The multi-billion dollar endeavor of developing a new car has effectively ended the one-off specialty car that many enthusiasts still clamor for and wronglyassert is feasible in this era. Supermodel-thin margins, a saturation of brands and vehicles and an ultra-competitive global marketplace have killed the previous formula for developing a production car, which was mostly a one-off solution to local road conditions and buyer tastes
The necessity of scale is a double-edged sword; if the bean counters deem a product too costly and it may proceed as a watered down version of the original concept. If a new architecture or platform is approved, then we are practically assured multiple variants spun off that platform.
As it turns out, GM nearly took the cheapskate approach to developing the Cadillac ATS. But at the 11th hour, the General decided to change course, and enthusiasts will be all the better for it.
Automotive News outlines how Cadillac’s 3-Series fighter very nearly became Cimarron 2.0, with plans underway to build it on the front-drive Delta platform.
“We were going to do a front-wheel-drive Cadillac compact off of Delta because it was going to be less expensive,” Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of global product programs, told me at the Detroit auto show in January. “There were people in the organization saying, ‘It’ll be OK. We can dial it in.'” So serious were the plans that Parks, who was based in Europe at the time, found himself driving 150 mph on a test track in Spain in a 2.0-liter turbo test mule built on the Delta platform.
“We actually made it pretty darn good,” Parks said. “But in reality, you can’t go beat BMW or Mercedes when you don’t have the right weight balance and everything else.”
GM’s decision to develop Alpha ensured that its performance vehicles have a new lease on life. The ATS will be the start of a range of cars, with the next-generation Camaro to follow. Two vehicles off of Alpha won’t be enough either, but what will follow the Camaro is anyone’s guess.