310 units in 2014, putting it in 255th place on the U.S. sales charts. By comparison, the six-figure Nissan GT-R ($101,770) managed to sell 1,436 units on the year.

There are many theories as to why the ELR fell so short of the mark. Setting aside its obnoxious marketing campaign, we’d say the ELR was a dud because it failed to improve upon the Volt’s electric vehicle specs, which have since been exceeded by Chevy’s plug-in for the 2016 model year. It was no competition for the Tesla Model S, whether you look at performance or green credentials.

In sum, the Cadillac ELR was a step back for electric vehicles and, by most accounts, the EV flop of 2014. With the arrival of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, here’s to a brighter future for GM electric vehicles.

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