New Cadillac ATS will put pressure on the CTS sedan

Article by Anita Panait, on September 4, 2012

Cadillac fans are getting more excited as the carmaker rolls out its new Cadillac ATS sedan in showrooms this week. The arrival of ATS will probably place more sales pressure on its older sibling and Cadillac’s stalwart for the past years, the CTS sedan. That would be very likely since the CTS and ATS overlap in size and price.

The CTS mid-sized sedan is around 8 inches longer than the compact ATS. The starting price for the CTS is about $39,995 while the volume model for the ATS, powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, just costs $1,500 less. The trend shows that buyers usually choose a bigger model that’s priced similarly to the smaller unit, giving the CTS an advantage.

The CTS, however, got one big disadvantage. The current generation was launched five years ago in 2007 as a 2008 model. For that, Cadillac buyers will likely decide on an ATS, which is expected to surpass the carmaker’s sales in a short period. Executives at Cadillac predict that around 50,000 ATS sedans will be sold in 2013. That would be near the 55,042 figure for the entire CTS range, which include wagons and coupe.

Cadillac, however, won’t let the CTS fall so behind its ATS sibling, as the carmaker already lined up the former for a major redesign, signaling a new generation of the mid-sized sedan. General Motors intends to make the next-generation CTS longer, sleeker, more luxurious and more content-ridden to make it more distinct from the ATS, with a possible rollout in the fall of 2013. 

Chase Hawkins, Cadillac's U.S. vice president of sales and service, remarked that consumers will recognize that CTS will be “cannibalized to a point by having ATS there." The CTS will likely be sized to target rivals like the Mercedes E class, while the ATS will be made to compete with the German luxury compacts.

When the Cadillac ATS was developed, making it one of the lightest cars in its segment was a fundamental goal and a great part of its guiding principle. However, the carmaker did this in such a nuanced manner that guarantees a refined driving experience.

According to David Masch, the chief engineer for Cadillac ATS, low weight gives the car a more controllable and nimble feel, while at the same time, it optimizes the efficiency and performance of the powertrains. He said they were careful in managing the car’s weight while maintaining the brand’s signature levels of refinement.

Thanks to a four-pronged philosophy – which included a strict adherence to the model’s original architectural goals, benchmarking components to check the availability of lighter solutions, measured load management all throughout the vehicle, and an overall culture in which the mass of every component is weighed against every aspect of its development – the ATS's mass is optimized.

Contributing to the low overall mass of the Cadillac ATS are its aluminum hood, its lightweight and natural-fiber door trim panels, and magnesium engine mount brackets. These also reflect the systematic approach used to evaluate every gram that goes into the car. Some weight, however, was deemed not just beneficial, but also essential to the driving experience that the ATS promises. One example is cast iron differential. Engineers found that they can improve the vehicle’s fuel economy with the cast iron differential instead of the lighter aluminum version.

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