Cadillac planning to build and sell ATS, CTS, XTS models in China

Article by Christian A., on April 17, 2012

General Motors is planning to produce three Cadillac models in China, with hopes to follow in the success of the Buick brand in this country. According to The Detroit News, Cadillac will announce these plans at the Beijing Auto Show later this month. Cadillac will ultimately produce the ATS sport sedan, midsize CTS sedan, and executive XTS sedan in China.

Currently, there’s just one Cadillac model is in China -- the STS-based SLS executive sedan. Shanghai General Motors, a long-standing joint venture between General Motors and SAIC Motor Corp., is the producer of this vehicle. Since the SLS is built in China and not imported, the Chinese government can’t impose heavy tariffs on it. This means that there are major price differences in Chinese-market Cadillacs.

A 2012 Cadillac CTS that’s at the top of the line is priced at $57,555; however, Chinese-market models are priced at $71,032 after the import taxes and fees are included.

Those who buy the CTS in China have to pay a higher price for the sport sedan than the larger, Chinese-built SLS, which has a starting price of only $61,546. It’s not yet clear at this stage if the CTS and ATS will be identical to their North American counterparts, or if Cadillac wants to create long-wheelbase variants to pacify Chinese buyers, who would rather be driven in their luxury vehicles rather than driving them.

In China, Cadillac sales reached 30,000 units in 2011, about 72.8% higher than the previous year. Transferring the assembly of Chinese-spec ATS, CTS, and XTS sedans in China is expected to raise Cadillac’s market share in China by a huge percentage, considering that Chinese luxury car buyers love the BMW 3 Series and Audi A6 models. It’s also not expected that Cadillac will affect Buick’s shares, which sold almost 650,000 vehicles in China in 2011.

In creating the Cadillac ATS, the design team made sure that it would be the lightest model in its segment. This was the main condition that served as the guiding principle when the ATS was developed. However, it was made in a rather nuanced way to enhance the driving experience. However, optimizing the mass of the ATS was not done on a whim as the brand made sure to utilize a four-prolonged principle.

These included sticking to the architectural goals originally set, ensuring that the load management across the model is measured, making sure that the components are benchmarked to determine if there are lighter solutions available, and the practice of having a culture wherein the mass of each part of is weighed and compared versus all of the development aspects.

ATS chief engineer David Masch said that by having a low weight, this allowed the ATS to have a more controllable feel while being more nimble at the same time. The low weight also meant that the efficiency and the performance of its powertrains are optimized, he added. However, he continued, the brand made sure that the weight would be managed while ensuring that it would have the refinement levels Cadillac is known for.

There are many reasons why the ATS has managed to achieve a low overall mass given that aluminum was used for the hood while the engine mount brackets are composed of magnesium. Helping as well is the use of the natural-fiber and lightweight door trim panels. Indeed, all of these show the systematic approach Cadillac implemented in order to assess each of the components fitted to the ATS.

However not everything was made lightweight as the brand knew that some of the weight presented some advantages and was important to guarantee the driving experience promised by ATS. A good example of this is the cast iron differential. The engineering team realized that compared to the lighter aluminum version, the use of cast iron differential enhanced fuel economy. In addition, the suspension in the rear is composed mainly of steel.

Cadillac made sure to put attention to the load management. Further, the brand also used straight links ensuring that the model would be able to save on weight without the need of alternate materials. Because of this, the brand was able to balance out any of the weight gained through the engine and the transmission placed on the front section.

As a result, the ATS is able to get that almost perfect weight balance of 50/50. This also helps lower not only the vibration but even the noise. Cadillac made sure to utilize the same method when it came to the wheels. Additional structural aluminum was put in to lower vibration even further.

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