“I am not afraid of Tesla,” Ellinghaus told reporters after a panel discussion at the 2014 Automotive Forum presented by J.D. Power and the National Automobile Dealers Association. “I think Tesla is a great opportunity and a learning exercise for all of us, and will help us traditional manufacturers to think twice about electric mobility.”
Ellinghaus said Tesla has forced them into a different way of thinking where it knows it needs to broaden its offering of electric or hybrid vehicles. The brand’s only electrified vehicle, the ELR, has been compared to Tesla’s critically acclaimed Model S. The ELR is in a similar price bracket, starting at $75,995, about $6,000 more than the price of a base Tesla Model S at $69,900. A high-performance variant of the all-electric Model S, called P85, is also available starting at $89,900.
According to Ellinghaus, the demand for electric vehicles comes from consumers who don’t want to sacrifice the performance another luxury sedan might offer in exchange for better gas mileage.
“There is no willingness to really sacrifice on the traditional qualities of a luxury car. These are not cars for tree huggers, as tree huggers do not buy new luxury cars,” he said.
The Cadillac exec also noted electric vehicles will eventually become more commonplace, rather than the defining feature of a vehicle.
“Cylinder counting, we all learned, is an intellectual disease that journalists and automotive managers are far more prone to than customers,” Ellinghaus said. “I think the same holds true to engine technology.”
Ellinghaus was part of panel called “What is Affordable Luxury? Competing and Winning an Expanding Field of Buyers.” Mlive says much of the conversation among the panel involved how luxury brands have to change or alter themselves to attract a new-generation of car consumers. Other panelists included representatives from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Infiniti and Hyundai.