Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Cadillac’s top marketer says his operation is unfazed by today’s introduction of a Lincoln MKZ hybrid, which will take on a hybrid offering from Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus unit.

General Motors Co., which will remain without an entry in the segment, announced earlier this month it would shelve plans for the Cadillac Converj, an extended-range electric vehicle based on the upcoming Chevy Volt.

Speculation is GM could not deliver the Volt’s 40-mile (64-km) all-electric range and still provide the luxury amenities a Cadillac would demand.

The Lincoln MKZ, which shares its architecture with the Ford Fusion, and Lexus HS 250 are parallel hybrids, operating predominately with their internal-combustion engines, whereas the Volt and Converj are meant to be driven mostly in all-electric mode with their ICE operating as a generator only after the battery’s charge is exhausted.

But now Lincoln and Lexus both will have passenger-car offerings achieving more than 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km) with stylish hybrid badges. Don Butler, the newly installed marketing boss at Cadillac, says the brand is not at a disadvantage.

“We need to do what makes sense for Cadillac and its brand,” Butler tells Ward’s during an interview at the auto show here. “You can expect alternative powertrains in Cadillac’s not-so-distant future. It’s not like we are moving away.”

Butler points to the Cadillac XTS Platinum concept unveiled at the Detroit auto show. The fullsize sedan uses GM’s coming plug-in hybrid technology. A production timetable for the XTS hybrid has not been announced.

But he adds in a jab to GM’s cross-town rival, “We don’t want to do a hybrid just to do a hybrid. And we don’t want to just take something and put another badge on it and say, ‘There’s our hybrid.’ It needs to be purpose-driven.”

Currently, Cadillac’s sole hybrid offering is the Escalade fullsize SUV, which achieves 21-22 mpg (11.2-10.7 L/100 km) city/highway. As a percentage of sales at Cadillac, the Escalade hybrid ranks second to the Lexus HS 250.

But the HS 250 has delivered 8,658 units since its introduction in August 2009, according to Ward’s data, while the Escalade hybrid has accounted for 1,907 over the same time period.

Ford expects the Lincoln MKZ hybrid to generate 14% of the model’s annual demand, or roughly 4,000 of its estimated 27,000 yearly sales.

The XTS Platinum concept mates GM’s award-winning 3.6L V-6 engine with direct-injection technology, plus a PHEV propulsion system. In urban conditions, the system is designed to operate primarily on battery power.

But the ICE and PHEV technologies also combine for a powertrain boasting 350 hp and 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) of torque.

GM never provided fuel-economy estimates for the combination but said urban commuters would experience efficiency double that of a conventional hybrid. And the fully electric variable drive of the PHEV adds sportiness to the driving experience, the auto maker says.

jamend@wardsauto.com