GM aims for new marque

Automotive giant General Motors has underlined its ambitions to unlock new markets in Europe with the UK launch of the righthand drive Cadillac CTS.

Automotive giant General Motors has underlined its ambitions to unlock new markets in Europe with the UK launch of the righthand drive Cadillac CTS.

Encouraged by Cadillac’s success in the US, where it leads the luxury car market, GM is confident that the brand has a bright future this side of the Atlantic. In 2004 the company enjoyed its best year for more than a decade with a 36 per cent volume sales increase.

Perhaps stung by recent criticism over GM’s slowness to incorporate design and innovation in its vehicles, Cadillac is at pains to point out the effort it has put into the CTS to create a car to appeal to the European driver.

‘The fact that the engineering and development team, which carried out the chassis and suspension work, chose to do so at Germany’s Nurburgring is an indication of how serious Cadillac is about this new direction for the brand,’ said the company.

It claimed that a ‘European style of driving’ with sporty, agile handling, was the guiding principle for the CTS designers.

The latest technology has been used in the CTS for various safety features. The front seats, for instance, have integrated seatbelts that feature both energy management retractors (limiting bruising to ribs by slightly feeding out the seatbelt just after a crash) as well as pretensioners. The use of energy management retractors in the CTS is a GM first.

In addition, the car was designed using the Sigma platform — the first time ultra high-strength steel has become an integral part of a GM product.

The material means thinner, lighter steel can be used, which reduces mass but still allows the same amount of energy absorption in the event of an accident.

With prices of £25,000 for the basic 2.8 V6, rising to £30,000 for the 3.6 V6 sports luxury model, Cadillac is certainly not targeting the mass market. It is keen to introduce the brand into the luxury segment currently occupied by vehicles such as the Audi A6 and BMW 5 series.

On the distribution side, Stratstone, whose Cadillac and Corvette showroom on London’s Park Lane opened in 2004, is expanding its operations throughout the UK to support the launch. Showrooms will be opened in Birmingham, Cardiff and Manchester during the next few weeks, with additional sites in Edinburgh and Leeds to follow over the next 12 months.

Cadillac is not the only famous US car brand GM is pushing into Europe this summer. In the small car sector, Chevrolet will launch its ‘Matiz’ on to the market this month.