General Motors' marketing has drawn a lot of attention lately. But everyone in the car business knows it's actually new products that make the big differences in sales and market share: The more and the better vehicle launches, the bigger bumps a brand gets in all the important metrics. Nothing else an automaker can do even comes close.
That's one reason savvy GMers are looking hopefully past all the company's recent marketing kerfuffles to some promising new developments in sheetmetal: the introduction of the acclaimed new Cadillac ATS, for instance, and how GM reportedly is developing a new small-car platform that will boost efficiencies worldwide.
GM is hoping that the new ATS finally will establish Cadillac as a legitimate contender in the global luxury-car market, a gee-whiz compact luxury sport sedan that underscores the company's recovery from the dark days and bailout of 2009. Cadillac has been hyping the model all year, including substantial advertising during the London Summer Olympics on TV. The first shipments of ATS are expected on U.S. dealer lots over the coming week.
"I'm fully aware this change isn't going to happen overnight with this car alone," Mark Reuss, head of GM's North American operations, told the New York Times. "We have to keep doing what we did with this car over the next 10 or 20 years to prove it."
What GM "did" with ATS was to ensure that the compact luxury sedan has a chance to take on the king of the segment, the BMW 3 Series, as well as other worthy entries including the Mercedes-Benz C Class, Audi A4, and Lexus IS.
In that attempt, ATS boasts a rear-wheel-drive platform, structural high-strength aluminum, and the latest technology and touch-screen controls to appeal to younger upscale buyers than Cadillac's traditional demographic. GM also toned down the distinctive angular design that has characterized Cadillac for the last several years and which, in the view of some, basically has helped the brand survive the last several years.
Meantime, looking down the road toward the next decade or two mentioned by Reuss, GM also plans to make the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze, due in fall 2014 as a 2015 model, the first to use a new global platform that eventually could underpin nearly 2.5 million compact sedans and crossovers worldwide by 2018, according to Reuters.
The idea of the new platform — which Reuters said GM would not confirm — is to save money, boost efficiencies and allow various regional operations of the company to benefit from advances made in others. It moves GM further in the direction or the industry's holy grail of being able to rely on just a handful of mechanical platforms to supply their entire model ranges worldwide.
That would be similar to how Volkswagen is turning to a platform called Modular Transverse Matrix (German acronym: MQB) to undergird many of its new vehicles as it seeks to take the global sales lead away from GM by 2018.
May the best platform win.