2009 cadillac converj hybrid concept live 06Enlarge Photo
When the Cadillac Converj concept debuted in Detroit last January, many were awed by its stylish looks and its green pedigree. (Like the Chevrolet Volt, the Converj is powered by an electric motor, which can be recharged on-the-go by a gasoline engine.) Sure, pairing the Cadillac brand and an electric powertrain seemed a little odd, but no one could really complain about having brains and beauty in one package.
Fast forward a couple of months to General Motors' reorganization: in trying to pick the most profitable path for GM, some upper-level managers and members of the federal auto task force voiced concerns about the Converj and its ability to turn a profit. And in fairness, when it comes to short-term profit potential, the Converj is a risky deal. Not only is the coupe's technology expensive, but also the range-anxiety that's cited as an inhibitor of EV sales is likely even more prevalent among Cadillac's slightly older demographic.
Today, however, some of GM's naysayers are gone, the company has powered through its bankruptcy hearings, and Bob Lutz, who took the Converj under his wing during his previous tenure at GM, is now the company's vice chairman for design marketing and communications. In short: the kids are minding the candy store, which has led some to believe that the Converj may be back on track for a future release -- possibly as soon as 2014. Given General Motors' full-steam-ahead plans on the Chevrolet Volt, adding the Converj to the company's lineup makes sense, since the two run on the same technology. In theory, this would improve the EV system's reliability, and reduce the General's costs via economies of scale.
The holdup, at this point, would seem to be marketing research: will people buy it? Although common sense might suggest caution, some at General Motors argue that launching the Converj would be a great way to buff the Cadillac brand by presenting a thoroughly stylish vehicle with sterling eco-credentials. Moreover, some insist that the Converj would fare well in head-to-head matchup with other environmentally friendly rides like the Toyota Prius, which tends to attract buyers who earn around $100,000 a year. There's some merit to that argument, although if we were Lutz, we'd want a little more data showing exactly what draws drivers to the Prius. We have a nagging suspicion that may be something other than cost -- something that Cadillac may be ill-suited to provide. (Think Zune vs.iPod.)
That said, we'd love a crack at this baby on the roadways. We're hoping we'll get the chance.