Next month, Cadillac will launch an all-new car, the ATS, which the company is not bashful about saying is meant to be a competitor to the BMW 3 Series, a car usually held up as the best overall sports sedan in the world.
It is a tall claim by the luxury division of General Motors, a business unit that is trying hard to break away from its image with many car buyers as a maker of large, floaty, squishy driving sedans for AARP members.
In truth, Cadillac has spent a decade turning out several new models that successful baby boomers have embraced--namely the CTS sedan and coupe and the SRX crossover SUV. But the ATS is the most audacious, and best engineered bet that Caddy has made to turn more heads and change more minds.
Cadillac has never held a direct competitor to the 3 Series until now. The CTS was considered a "tweener" car that fit somewhere above the 3 Series and below the 5 Series, said Don Butler, Cadillac vice president for marketing.
"We thought we could force the issue and use the CTS to redefine the segment," he said Tuesday. "But we were wrong. It is essential for Cadillac to take on the 3 Series and the (Mercedes) C300 directly, which is what the ATS will do."
The compact luxury sedan is the largest luxury segment in the United States and the world, Butler noted. "We have to be in there."
The ATS arrives with a starting price of $33,990 (including destination charges), almost $2,500 less than the 2013 BMW 3 Series, which starts at $36,500. Cadillac expects the ATS to become the volume leader for Cadillac, with sales north of 50,000 units.
Besides the car being styled and engineered to take on BMW's 3 Series and the likes of Audi's A4, Cadillac is shaking up the way it communicates the ATS to the luxury car-buying public, especially those under age 40.
Check out The HuffingtonPost's Sharon Carty's take on the new ATS and its marketing pitch.