GM Cadillac to start making ELR plug-in hybrid in late 2013


The production of the Cadillac ELR, the first luxury plug-in hybrid electric vehicle from General Motors Co, is to begin in late 2013 at the same plant that makes the Chevrolet Volt, a top GM official said on Tuesday.

The ELR will be introduced to the U.S. market shortly after the start of production, but GM did not announce timing of the first sales for the Cadillac ELR. The ELR is the production version of the concept Cadillac Converj introduced at the Detroit auto show in 2009.

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Mark Reuss, GM's North American president, announced production plants for the ELR at an industry conference in Detroit.

"The ELR will be in a class by itself, further proof of our commitment to electric vehicles and advanced technology," Reuss said. "People will instantly recognize it as a Cadillac by its distinctive, signature look and true-to-concept exterior design."

Production of the ELR will be at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which also makes the Volt and its near-twin models, the Opel Ampera, the Vauxhall Ampera and the Holden Volt.

Production of the Volt, the Ampera and the Holden Volt resumed on Monday after being suspended for four weeks.

While auto analysts said that the suspension was in part due to poor sales of the Volt, GM has said that the temporary plant shutdown was to allow for some retooling for the production of the newly designed 2014 Chevrolet Impala, which is to begin at the plant in early 2013.

The plant also makes the Chevrolet Malibu sedan. Production of the Malibu also resumed on Monday, GM said.

GM said that the addition of ELR production at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant represents a $35 million investment and increased total investment in the plant since December 2009 to $561 million.

GM officials have said that its major investment in developing the Volt, its first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, will pay off as it introduces more plug-in hybrid vehicles, such as the ELR.

GM officials want Cadillac by 2015 to double its 2010 U.S. sales of 147,000 vehicles, and to be competing for the top spot in the U.S. luxury auto market by relying on the introduction of 10 new or refreshed models, including the ELR.

GM has not been tops in the U.S. luxury auto market in 15 years.

U.S. sales of GM's luxury brand rose 3.7 percent in 2011 to about 153,000, or 63 percent of the sales of luxury leader BMW.

Through September this year, Cadillac U.S. sales were down 8.6 percent from a year earlier to 103,512, according to Autodata Corp.

Cadillac in recent months introduced the Cadillac ATS, a compact luxury car that GM wants to compete with the BMW 3-Series and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Earlier this month, GM promoted Bob Ferguson to vice president of global sales and marketing for Cadillac. He will report directly to GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson.

(Reporting By Bernie Woodall)