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

The Cadillac Converj Concept is on display at the LA Auto show in Los Angeles, California in this December 3, 2009 file photograph. The prod
The Cadillac Converj Concept is on display at the LA Auto show in Los Angeles, California in this December 3, 2009 file photograph. The prod

By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - 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, said Mark Reuss, GM's North American president, who announced plans for the ELR at an industry conference in Detroit.

The ELR is the production version of the concept Cadillac Converj introduced at the Detroit auto show in 2009.

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

The ELR will be produced 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.

Reuss declined to provide the ELR's estimated price.

"It won't be for everybody. I can tell you there will be a lot of people who wouldn't buy a Chevrolet that have a lot of money that want to buy a Cadillac as a statement," Reuss said.

The travel range for the ELR has not yet been certified by federal officials. Reuss did not say how far GM expects the luxury plug-in to travel on electric charge or how far its total range will be.

The Cadillac ELR will operate much like the Volt in that it will run fully on electric power supplied by the battery until the charge runs low. Then, a gasoline-powered electric generator will kick in, allowing for "hundreds of additional driving miles," GM says.

The 2013 Volt can travel 38 miles on a full charge, up from 35 miles for the 2012 model, and has a full driving range of 380 miles. The Volt has a miles-per-gallon equivalent rating of 98 miles.

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.

Company 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.

By 2015, GM officials want Cadillac 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 top of 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.

(Editing by Grant McCool)

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