2013 Cadillac ATS may be lightest in segment, but GM misses tech-setting opportunity
Lightest car in its segment? Really, is that enough considering future MPG mandates? Yet, that’s what the General Motors (NYSE: GM) news release said. And while there may not be any compromise in performance with its use of Smart Materials, GM still made a compromise in its judgment to take advantage of the opportunity to be a real brand leader.
So far, so good, must be the thinking at GM; not too surprising. So it appears this is more of the old GM thinking holding back another one of its key brands. They surely did it with Saturn.
Question: Shouldn’t the 2013 Cadillac ATS be more than just a nimble performer that barely beats the segment‘s mass numbers? How about a real industry trend setter that beats the present standard by a quantum leap?
GM did it with the Chevy Volt propulsion technology. Yet, with the Cadillac brand it takes the safe approach; making the ATS just like the other segment brands, with just a bit under its mass. That lacks chutzpah, in my opinion.
Once again, GM is saying to America and the world that it will not lead the industry with lightweight vehicles; a goal that should be at the top of its engineering to-do lists. If not with Cadillac, then who? The Chevy Cruze? Nice idea, but the cost for manufacturing process changes cannot be justified. The brand is too small.
When GM says engineers set out to make the all-new 2013 Cadillac ATS as light as possible, there is a caveat. Sure, they used advanced materials to minimize weight throughout the compact luxury sports sedan so as to not compromise performance capability. That’s the issue - GM held back Cadillac from doing what its heritage says it must do - set the trend for the entire corporation.
Fact is, a lightweight car that will lead the industry has to do more than just get below some segment mass goal. Where is the balls-out (steam engine term folks) body technology like that of the new aluminum bodies of Mercedes or the Tesla Model S for that matter? If there was ever a time, it is now; and GM and Cadillac missed a golden opportunity.
Yes, key parts such as an aluminum hood and magnesium engine mounts help the situation. Once again, GM restricts Cadillac to think is terms of me-too achievements.
ATS, for example, achieves a curb weight less than 3,400 pounds, and highway fuel economy well over 30 mpg. Keeping weight down also enabled balanced distribution of vehicle weight that helps delivers a world-class driving experience. I get it; I really do, but I also expect more from a GM division that was once the envy of the industry. One visit to the GM Heritage Center and you get the message.
Albeit, the 2013 Cadillac ATS would surely fill my desires as a luxury automobile, but not when I look into the near future where 55 plus MPG is to be the corporate goal. So, is GM once again counting on its halo car, the Chevy Volt, to take the pressure off? Again, no surprise there; and to think the CEO got a raise.
“We designed and engineered ATS’s vehicle architecture to deliver quick, nimble and fun-to-drive dynamics,” said David Masch, ATS chief engineer. “We distributed mass to key areas, much like an athlete builds muscle where he needs it most. This enabled ATS to achieve the performance characteristics that luxury sport sedan buyers demand.”