With the success in sales of the Cadillac CTS from 2003 forward, Cadillac has slowly moved this model upstream. Although originally entry level CTS models sold for just under US$30K, most examples on Dealer lots now are in the high 30s to mid 40s. Cadillac plans to slide in a new car in 2010 that is a bit smaller than the CTS, and a bit less pricey. To make room for the new line, the price of the CTS has gone up a bit. The new Cadillac has not been publicly named yet. I am voting for it to be called the Cadillac αTS, for Alpha Touring Sedan. I would make the A a Greek Alpha to signify that this is a special car.
When the Automotive press thinks of an inexpensive Cadillac, especially perhaps one with a 4-cylinder engine, they immediately yell CIMARRON!!! The Cimarron basis was a Chevrolet Citation that was optioned up and rebadged as a Cadillac. It was not an inspiring car to begin with, and it was not a great car with a Cadillac badge on it.
Okay, so we have a business story on how not to execute the design and marketing for the new car. But where is a good plan for how TO do it? I suggest that Cadillac should consider the BMW 135i. It continues to suffer from Bangle design, but look at other facets of the model. As the top of the 1-line, it got the same 3L 300hp twin-turbo engine as the 335i. The interior is high quality and well laid out. From the driver’s seat of a 135i one can not tell that you are not in a 335i or 5, 6, or 7 series BMW. The 135 FEELS like a BMW and shares a lot of interior styling cues with the rest of the line. The 135i has full entertainment, leather, and navigation features of the larger BMWs.
How does the 135i fall down? It is pricey, at $35k. The 128i is the price leader for this model, so okay I guess. Also, $35K is not as much as it used to be. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I feel the small BMW is challenged there. The small size may have contributed to it looking like it does, but ugly is also something I hope Cadillac avoids in the new model. Especially since the Cadillac will actually be the size of the larger 335i and not the 135i.
So what is the message? Sure, bring us an alpha-chasis Cadillac that is lighter and more agile. Offer it with a 4-cylinder turbo that gets good performance and mileage (a la 128i). But give us the option of the big engines in the small car if that’s what we want, full boat interior touches, and autocross capabilities. If the new CTS-V is the M5 matchup, please make the new Cadillac αTS the 335i matchup. Yes, sure, bring high MPG lower performance option models along or along later, but show performance and luxury up front. Those are what Cadillac is about.