TROY, MI – An embarrassing problem with General Motors Corp.’s Cadillac XLR luxury roadster had to be fixed before the car was shipped, which put its market debut several weeks behind schedule.

Early versions of the XLR made available to the automotive media for test-drives dumped water on the surface of the rear decklid into the trunk when the power-operated removable hardtop was raised.

With a starting price of $76,200, it’s unlikely XLR owners would be willing to put up with soaked luggage if the top was raised during a rainstorm.

Cadillac XLR’s power-operated retractable hardtop dumped water in trunk.

“It’s already been corrected,” assures Dave Leone, XLR chief engineer. “It’s been fixed for about a month-and-a-half. As soon as we discovered it, we got on it and fixed it in a matter of weeks. All the cars going out the door have the fix on it.”

GM designed the retractable hardtop with CTS CarTopSystems North America Inc. There were whispers during development the retractable hardtop was a struggle to perfect.

Leone tells Ward's here at the 3rd Annual Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Composites Conference that a late engineering change was made to the hardtop’s hinging mechanism.

The device was altered to improve the fit between the front tip of the decklid and the rear quarter panel, a GM spokesman explains. “We had a close condition,” Leone says.

The decklid swings rearward and up in order for the retractable hardtop to emerge from the trunk and cover the 2-seat cabin. The process takes about 29 seconds. “The decklid opens higher than regular decklids to provide clearance for the top,” the spokesman notes.

By modifying the hinging mechanism to narrow the gap between the decklid and rear quarter panel, GM rendered ineffective a gutter that was supposed to catch and divert water from the decklid.

“There is a gutter between the decklid and the rear roof and when (the decklid) swung rearward, it just missed the gutter by 4 or 5 mm (0.16-0.2 ins.) and that water was able to drop in (the trunk),” Leone says.

GM re-contoured the rubber weather seals along the forward edge of the decklid to catch the water before it falls into the trunk and divert it into the conduit.

“We’ve got a feature on the forward edge of the decklid now that channels all the water back into the gutter, which does now what it was supposed to do from the start,” says Leone.

GM shipped the first 101 XLRs to dealers Sept. 8 from its Bowling Green, KY, assembly plant. Deliveries were expected to begin in late July or early August. (See related story: Caddy Preps Dealers for XLR Buyers)

“It’s a few weeks later than we originally had forecasted,” admits Leone. “But we wanted to make sure we had everything just right, and we weren’t going to ship them until all the issues were resolved.”

Leone declines to identify the “issues” contributing to the delay, or confirm that the retractable hardtop was the primary reason for falling behind schedule. “It was just the normal growing pains of bringing a new car to market,” he says.

Bowling Green currently is building 12 XLRs per day. By the end of October, says Leone, daily production will be ramped up to full speed at 24 units.