Future Product: Cadillac's New ATS

GM plans to take on the BMW 3 series with the lighter, quicker, more agile Cadillac ATS.
Posted: Nov 08, 2010

Cadillac’s announcement of the ATS small sedan coming in 2012 is acknowledgment that the General Motors luxury brand won’t stand pat as an also-ran to Mercedes, BMW and Lexus. To run in that pack, the industry’s onetime luxury leader needs more models and variants, especially at the entry level.

GM isn’t talking much in detail about ATS, though this much is known: The car will be built on a new rear-wheel-drive architecture, dubbed Alpha and laden with lots of aluminum to make it lighter, quicker and more agile than had it been adapted from the current CTS architecture. GM also plans to build the next CTS on Alpha, as well as the next Chevrolet Camaro.

Cadillac will initially offer a sedan version of the ATS, as well as a coupe and a convertible, though the decision hasn’t been made whether the convertible will be cloth or a retractable top. A station wagon is also under consideration. Power is rumored to come from a turbocharged four-cylinder or V6, with the possibility of a V8 under the hood in a performance V-Series version.

In 1999 GM began a thorough overhaul of the Cadillac brand, starting with new design themes and a deliberate strategy for the CTS sedan. It was BMW 5 Series sized, but sold at 3 Series prices, so that even if it wasn’t a legitimately competitive product, it still offered a good value proposition. While the second generation CTS, unveiled in 2008, largely remedied the technical deficiencies, the car has still lacked in prestige.

GM will be faced with a similar challenge with the ATS: Simply designing, engineering and manufacturing a car that can compete with the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C Class or Lexus GS in terms of performance won’t be enough. GM’s new marketing guru, Joel Ewanick, must find and stimulate the creative energy to endow Cadillac with as much desirability as its German and Japanese counterparts.

The task of making up that ground for Cadillac goes to the Minneapolis-based agency of Fallon Worldwide. Ewanick awarded the business to Fallon in July, reuniting with an agency he employed on behalf of Porsche 20 years earlier. Having just launched Chevrolet’s “Chevy Runs Deep” campaign, Ewanick is likely to focus more attention on Cadillac, which is bringing out a front-wheel-drive large sedan called XTS in 2011.

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