QOTD: How The Cadillac ATS Almost Became FWD

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
qotd how the cadillac ats almost became fwd

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.

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  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Apr 02, 2013

    As good as the LS family is and as I expect the new LT engine to be, I still think it was a mistake, perhaps unavoidable due to the financial situation at the time, but still a mistake for GM to kill a brand unique Cadillac V8. Yes, I know that this isn't 1965, when every GM division was a separate company making at least one brand unique V8, but it seems to me that if they intend to make a genuine S Class / A8 / LS4xx / 7 Series competitor, they're going to need an engine that you can't buy in a Chevrolet product.

    • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Apr 02, 2013

      I've often thought about this too, then I think of the Northstar. As good as those engines were when they held together, they were a royal PITA when they didn't. Which was often until only the final 5 or 6 years of production after their reputation had been thoroughly sullied.

  • DenverMike DenverMike on Apr 02, 2013

    Can we stop with the fake vents where the fog lights should be? And why no fog lights? It looks like it was meant for fog lights, but the bean counters captured them. It makes it look like a base-stripper work truck with a delete panel.

    • See 2 previous
    • Seth1065 Seth1065 on Apr 03, 2013

      @ect Hey I want Fogs but to get them on most cars I must purchase Nav, the 22 bigger wheels, and the newest heated truck that gets me, my fogs, in the end I rather be shamed.

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