By Chris Haak
For some time, General Motors has seemingly operated under the assumption that its buyers are define the value of their cars by a “by the pound” metric. The logic appears to be that if a given GM vehicle is a bit large for its class, then consumers will hopefully perceive the GM vehicle as being a better value. That’s why, for example, the Chevrolet Cruze is almost as big as a midsize car, and has a published curb weight just 97 pounds lighter than the [also big-for-its-class] midsize Hyundai Sonata.
When it came to the Cadillac CTS, the car was initially marketed as a competitor to the BMW 3 Series, but of course, it’s larger and heavier. It also slots between the 3 and 5 Series in price, and finds itself about the same weight as the 5er, but with less interior room than the F10 5 Series. By virtue of falling between the 3 Series and 5 Series in terms of size and price, it’s not really effectively competing against either car.
Enter the 2013 Cadillac ATS. By building an all-new model that slots below the CTS size- and price-wise, the ATS will be a less awkward competitor to the 3 Series. Instead of attempting to cater to the 3 Series intenders by offering them more car, the ATS (whatever its final name will be – it ma not be called the ATS) will give its buyers a 3 Series size and price and [presumably] more 3 Series-like driving dynamics. At least that’s what Mark Reuss told assembled media and industry folks yesterday – that they benchmarked the best.
Once the ATS enters the lineup, it may become Cadillac’s volume model, since it will presumably be priced lower than the CTS. It will also be uncomfortably close to the CTS in terms of size, since the current CTS straddles two class sizes, and the ATS will sit squarely in the compact-luxury one. That dilemma will be resolved when the third-generation CTS makes its eventual debut, and it moves up to a larger (and more expensive) size similar to the 5er. Don’t fret; CTS pricing has already been moving up far beyond its launch pricing in 2008, so it’s already competing with the 5 Series I some ways.
As for the ATS photo that Reuss showed yesterday – it’s an attractive car with nice proportions (note that long dash-to-axle ratio that only a RWD-based chassis can provide), but it seems to show that Cadillac is running dangerously short of new design ideas. In profile, it seems to show very little difference between itself and the now four year old CTS sedan. The only obvious difference is that the headlights’ trailing edge stretches further rearward than they do on the SRX, the rear overhang (and therefore the trunk) is more abbreviated, and the rear door openings appear to have more curves and perhaps better detailing than on the CTS. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem to deviate much from the Art and Science theme established in the 1990s.
Expect the FWD-based Cadillac XTS to launch in early 2012 (replacing the DTS and STS), while the ATS, whatever its final name, to launch in mid-2012.