GM challenges German brands with small Cadillac

Sun Jan 8, 2012 6:06pm EST
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By Deepa Seetharaman and Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) has proved with the Chevrolet Cruze it can build a top-selling compact car, cracking a market long dominated by the Japanese brands.

Now the No. 1 U.S. automaker is targeting the entrenched German luxury brands with a more nimble compact Cadillac.

The 2013 ATS, shown on Sunday ahead of the Detroit auto show, is central to Chief Executive Dan Akerson's mission to refashion Cadillac into a global luxury brand by winning over younger buyers with a sportier image.

The average age for Cadillac drivers was around 59 years old in 2011, according to CNW Research. That's a decade older than BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote) and five years older than Audi (VOWG_p.DE: Quote), but on par with Mercedes-Benz. (DAIGn.DE: Quote)

Still, the average age of Cadillac drivers has fallen from about 63 in 1995. The Escalade SUV's reception from hip-hop artists and the success of the CTS has helped upend Cadillac's image as a "geezermobile," said CNW President Art Spinella.

"It's going to take them a couple of years," Spinella said of the ATS. "You have to knock over these dominoes one at a time. It's not like they all fall over all at once."

The ATS is GM's entry in an area now the domain of the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class.

The ATS, which tested at the demanding Nuerburgring race track in Germany, will be built on a new rear-wheel drive platform, but will also come in all-wheel drive. GM will make the car at its Lansing Grand River assembly plant in Michigan.   Continued...