GM is halting production of the Cadillac XLR. Falling sales and the economic downturn are cited as the main reasons for ending production.

The end of the line is near for the Cadillac XLR. General Motors has decided to end production of the car in an effort to save money.

Declining sales was cited as a main reason for the convertible's demise. Sales dropped nearly 28 per-cent in 2008 when compared with a year earlier. Only about 1,250 new XLRs hit the highways last year.

Other automakers are facing similar life-or-death choices with their most exclusive and niche market vehicles. Honda has already announced a halt in production of the Honda S2000, while cutting development on the NSX. At the same time, revenue losses have hit automakers so hard, they are in the process of reevaluated their entire approach to marketing, including auto show attendance.

The news is particularly painful in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where a GM plant builds the car alongside the Corvette. The XLR and and Chevrolet Corvette share the same platform, with Cadillac's hard-top convertible getting a different set of V8-engine choices. Purchasers of the car have the option of buying an XLR with a 4.6-liter 320 hp, 310 ft-lb unit, or a 443 hp 414 ft-lb supercharged 4.4-liter model. As production wraps up this spring, 40 workers there will likely be laid off, according to plant manager Paul Graham.

“Obviously, it’s difficult when a plant loses a product,” Graham said in an interview with a local newspaper. “We want to continue to grow our volume as much as we can. So it’s been difficult.”

Introduced at the 1999 NAIAS as the Cadillac Evoq concept, the Cadillac XLR production model first saw light in 2003. At that time, the base model was priced at $76,000. In just five years, the base price has climbed over $10,000, with a supercharged version selling for over $105,000.

GM's Bowling Green plant has been closed, and will remain that way until February 23, due to the company's financial problems. 154 workers there, including the 40 staff members dedicated to the XLR, will be laid off by March 1.

“Everyone in the plant wants to do what we can to build great vehicles. No one’s feeling good about it,” Graham said.

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