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GM returns to France with fully-electric Cadillac Lyriq

FILE PHOTO: North American International Auto Show in Detroit

By Gilles Guillaume

PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. automaker General Motors on Monday unveiled its luxury electric Cadillac Lyriq in France, an expansion of its market in Europe after returning last year and a test of whether online-only sales will attract wealthy car buyers.

In October GM announced it was launching sales in Switzerland, the first step in an all-electric return to European markets since selling off the Opel and Vauxhall brands in 2017.

Unlike in its home market where it relies on a large dealer network, European customers can customise and purchase their Cadillac EVs entirely online.

Europe's automakers are focused on trying to build more affordable EVs, under pressure from Chinese competitors and slowing demand growth. GM's European head Jaclyn McQuaid told reporters at a launch event in Paris that electric SUVs are expected to remain the fastest-growing segment for zero-emission vehicles.

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"When you look at the battery electric vehicle market in France, it is the luxury market that grew to the greatest extent," McQuaid said. "The luxury market is where the focus is right now."

The best-selling electric car in France last year was Tesla's Model Y SUV, which starts at 42,990 euros ($46,500) in that market.

Highlighting Cadillac's French heritage - the French adventurer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Detroit in 1701 - McQuaid said other electric models would follow using the same architecture as the Lyriq, which is made in Tennessee.

In Switzerland the Lyriq has a starting price of 82,000 Swiss francs ($93,100), but GM did not provide pricing for France.

Cadillac also plans a showroom in Paris and the Lyriq can be ordered online from March 23. The luxury EV is due to launch in other European markets, starting with Germany by year-end.

($1 = 0.9244 euros, 0.8811 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume; Writing by Nick Carey; Editing by Ros Russell)