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The market speaks: Cadillac dealers reject another electric folly

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Sunday, March 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

Consumers don't want plug-in hybrid cars. Now, neither do some car dealers.

The plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt's internal-combustion engine acts as a generator to extend its electric motor's range. It has been such a sales bust — even with a $7,500 federal tax credit for buyers — that Chevy slashed the 2014 Volt's price by $5,000, to $34,999.

Yet corporate parent General Motors thinks it can sell a gussied-up Volt in luxury-car guise for more than twice that price — as the $75,995 2014 Cadillac ELR, which shares its powertrain with the Volt. Cadillac has yet to roll out the ELR in earnest, selling just a few dozen since December. But when it does, it faces insurrection in its own dealer ranks: Cadillac told automotive website Edmunds.com that about 410 of its 940 U.S. dealers have decided they don't want to sell the ELR.

Those dealers, many in rural areas, think they could sell just one or two ELRs per year. And because special charging stations, sales areas, employee training and tools would cost each ELR dealer up to $15,000, they see the ELR as not worth carrying.

That's common sense, as is car buyers' rejection of the Volt in favor of less expensive, comparably fuel-efficient models with conventional powertrains. What's nonsense is government's heavy hand to make sales winners out of plug-in hybrids — with a tax credit that has failed to juice sales of the less upscale Volt and is even less of an inducement for more affluent luxury-car shoppers to buy an ELR.

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