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XLR fades to black

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  January 27, 2009 05:09 PM

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XLR-609.jpg(Photo Illustration/

Among the 45,000 jobs threatened by the blue chips yesterday are the 40 production workers on the Cadillac XLR assembly line. The range-topping, two-seat roadster - built alongside the Corvette in Bowling Green, Ky. - will be gone come spring.

The Bowling Green Daily News reported General Motors will fire 154 workers at the famous plant, which has produced the fiberglass Corvette since 1953 and is now temporarily closed along with several other plants.

Cadillac sold 1,250 XLR roadsters in the United States last year, a 28.6 percent drop from 2007. Meanwhile, Lexus sales of the SC 430 roadster sank 49.6 percent in 2008, to just 1,986. The icon Cadillac had chased from the very beginning - the Mercedes-Benz SL - sold 5,464 units last year and fell only 10.8 percent.

Based on the sixth-generation Corvette, the XLR, with its chiseled, fiberglass body and 320 horsepower V-8, was a design standout when it debuted in 2004. But the car drew early criticism for its semi-lackluster interior and substandard performance as compared to the SL500 (which at the time, was only about $10,000 more than a base $76,200 XLR).

Still, the XLR sported impressive hardware, such as the world's first electromagnetic shocks, which change stiffness in a claimed millisecond and were later offered on the Corvette Z06 and other Cadillac models (it remains the fastest-reacting active suspension, according to GM). The XLR-V model, supercharged to 443 horsepower, provided much more excitement, but Cadillac had - and has, at least for another month or so - a problem justifying its $100,000 price next to an AMG SL, 911 Cabriolet, or even the Corvette itself.

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29 comments so far...
  1. I'm a big fan of the looks of this roadster, though I don't know much else about it.

    Posted by Andrew S. January 27, 09 10:02 PM
  1. You can learn more about this amazing car at the XLR Net:

    Posted by Ryan Hilton January 27, 09 10:11 PM
  1. Bringing up the sales figures for those three vehicles - the XLR, the SC 430 and the SL - leads readers to think they might somehow be relevant to one another. However, it doesn't strike me as surprising that the SL sales dropped least; someone interested in an SL (MSRP $98k) isn't going to switch down to lower quality for a drop of a few thousand dollars in price (MSRP $87k-92k). That said, I can think of very few American automotive creations in current production that I would mourn the loss of. I guess you could say I'm glad there will be more room on the roads for refined European designs.

    Posted by David January 27, 09 10:50 PM
  1. The new CTS-V killed the XLR-V .

    Posted by Scot G January 28, 09 07:34 AM
  1. I always thought it had a great design, very edgy, no pun intended, and absolutely stood out on the road from anything else. But, I just don't think it ever gave it's competition (Mercedes SL, Porsche etc) any sort of run for their money. And for that price, most people would stick to the SL, or get a way better bargain in a Corvette and keep most of the running gear, etc, for a huge discount. Other than this model dying off, I think Cadillac has done an amazing job reinventing itself over these past few years, just about the only GM brand doing so.

    Posted by boss8120 January 28, 09 07:40 AM
  1. I saw this car at the car show last year... it was a nice car but WAYYYYY over-priced at $70,000. The interior just did not comapre up to the same standard as Lexus or Infinity.

    Posted by Cod Hunter January 28, 09 08:32 AM
  1. Miss it?? What's an XLR??

    Posted by WVW in Newton January 28, 09 08:37 AM
  1. Cadilac needs to keep a top of the line car in their line up to be relevant. The XLR was a good concept but was mentioned by Cod Hunter, you can't skimp on the interior quality. That is where American car manufacturers have missed the mark in the last 20 years. The quality of all American car interiors is inferior to the German and Japanese products. It is a shame that they can't figure this out because the drive drains, quality, and in some cases styling have come a really long way. As for Cadilac maybe the CTS-V will be their "poster car" but given their image I am not sure that will work for long. A new XLR type vehicle should be in the works.

    Posted by EJR2 January 28, 09 09:14 AM
  1. I think I've seen one or two on the road...I certainly could never afford NO, I won't miss it...what a waste of time.

    Posted by Josh January 28, 09 09:17 AM
  1. Wow, some of you people seem to be rather bitter. The XLR was overpriced, sure, but it will forever be the hallmark of one of the greatest design and marketing comebacks in American motor history. The Cadillac was a dying breed before the new edgy designs swept the line up and brought the esteemed brand to a younger, richer clientele. It is unfortunate that with the economic climate the way it is, we have to forgo such luxuries as the XLR, but don't write it off as subordinate to European vehicles or worse, "a waste of time" (Josh).

    Posted by Sapeta2003 January 28, 09 09:39 AM
  1. My neighbor has one and she looks pretty damn nice in it too.

    Posted by Ram guy January 28, 09 09:42 AM
  1. To be fair, the Escalade and the CTS can be credited with Cadillac's come back. The first generation Escalade, as plain as it was (basically a re-badeged Denali) garnered Cadillac the attention from the younger crowd. It was the first car (well, SUV) that didn't seem to be designed for your 85 year old gramps. The CTS was one of the first designs that took Cadillac in the edge-oriented direction. The XLR was never anything more than the brand's "halo product", like the Viper, or the Corvette. It's built to show the brand's technical advancements, which in this case mostly came from other GM brands. Regardless, it was never built to be Average Joe's ride from point A to point B. As most halo products go, they always have a limited life span and/or interest. Just look at the Viper.

    Posted by boss8120 January 28, 09 10:15 AM
  1. It IS and WAS a waste of time, that's whey they're CANCELLING it (Sapeta2003)...Cadillac should've spent time creating cars people actually wanted...or needed is a better word.

    Posted by Josh January 28, 09 11:16 AM
  1. Yes Josh, there should be no room in this world for anything unique or different. You right we should all be driving the same generic cars/trucks. Thanks! I feel so much better knowing that!

    It isn't the common that's remembered and treasured. It the unique, bold, and wonderful that is most valued in years to come. Doing something because you can for few is OK. It is too bad that Cadillac is giving up on especially since it can use the Corvette platform it isn't like it has to be engineered ground up.

    I agree that the interior wasn't all that it could be, but it could have been fixed. The shape and the top were gorgeous!

    Posted by Marie January 28, 09 01:43 PM
  1. Miss it ? I did not know it was alive !!

    Posted by Anonymous January 28, 09 02:32 PM
  1. Marie, you don't know.

    To say I suggested we should all be driving the same generic cars/trucks is wrong.

    Doing something because you can for a few is okay for Ferarri, not for GM, especially in this economy.

    It's no wonder that GM is a horrible failure....XLR, private jets, Escalade, over-inflated sense of self worth...

    Posted by Josh January 28, 09 02:48 PM
  1. I owned a base XLR and loved it! I loved to so much I then purchased the XLR-V. They are both wonderful cars, many have never heard of them as Cadillac didn't spend much $$$$ promoting them. It's a real shame they will be discontinued.

    Posted by Floyd January 28, 09 03:05 PM
  1. It looks like an old Honda Prelude with the top chopped off. It does'nt compare to the other two, let alone the cheap interior. If I had the type of $ to purchase a car of this type, the cadillac would not be in the running.

    Posted by Ken January 28, 09 03:26 PM
  1. Nice car. Lot's of engineering went into the power train and suspension and so forth, but the interior was not up to the standards of the competition, i.e. Mercedes, BMW, etc. It was such a low volume car, its unlikely to be missed.
    GM needs to consolidate and pay more attention to the current marketplace and the economy and repeat the kind of work they did with the new Chev. Malibu. Pontiac should go. Saturn doesn't seem to know what it is. Buick has only about three models. The company has to "reinvent " itself to be succesful.

    Posted by Dick Patti January 28, 09 08:49 PM
  1. It's hard to keep up with a general public that has no idea what it wants. One minute we want small, efficient commuter cars because *gasp* gas is 4 dollars and soccer mom can't fill her suburban to truck her 1.5 kids around. Then gas drops to a buck-something, and we all flock back to the dealers to buy the latest and greatest gas hog SUV and sports cars. You can't please everyone and quality among foreign manufacturers will always be ahead of the American brands. Don't get me wrong, I am not bashing American made vehicles, I think there are some great ones. If we do anything right, it's trucks. The F150 is still the benchmark that everyone shoots for, even Toyota and Nissan with their trucks. The american public has always been fickle with what they want or "need". We never "needed" huge SUV's adorned in chrome, but we asked, and they listened. So I think it's unfair to pass all the blame here. At least America is finally waking up to the wonders of diesel technology. Europe has known this for decades.

    Posted by boss8120 January 29, 09 08:34 AM
  1. Cadillac makes cars other than the Escalade?

    Posted by JYD January 29, 09 11:52 AM
  1. I think it's a shame that the XLR will be discontinued. I am a long time Cadillac owner and the XLR was in my sight to purchase. The styling of the XLR made it one of the prettiest cars on the road.
    I still own a Cadillac as well as a foreign automobile , if one had to go it would be the foreign one.
    GO GM ,I really hope they make it!

    Posted by Tom Shiebler January 29, 09 01:02 PM
  1. Well, you can still get one. I quick search in the Boston area yields 7 of them for sale. A few under $30k. Even some '04 and '05 as low as 25. Wow. Talk about depreciation. And a good deal.

    Posted by boss8120 January 29, 09 03:48 PM
  1. I really liked the XLR's looks, along with the STS I think it's the most successful application of Cadillac's "art and science" design language. That said, the car had some pretty serious flaws. The Northstar was a good engine back in 1992 when it debuted, but times have changed and the base XLR rolled off the showroom floors with almost 50hp less than a SL500 would. The interior was also a major letdown, especially compared to the car's gorgeous exterior.

    This all wouldn't have been a problem for the XLR had they priced it at $55-$60k as a CLK or SLK competitor, but at less than $10k less than a SL500 it was a purchase that only the most die-hard Cadillac buffs could justify. A real shame, since it was such a handsome looking car otherwise.

    Posted by branmedic January 29, 09 03:53 PM
  1. Cadillac's depreciate BIG TIME in price. $40,000 new, $7000 in 5 years.

    Posted by Josh January 30, 09 11:27 AM
  1. The XLR will be a notable vehicle in history if not for being the Art & Science halo car but for being a rare and unique vehicle that you will have to reasearch to know more about. And for those who liked it, We will do the reasearch.

    Sitting in one at an auto show in 2004, I actually thought the interior was claming, spacious, and elegant. But then I was in one with tan leather and rich blonde wood accents. The optional metal accents are not as nice. But both trimmings are far greater than even a brand new Corvette.

    I would love to eventually own an XLR but if history repeats, like its predecessor the Allante roadster, the XLR will still bring in a pretty penny. 1993 Allante's go for like 12-13 thousand dollars. That's pretty impressive for a 90's niche vehicle.

    Posted by Andrew January 30, 09 01:50 PM
  1. I've read that the engines in the Allante's go ka-put @ the 90-100k mark. Those Northstars were not the most robust engines. Not sure if that would be, or is, the case with the XLR. I'm sure they must have made advancements since then. And again, those were the dark days for Caddy, hopefully they improved mechanically as they did aesthetically over the past few years.

    Posted by boss8120 January 30, 09 03:19 PM
  1. The XLR is a marvelous made is the United States car, it looks better than a Vette and the ride is luxurious. Who cares about foreign cars? It's a shame GM is going to stop making them!

    Posted by William February 4, 09 04:16 PM
  1. Should have happened sooner...better yet not build it at all. More money lost on a stupid idea. Reatta; Allante; Cimarron; SSR

    Posted by Zora D February 5, 09 11:16 PM

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
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