Cadillac buys lunch, but offers auto writers no details on an all-electric Tesla fighter

In Manhattan today, German-born Uwe Ellinghaus, chief marketing officer for Cadillac, answered questions from automobile writers and publicists about the move of General Motors' luxury division to the City That Never Sleeps.

Ken Gross, above, and Peter Harholdt received the International Motor Press Association's Ken Purdy Award for excellence in automotive journalism for their book, "Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles."


When automobile writers, publicists and other members of the International Motor Press Association are offered a free lunch, look out.

In Manhattan this afternoon, the host for the monthly IMPA meeting was Cadillac, the General Motors luxury division that is trying to reinvent itself in a bid to woo away customers from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and other premium-car makers.

At one point, the 3 West Club ran out of food and servers had to set up another large, round table to seat the overflow.

IMPA members normally pay $45 for a bountiful buffet lunch.

Among desserts today, a cake was put out to recognize the work of editors and writers at The New York Times' Automobiles section.

Before the program began, Editor Jim Cobb of The New York Times' Automobiles section and Deputy Editor Norman Mayersohn received an ovation from IMPA members.

The Times is folding the 20-year-old Sunday section at the end of the year, ostensibly for economic reasons. 

GM can't compete

General Motors is not alone among the major automakers whose lunch has been eaten by upstart Tesla Motors.

The California-based automaker already has a cult following in the United States, Europe and Asia for its all-electric Model S, a luxurious four-door hatchback with a starting price of $69,900.

But the best competition GM has been able to come up with is Cadillac's ELR Coupe, a plug-in hybrid with a Chevy Volt-like power train that requires a gasoline-powered generator to recharge the battery on the fly.

The ELR starts at $75,000, and gets a pathetic 37 miles on electricity stored in the battery.

'Electric mobility'

In answer to questions after lunch, Chief Marketing Officer Uwe (say, "OO veh") Ellinghaus said Cadillac needs to have what he called "electric mobility" -- an all-electric luxury vehicle to compete with Tesla's Model S.

"We need to take electric vehicles seriously," he added.

But later, when I caught up with him in the lobby, Ellinghaus couldn't say when Cadillac would produce an all-electric luxury car. 

I offered, "In two years." He said he didn't think it would be that soon.

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