Auto Outlook: Cadillac ELR joins luxury electric niche

By AL SWANSON, UPI Auto Writer  |  Oct. 20, 2013 at 5:30 AM
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Tesla has proved some people are willing to pay more than $100,000 for an electric car.

Granted it's not an ordinary vehicle, but the success of the Model S sedan has shown there is a market for a luxury electric.

General Motors has sold more 48,000 Chevrolet Volts since the plug-in gas-electric was introduced in December 2010 and is taking the concept upscale. Last week, GM priced the Cadillac ELR gas-electric coupe at $75,995, making the hybrid the most expensive car offered by GM in the United States when it goes on sale in January.

The ELR is heavier than its sibling Volt because of the premium materials like real wood and chrome trim used, but the car has the same battery and same 1.4-liter gasoline engine as the Volt and a larger electric motor.

"The ELR is a unique blend of dramatic design with electric vehicle technology capable of total range in excess of 300 miles," said Bob Ferguson, Cadillac senior vice president in statement.

The ELR will be able to travel 35 miles on a single battery charge before the gasoline engine kicks on to run a generator that powers the car and recharges the battery, compared to 38 miles on a full charge for the Volt, which sells for $34,995 after a $5,000 price cut earlier this year.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the combined electric/gasoline hybrid with a continuously variable transmission gets the equivalent of 62 miles per gallon.

The ELR also includes standard safety features like lane departure warning and forward collision alert, Cadillac's CUE infotainment system, LED headlights and taillights and a back-up warning alert that vibrates the driver's seat when something is directly behind the car.

With a federal tax credit of as much as $7,500, an ELR can be had for around $68,496, including a $995 destination charge, about twice the price of a Volt.

Corvette Stingray on a roll

The new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is off to a good start.

Because of demand, GM limited shipments of the seventh-generation of the $52,000 American sports coupe with the first 455-horsepower sports cars going to dealers that sold at least four Corvettes last year. The automotive website says a Corvette stays on a dealer's lot about five days before it is sold. Just 950 of the nearly 3,000 Chevy dealers in the country were part of the initial shipment.

The rest of the dealers can order Corvettes but they won't be delivered until later this year or early 2014.

GM can build about 139 Corvettes a day at its Bowling Green Assembly Plant in Kentucky, The Detroit News said.

Chevy gives Apple's Suri a ride

Chevrolet has added more models to its list of vehicles that can use Apple's voice-activated Suri personal assistant without taking their eyes off the road.

Buyers of the 2014 Chevy Malibu, SS, Camaro, Cruze, Equinox crossover and Volt who also have an iPhone running either the IOS 6 or IOS 7 operating systems can link up with Apple's Suri "Eyes Free" via Bluetooth.

The "Eyes Free" system was introduced on the 2013 Chevrolet Spark, Spark EV and Chevy Sonic.

Motorists will be able to ask Suri to play music, make phone calls or read text messages by voice command while driving.

Auto bailout to wrap up next year

The U.S. Treasury's stake in General Motors Co. is down to around 7 percent.

Treasury sold $570.1 million in GM shares last month and has now recovered $36 billion of the $49.5 billion the government loaned the Detroit automaker during the 2008-09 bailout. The federal government, which once held nearly 61 percent of GM shares, may be completely divested by early next year.

The Treasury Department estimates the $85 billion in loans to GM and Chrysler before and during their bankruptcies could eventually cost U.S. taxpayers about $15 billion. Chrysler's bailout cost the Treasury about $5 billion when the loans were repaid.

"Treasury will continue to wind down the taxpayers' investment in GM, a critical part of the administration's response to the financial crisis that prevented the collapse of the American auto industry and saved more than 1 million American jobs," Tim Massad, assistant treasury secretary for financial stability, said in a statement.

New York City's "Taxi of Tomorrow" stuck in traffic

It's been more than a year since New York City selected the van-like Nissan NV200 as the city's taxi of tomorrow but it appears the vehicle won't be mandated for all taxi operators.

There are more than 15,000 taxi cabs in New York City.

A State Supreme Court judge Oct. 8 ruled the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission didn't have the authority to require all yellow taxi operators to buy the same vehicle, which costs nearly $30,000. Earlier, after another state Supreme Court judge's ruling, the taxi commission changed its rules to permit hybrid vehicles to be used as New York taxis. There's also a federal lawsuit filed by accessibility advocates who contend the boxy NV200 is not accessible for disabled people without modifications.

The administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg is fighting for the NV200, but an appeal may be problematic since the three-term mayor leaves City Hall Dec. 31.

Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio rejected the Taxi of Tomorrow transportation initiative because only about 2,000 of the new cabs would be wheelchair accessible, although a spokesman told The New York Times he's studying his position.

Republican nominee Joe Lhota doesn't like the plan either and the Greater New York Taxi Association accused the taxi commission of overreaching by championing a single vehicle for the city's taxi fleet.

Nissan, which signed an exclusive 10-year contract with the city, hopes to put some of the assembled-in-Mexico NV200s on city streets by Oct. 28.

Toyota offers to share pain of furloughed workers

Toyota last week joined Hyundai and Nissan in offering deferred payments to employees idled by the 16-day government shutdown.

A special program would allow owners of both Toyota and Lexus vehicles employed by the government as well as businesses and employees directly affected by the shutdown to put off making their car payments for as long as three months.

The Hyundai and Nissan programs are for furloughed federal employees only and Hyundai's program effectively ended when the furlough ended, CNNMoney said.

Congress passed legislation requiring back-pay for furloughed government workers.

"The government shutdown has placed an unanticipated financial strain on many individuals and families," Al Smith, vice president overseeing the financial services group, said in a statement.

"Toyota Financial Services and Lexus Financial Services remain committed to making the lives of our customers easier, so we are pleased to be able to provide some flexibility to our customers affected by this situation."

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