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DETROIT — Cadillac is moving forward with the often-teased ATS, a model slated for a 2012 debut and aimed straight at the Infiniti G37, Mercedes C-Class and other German and Japanese competitors in the entry-premium segment.
Cadillac is in the midst of a renaissance. Again. Still. The 2008 CTS paved the way, the Converj is set to follow, and the XTS is set to put the stodgy old Seville and Deville to rest. But Caddy's also preparing to launch an attack on the entry-level end of the luxury market. And according to word on the street, it'll be a full-on assault.
When the "small" Cadillac model dubbed ATS debuts for 2012 – the smart money's on the Los Angeles Auto Show in December – it'll be spearheaded by a four-door sedan, targeting the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G37. But like the offerings from BMW and Infiniti, the sedan won't be the end of the story. According to an inside source speaking to Inside Line, the ATS will also breed a wagon, a coupe and a convertible.
Whether the convertible will use a folding metal roof or a conventional rag top remains to be decided, but whatever form it takes, one thing's for sure: General Motors remains very serious about Cadillac, and so should the competition.
"We're finalizing the four-door showcar of the ATS first," a well-placed source told Inside Line. "Then we'll follow quickly after with a wagon, a coupe and a convertible."
A debate regarding the convertible is whether to go with a folding hardtop or a sturdy weight- and space-saving ragtop in the style of the last Audi A4 and the new A5/S5. The source said Cadillac is currently "not too sure about the compromises of a folding hardtop."
Whether we see the ATS sedan prototype in October in Paris or December in Los Angeles remains unclear, but the source hinted at L.A. as the right spot for the biggest splash.
Inside Line says: The crisis and GM bankruptcy seemingly haven't made Cadillac falter in its plans. — Matt Davis, Correspondent
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It's been nearly a year since a large number of Europeans have been able to drive home in a brand new Cadillac or Corvette. Up until March of 2009, Dutch-based firm Kroymans Import Europe was employed by General Motors as a third-party to distribute Caddys and Corvettes in nearly half of the 25 European markets (not including the U.K. or Russia). After that company went bankrupt, GM was forced to pull its wares out of these important markets.
In order to rectify that nasty little situation, GM has reportedly been in talks with 30 different dealerships all over Europe with the goal of bringing the Cadillac and Corvette lines back to the market. All variants of the Corvette will be made available, while the Cadillac lineup will consist of the CTS (sedan, coupe and wagon), CTS-V, Escalade and SRX. No details as of yet on what the cars will cost in Europe or when they'll officially be available for purchase
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General Motors had a tough 2009, but one very bright spot was the success of some of its newest models. GM North America President Mark Reuss has informed reporters at the Detroit Auto Show that the plants that build the Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Equinox and Buick LaCrosse are already at full capacity and The General simply cannot meet demand. That's a good problem to have, and GM is working on a backup plan in the event demand for cars and trucks exceeds its current capacity.
The Associated Press reports that Reuss told the media that the solution to too much demand could be to reopen one of the General's shuttered plants. Reuss specifically pointed to the company's Spring Hill facility in Tennessee as a factory that could reopen to augment production, which makes sense in light of the fact that GM recently spent many millions of dollars to upgrade the plant to build the Chevrolet Traverse. Assuming GM can relight the fires at Spring Hill, that money would appear to be well spent, as Reuss reminded reporters that Spring Hill is flexible enough to build several different models.
GM has placed its Janesville, Wisconsin and Spring Hill plants on standby in the event that it needs more capacity when the U.S. auto industry begins to improve. Considering that new plants can cost over a billion dollars, we're thinking that's a pretty good idea.
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At the Detroit Auto Show in January, General Motors surprised the crowd with a concept coupe called the Cadillac Converj. Built on the same Voltec platform as the Chevrolet Volt, the Converj was seen as a way for GM to leverage the pricey ER-EV drivetrain in a vehicle that could sell at a premium price, recovering some of the development costs. According to Motor Trend, the Converj has been given the green light for production in 2011, a year after the Volt launches. When we talked to GM's Bob Kruse at the Detroit show, he indicated a production Converj would likely use the same powertrain as the Volt, although it could have different calibrations to allow somewhat higher performance than the Chevrolet.
If the Converj does move forward, the proportions might have to change in order to use the same under-structure as the Volt. However, the larger stumbling block to building the Converj is money – or a lack thereof. Unless some kind of deal is struck between the Treasury and Energy Departments to allows GM to tap into ATVM loans, there won't be enough cash in GM's coffers to build the Converj.
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Can the Cadillac Ranch in Texas off Route 66 become a sign of the times? GM's graveyard???? - BB
AMARILLO, Texas – Jaunty, weird and whimsical, the Cadillac Ranch has long charmed travellers the world over as the ultimate roadside attraction on the greatest of American roads, old Route 66.
But in the summer of 2009, this iconic row of classic Cadillacs jutting skyward from a farm field in the Texas Panhandle has taken on a darker meaning than its builders ever intended.
With the implosion of GM and Chrysler, the Cadillac Ranch now looks more like the graveyard of American greatness – 10 tragic steel-and-glass tombstones marking the sorry demise of automaking as we know it.
"It's painful to think of it that way today. It's not what the Cadillac Ranch is supposed to say," says Stanley Marsh, 70, the famously eccentric Amarillo millionaire who bankrolled the landmark 35 years ago, conceiving, buying and planting the Caddies nose-first with the help of San Francisco art collective Ant Farm.
"We put it there as a public gesture to freedom, mobility and the open road. The Cadillac was the way to say it. And I like to think we got it exactly right – the cars tilt at the same angle as the Great Pyramids in Egypt."
Marsh, the self-proclaimed "son of a son of a very rich man," was telling his story in his office atop the tallest building in Amarillo, where the elevator doors open to reveal a sign announcing "The People's Republic of the 12th Floor."
It's the first clue this is not your typical Texan, let alone your typical Texan oil heir. He's a third-generation mogul who signs his name Stanley Marsh 3. The Roman III, he says, is just too pretentious.
Marsh, who describes himself as "far to the left of Barack Obama on almost every issue," says bluntly the president should be going after America's highest earners. The rich are too rich, in his view. He wants to see the tax pendulum swing back to favour the people sliding under the wheels of the great recession.
But the maker of the Cadillac Ranch also sees redemption in the hard times at hand. Beyond the pain, he anticipates "a great cleansing – and that's a good thing, a way for the country to leap forward again." Eventually.
It's easy to see where he's coming from, given the trail-blazing history of the car he so reveres. In 1915, the precision-engineered Cadillac set the standard for America's automotive future with the first V8 engine, topping out at 65 mph (105 km/h).
That widely copied innovation suddenly meant Americans could go like the devil – much faster, in fact, than roads would allow. As the public clamoured for proper highways, lawmakers answered with the creation of Route 66, blazing the corridor from Chicago to Los Angeles, redefining American culture from the driver's seat.
Since overtaken by the interstate highway system, what's left of old Route 66 is today a connoisseurs-only corridor. But with a recent surge of satellite mapping, America's original Main Street is enjoying an afterlife, with international travellers making the pilgrimage – and many stopping to spray-paint messages of appreciation on Marsh's dead Cadillacs, a practice he tacitly encourages.
But clearly, America's love of the auto does not include a love of auto bailouts. A Gallup poll found that only one in four respondents approved of the U.S. government handouts to General Motors and Chrysler. And Ford, which has thus far declined emergency aid from Washington, reports a surge of positive public feedback, with more than half of Americans saying they are more likely to buy a Ford because the company is going it alone without taxpayer support.
Auto artifacts are studded along Route 66. In Weatherford, Okla., a signed letter from Henry Ford is framed at the homey Heartland Museum. It was a message from the golden age, praising the local dealership for its sales triumphs. Today, with the shuttering of so many car dealers, it reads like satire.
Still, hunkered down in Amarillo, the owner of the Cadillac Ranch remains an optimist; he believes the American dream will thrive despite GM crashing into bankruptcy, the banks foundering and the housing market starving for buyers.
"I think America is going to do just fine," Marsh asserts. "We've still got our freedom and as long as people all over the world want to be part of it, we're bound to recover."
One in a series about Hard Times in America