How Cadillac Hopes to Catch the Germans

2013 Cadillac XTS

In a rather inconclusive interview with MSN Autos, ATS engineer David Masch was asked, “How long is it going to take for Cadillac to regain brand perception as ‘the standard of the world’”?

He replied it may take a little time to improve “some of the public perception.” That, friends, is the understatement of the year.

Lexus was 30 percent ahead of Caddy in sales last year; BMW and Mercedes more than 60 percent.

With only three active models now, the brand needs more and better offerings and better-looking cars. We’ll show you a few that were on display in New York; you be the judge. Above is the XTS, the company’s new full-size luxo-sedan, which looks good: the proportions are right.

XTS prices begin at just under $45K, it has Magnetic Ride Control (a fast-acting bump damper) standard, along with CUE, a “breakthrough in-vehicle user experience for control and connectivity.” More tech details are here. This is a car for Chinese and American buyers, not the BMW chasers.

2013 Cadillac ATS, frontAs a former BMW-chaser, I’m more interested in the new ATS (right)—which has been ballyhooed by GM as the great “BMW 3 Series fighter,” one of its dumbest marketing moves ever.

“We’re going to outrefine the 3-series. We’ll have similar or better performance, but we’ll have that silk glove of Cadillac laced over it,” says the ATS’s lead development engineer, Chris Berube, who worked most recently on the CTS-V.

Don’t misunderstand: We would love to see Caddy go head to head with the M3, for instance. But why announce the match before your candidate has even hit the streets? You don’t use the Muhammad Ali strategy when your opponents have been practicing and training for years.

2013 Cadillac SRXSome ATS specs are here. We think the car looks a bit hefty (in these photos, at least) and is styled with too many Cadillac-ish gewgaws.

And finally, the 2013 SRX crossover appeared on the stand with some new tech and safety features. Cadillac sold almost 60,000 of these things last year, the brand’s best seller. That shows you that people still like clunky, chromey and homely vehicles, the standard of their world.

Is Cadillac being too boastful with its new ATS?


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  1. Back before I retired we did a lot of work with Caddies (including the CTS-V and SRX) and worked with several Beemers, including 3-series, M3, 5 series and even a 7 series. You could park a Caddy and beemer side by side and open all the doors and hood and boot, and simply walk around and compare. The Caddy always seemed to be a Chevy trying to be a BMW. I don’t think they will EVER get it right because their main customer group, Americans, don’t want to drive a Caddy BMW. They want a Caddy. That’s why the main group around here remains q-tips, bleach blonde real estate agents in their 50’s, and a few balding mid life crisis types who are too fat to get into a Porsche. In other words, the upscale Buick crowd.

  2. They can boast all they want but until they get their styling geometry more in line with the competition, I really don’t see what they’re crowing about. The grills are hideous as is the still-convex crescent shaped rear window which looks like it was added as an afterthought. There is still too much “box” in their design and the car looks overweight.

    The older DHS and DTS had much better sight lines than these copycat designs they’re using now. I’m also not pleased with the wasted space inside. The seats are also too low for the class of people who usually buy them. Many smaller cars provide as much room as in the Caddy but are proportioned better and utilize space more efficiently. I still don’t understand why this brand isn’t required to go an a diet, more along the lines of the new Impala.

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