Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Cadillac Converj Smart Extension of Volt

It stole the show at last year's auto show. Now the Cadillac Converj is getting the green light from General Motors. This is not only a smart move that could pay off over time for GM, but it also shows how far the auto maker has come in moving quicker when it comes to taking new models from concept to production. This does not mean the Converj will be a slam-dunk, guaranteed winner. Still, I like the move.

First, the Converj will leverage the technology that will go into the extended range electric Chevy Volt. This accomplishes two things. First, it gives GM another model line to make money off the Volt tech. GM has spent more than $1 Billion researching and developing the electric car technology. It needs to recoup that investment and it will do that quicker selling an electric Caddy. GM will be able to charge more for an electric Caddy than it will be able to with an electric Chevy. Enough said.

Second, the Converj has the look and appeal that should attract buyers, especially if the production model winds up being anywhere close to the concept we saw at the Detroit Auto Show (See below). The exterior is aggressive, sleek and a solid design extension of where GM wants to take Cadillac. The interior, with an instrument panel that looks like something out of a jet cockpit, generated immense buzz with auto critics. And for good reason.

But with all that said, you should temper your enthusiasm for the Converj. It won't be in showrooms until 2013 and between now and then a lot could and likely will change. Remember how much the Volt changed between concept and production model? Much of that was because tests in the wind tunnel showed the original Volt design was not aero dynamic enough to help it hit fuel efficiency targets. I fully expect the production Converj to be far different than what we've seen so far.

Still, give GM execs credit for not waiting to see if the Volt is a hit before deciding to expand the use of Volt technology. The auto industry is moving much faster and in the race to win the electric car race the pace is even more accelerated. No wonder GM is revving up the Cadillac Converj.

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