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

DETROIT, Tue Oct 16, 2012 – 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.

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.

Ford, Yahoo reality show to tout electric Focus this spring

NEW YORK/DETROIT, Wed Apr 11, 2012 – Ford  Motor Co. will partner with Yahoo Inc. on a reality show this spring to promote its first electric passenger car, a move that comes as the auto industry is growing more pessimistic about the prospects for these kinds of vehicles.

The show, called “Plugged In,” will be broadcast on Yahoo’s streaming video site starting in May, Ford said in a news release on Tuesday. Three two-person teams will travel to 10 major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and New York, and compete in a scavenger hunt while driving the Focus Electric.

The show is intended to help Ford reach the electric car’s target group – residents of major U.S. cities, particularly along the East and West coasts, where gasoline prices are higher than the national average. So far this year, Americans have been clamoring for more fuel-efficient vehicles as prices at the pump near $4 a gallon.

The Yahoo deal is also an example of Ford’s increasing use of social media to reach younger, more affluent consumers for less than a tenth the cost of a traditional marketing campaign. Ford declined to comment on its financial contribution to the show.

“We’re being much more targeted and building awareness of the product in a much more efficient way,” John Felice, general manager of Ford and Lincoln sales, said at a news conference at Yahoo’s New York office Tuesday.

But the second-largest U.S. automaker is launching its electric car at a time when industry analysts are expressing doubts about the near-term growth prospects of the vehicles due to their high prices and as traditional gas-powered vehicles become more fuel-efficient.

At the same time, other automakers are launching their own electric cars, making the segment more competitive. The Focus will compete with Nissan Motor Co’s. Leaf, which was introduced in Japan and the United States in December 2010. Honda Motor Co. Ltd., BMW and Fiat will join the fray, as will cars from start-ups, including Tesla Motors Inc.

Ford began production of the Focus Electric in December in Wayne, Mich., on the same assembly line as the gasoline-powered Focus, a move the automaker said gave it the flexibility to adjust to electric vehicle demand.

“It’s very difficult to get a read on what consumers’ adoption will be,” Felice said. “We just know it’s going to grow. We just don’t know how quickly.”

The Focus Electric is expected to be available in 19 U.S. markets by the end of 2012. The five-door hatchback starts at $39,200, excluding taxes and other fees. In some markets, it is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Fisker Automotive chairman backs 2012 vehicle goal

ATHERTON, Calif./LOS ANGELES ―  Fisker Automotive is on track to meet production goals for its electric sports cars in 2012 despite production delays that have sharply reduced the start-up carmaker’s projected deliveries this year.

Production of Fisker’s first vehicle, the plug-in hybrid Karma, was held up by faulty electrical harnesses and headlights, topped off by a flood that damaged the leather for its interior, according to Chairman Ray Lane.

“In production of a first vehicle, everything doesn’t go the way you plan,” Lane said in a recent interview. “Next year, we’ll do exactly what we plan.”

Fisker has long said it plans to sell 15,000 Karmas next year. But a spokesman later clarified the target was now 10,000 to 12,000.

Some in the industry have questioned whether the vehicle’s price tag — which starts at $96,000 — will make that goal unattainable in a weak economy.

Fisker’s fortunes have come under increased scrutiny in the two months since U.S. solar panel maker Solyndra filed for bankruptcy after securing a $535 million federal loan guarantee. Fisker itself received $529 million in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy under a program similar to the one that funded Solyndra’s factory.

Lane’s comments come more than a week after Fisker battery supplier A123 Systems Inc cut its 2011 revenue outlook 20 percent, blaming a sharp cut in fourth-quarter orders from Fisker. A123 would not say by how much orders were cut back, and Fisker had no comment on the delays at the time.

Lane, however, said Fisker would deliver 1,500 cars this year — a lot fewer than the 7,000 vehicles the company said it would sell this year when it began production of the Karma in Finland in March.

The company is currently building about 150 vehicles a week, Lane said.