Cadillac's 2-Year Goal: Follow the Germans
To get noticed for more than its Escalade, Cadillac is expanding its lineup to every size class.
The Cadillac CTS is a competent, high-quality luxury car whether in sedan, wagon or razor-sharp coupe form. In V trim it can keep up with -- and occasionally surpass -- Mercedes' AMGs and M Series BMWs. But as fantastic as the CTS is, it’s just one model. Since Cadillac killed the slow-selling STS and old-school DTS last year, the company now only offers three.
Not surprisingly, BMW, Mercedes and Lexussell more cars than Cadillac. Despite 152,389 Cadillacs sold in the U.S. last year, Lexus was ahead by 30 percent; sales by Mercedes and BMW were each more than 60 percent higher. To that end, Cadillac will introduce two new sedans later this year, the full-size XTS and compact ATS, both replete with touch-sensitive controls and iPad-like media interfaces. It won’t be enough, however, until Cadillac can stare down the Germans in every size class, complete with a no-limit S-Class competitor and a revived XLR roadster.
We sat down with David Masch, chief engineer for the ATS, at the 2012 New York Auto Show last week and eked out some details from him on Cadillac’s evolution. Read on and tell us if you’re convinced.
MSN Autos: Is the ATS the replacement for the discontinued BLS in Europe?
David Masch: It’s not just a replacement for that. It is the intention to right-size a startup portfolio where they need to be, to be competitive with the other entries in the entry-luxe, mid-luxe or high-end luxe. This was an all-new -- from the ground-up -- architecture.
MSNA: Would you see Cadillac offering a diesel engine in the U.S.?
DM: There are discussions of that, but we haven’t announced anything yet. Our leadership would like us to pursue some diesels. We’re also pursuing hybrid strategies and things like that -- electrification. I think the market still needs to sort out where we want to go. We’re looking at all of those.
MSNA: For awhile, Cadillac has been talking about coming out with an S-Class competitor, V8 with rear-wheel drive, something more than the XTS. Is that project still alive?
DM: I’m not able to comment on that, other than to say there are a lot of other entries coming in the Cadillac portfolio, and it’s intended to be a full lineup of vehicles. We’re going to compete locally in North America, but we’re also intending to grow the brand globally, too. To do that, you’ve got to have a full complement of vehicles.
MSNA: Will there be a replacement for the STS?
DM: There are some other entries after the ATS launch, possibly the following year or the year after that that we will be continuing to expand the Cadillac portfolio.
MSNA: How long is it going to take for Cadillac to regain brand perception as “the standard of the world”?
DM: I think it’s a continuing challenge to earn the respect of the consumers to demonstrate that you are, in fact, building cars that are the “standard of the world.” We believe we’re there now. It now make take a little bit of time to [improve] some of the public perception, but there already are a lot of people that appreciate that. We’re on a very good path.
MSN: Do you consider Lincoln to be a threat?
DM: Not right now. They’re probably eight to 10 years behind where we were when we started the evolution and the change of Cadillac, and so, it takes time.
MSNA: The ATS is going after the 3 Series, but what’s with the CTS? I thought that’s what the CTS was after.
DM: The CTS is kind of in the middle ... [It] is a great product, but it has the concern, or the challenge, of wanting to compete on price of the entry-luxe cars and on performance of the mid-luxe cars.
Our final take: We’ll really know Cadillac has scored when its flagship car stops getting hilarious, insulting sneers from Jeremy Clarkson.
(Edited from a longer interview.)
Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving and riding in cars he doesn't own. He was raised in Volvos and has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He lives in Boston, is a member of the New England Motor Press Association, and has reported for The Boston Globe, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics and The Times of London.
However, Cadillac has made an excellent case to go after Lexus and Infiniti which also use engines from more sedate lower end cars.
nor is the CTS-V unique, as it is actually a Holden SS Sport-V, from Australia.
Small factual correction. The Holden SS Sport-V is based on the larger Zeta platform, the CTS is based on the mid size Sigma platform. The two platforms are actually very similar, but the Sigma came first in 2003. The Zeta platform Holdens came in 2006. So the Holden SS is actually a copy of the CTS in my opinion.
It's going to take a long time for Cadillac to be able to convince people they're a worthy competitor to Mercedes and BMW
It's true, it'll take a while to match the snob appeal of the Germans, and to attract the boring people who buy Lexus's, but then again, they'll probably never do that as the styling is too adventurous for Lexus buyers.
As far as the CTS, they've already won me over. And in reality, the CTS is more of a 5-series competitor, size wise, but the pricing more closely follows the 3-series. Look at it that way, and the car is a bargain.
As far as say an S-Class or 7 series competitor, I think that will be a tough road, getting people to fork over that kind of money for a Cadillac. The styling is terrific, but they need to focus on build quality, fit & finish, and quality material feel for the interiors to really compete with the German uber sedans.
Hopefully starting at the bottom works, and the ATS starts snagging potential 3-series customers.
TXMX, you seem to be forgetting about the 556 HP V8 offered in the CTS. That's unique to that car.
You mean the LSA engine? The same engine offered in the Corvette ZL-1 and fundamentally similar to the same LS engines offered in the Silverado?
As for economies of scale helping to keep parts availability up and price down, you forgot one thing. Luxury cars aren't supposed to be cheap. A true luxury car demands a certain level of exclusivity. That's why cars like the Lexus LS460 and the Infiniti M56, while nice, will eternally be hanging behind Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
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