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Cadillac ConverJ unveiled at Detroit auto show 2009

Mon, 12 Jan 2009

By Tim Pollard

Motor Shows

12 January 2009 14:29

GM came out fighting with new product in tune with the times at the Detroit auto show 2009. The Cadillac ConverJ is an electric-powered limousine not seen until press day, harnessing the same plug-in hybrid tech as the Chevy Volt.

GM product overlord and everyone’s favourite sound-bite merchant Bob Lutz said the Volt’s drivetrain had been renamed the Voltec system and it was this lithium-ion battery set-up that underpinned the ConverJ concept car.

‘The battery can be smaller or larger than the Volt’s in this system,’ he confides, meaning it can be scaled up or down to suit urban vehicles or big luxury cars such as the ConverJ.

‘Owners will be able to drive the ConverJ 40 miles without using a drop of fuel – and an additional 700 miles with the engine spinning,’ says Lutz. ‘If you do predominantly short urban runs, you may never have to buy another drop of fuel again.’

Lutz talks about range anxiety and says he once ran out of electricity in an EV and felt totally stranded (tellingly, he had to be rescued by a big gas-guzzling pick-up truck). That’s one of the advantages of the range-extending Voltec system, which uses an internal combustion engine to charge the battery. The Voltec also uses electricity to drive the wheels; the petrol motor purely acts as a generator.

Chief exec Rick Wagoner glosses over the minutae of GM’s colossal problems, but more details emerge in interviews at Detroit. North American boss Troy Clarke confirms that it is making good on its promise to Congress to slash costs – and says it will focus product and marketing resource on just four brands: Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC.

That spells a bleak future for Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer; the latter pair are up for sale (with no buyers forthcoming) and GM has already said it will sell or close Saturn.

Lutz also said that Pontiac will have to get by with four models: the G8, G5, Vibe and Solstice.

It’s a busy press conference, with the new 2010 Cadillac SRX, 2010 Buick LaCrosse and 2010 Chevrolet Equinox shown, plus announcements that the Chevrolet Orlando concept car will be sold in America, as will the production iteration of the Chevrolet Beat supermini concept. It was confirmed for production with the Spark badge; in Europe it will replace the Matiz city car.

By Tim Pollard