Over the decades Cadillac has devolved into a brand who’s popularity is highest among those in retirement communities. A plan to change that has been in place for a decade now, focusing heavily on performance machines with Cadillac even honing its own performance V sub-brand to challenge German rivals like AMG and M. But the brand’s biggest push yet to target more youthful buyers comes with the youngest product in the lineup, the new ATS.
Designed as a direct rival to the iconic BMW 3 Series, Cadillac marketing boss Don Butler spoke candidly about the need for such a car during a recent press drive event in Atlanta.
“Cadillac has been handicapped because it didn’t have a product that was relevant to young luxury buyers,” admits Butler. With the ATS priced and sized at the entry level of the luxury market, without such a vehicle it’s nearly impossible to introduce first time luxury buyers to the brand.
The compact luxury sedan space is also the volume segment for luxury vehicles, and so without a model in that segment, Cadillac has also been missing out on volume sales.
Not having a car like the ATS means “we haven’t been cool,” says Butler. And so to compete Cadillac set out to build a genuine 3 Series rival, and not just in delivering the same basic vehicle in terms of size and price, or the usual General Motors philosophy of packaging plenty of features into a lesser car – a philosophy that has never worked to make any car a segment leader. Rather, explains Butler, Cadillac engineers and executives sat down and carefully plotted a plan.
“The old GM way of doing things would have been to take a look in the parts bin and see what we could piece together,” he says. But that’s not what was done here. “This isn’t a CTS with parts taken off it to make it lighter.”
Rather, the ATS rides on an entirely new platform – one that allows it to weigh 100 lbs less than the 3 Series. It also gets a genuinely premium interior and even boasts the first use of carbon fiber interior trim in a Cadillac product. To help meet the demands of segment buyers it has optional convenience and safety technology innovations, ranging from the brand’s new CUE telematics system to the vibrating safety seat that will alert the driver if they’re drifting out of their lane or approaching another vehicle too quickly. There’s even an active safety system that will fully apply the brakes if a crash is seen as imminent.
But all those features are irrelevant if the ATS doesn’t deliver on its promise to perform in the same way as a German luxury sports sedan. To discover if the ATS lives up to the hype, we recently had the chance to pilot the new American luxury sports sedan on the street and the track. A car that Butler says is, “probably the most significant launch for Cadillac since the original CTS,” read our complete 2013 Cadillac ATS review (and watch out video review) here.