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Money woes may keep Converj from market

Mon, 19 Jan 2009 00:00:00 -0800

General Motors' tight finances may hold the automaker back from building a production version of the Cadillac Converj concept car.

GM revealed the coupe, which would use the same technology as the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, last week at the auto show here.

GM designed the Converj so the production version--if it ever happens--will look "exactly like this," says Bob Lutz, GM's vice chairman of global product development.

But GM is hardly ready to produce the Converj.

"Ready to go? Well, first we have to prove to ourselves that we have the money," Lutz says. "And then that it's a high enough priority to displace something else, and that we can actually make money on the vehicle, and that there is potential customer interest and so forth. We haven't done any of that work yet."

But lithium ion battery development is not an issue. GM is confident the batteries will be ready when the Volt is launched in November 2010.

Lutz says a production version of the Converj would be priced similar to a "luxury coupe." According to, the 2009 Lexus SC 430 starts at $67,630. The 2009 Cadillac XLR starts at $86,200. Both prices include shipping.

The Volt likely would carry a sticker price higher than $40,000, a high price for a Chevrolet product. So should the Volt have gone to Cadillac, not Chevrolet?

"Yes and no," Lutz says. "In terms of recovering the cost from the technology, doing it in a Cadillac would have made it financially easier to do.

"On the other hand, we wanted something that was globally applicable, and our big--close to 5 million unit--brand is Chevrolet. So with the Volt, we can sell it around the world."

Lutz says GM won't make much money from the Volt initially. That could change when the price of batteries comes down, GM gets more volume from that technology or gets it into other brands, such as Cadillac, where GM can charge more.

"It's going to be financially tough sliding," Lutz says.

"That's one of the reasons why we want to look at putting the Voltec technology into other brands that have more pricing potential than Chevrolet does."

Lutz adds: "We're now sufficiently confident in the Volt technology and the batteries that we can start looking at other alternatives, derivatives of the Voltec system, a larger engine or a small engine, a larger battery or a small battery, so the system is very flexible."

By Jamie LaReau- Automotive News