As I have noted before I am a car person and so last night I took advantage of an opportunity from a local dealer to take a preview firsthand look at the new 2013 Cadillac ATS. The ATS is aimed at the Mercedes C class and BMW 3 class competition, a competition that BMW has dominated for a number of years. The luxury entry level cars are key bread and butter cars for the upscale brands and Cadillac has been absent from this market for many years. I actually remember when Cadillac first entered this market — the vehicle was the Cadillac Cimarron, a mediocre leather trimmed version of the Chevrolet Cavalier. Since my brother had one of the first Cimarrons delivered, I know up front and personal how mediocre feels, drives, rides, and lasts. Cadillac’s last attempt prior to the ATS was the Catera, a decent car that was based on an Opel that coupled anonymous style that never conveyed luxury, with a respectable road manners. But nothing special doesn’t compete effectively with BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Infiniti.
The ATS is very impressive inside and out. It has style but doesn’t in anyway copy either the BMW or the Mercedes. Instead the style is distinctly American, slightly more brash with somewhat more flashy trim than either of the European leaders of this market. And the inside is also very classy and elegant. Once again a little more styled and brash than the corresponding European cars but in a very positive way. The car also comes with almost anything you could possible want in a luxury car including all wheel drive.
Lincoln is in a similar situation with the new MKZ entry level luxury vehicle. Here too, this is a critical effort on the part of Ford. Previous MKZs were simply slightly more styled (but not necessarily more attractive) Ford Fusions. And here too the new car seems to be up to the challenge with a contemporary look and flowing lines that denote class and luxury.
The Cadillac advertising campaign as noted in Automotive News is “dubbed Cadillac ATS vs. the World.” The characterization is correct. The US automobile industry has come back in a very impressive way. The government bailout in my opinion has served us well and US firms have demonstrated we can be fully competitive across a wide range of cars. But ATS and MKZ are aimed at the market that seems to date to have eluded even a respectable showing for American cars. If the quality and durability are there, if the ride and handling are there, if the quietness is there, if the service is there, we can make a significant impact not only on American markets but also in Europe and elsewhere. We are challenging the world leaders in this critical market segment. From what I have seen, I’m optimistic about the result, and the ripple effect of these cars being successful can impact our overall economy. It would be gratifying if the last chance showed how well we can compete just when it mattered most.