LITCHFIELD HILLS, CT – While it has received wide acclaim from the motoring press, the Cadillac ATS sedan has seen only moderate sales since debuting in the U.S. two years ago.
So the General Motors luxury brand is hoping a new coupe version will attract more luxury-leaning eyes to its smallest U.S. entrant.
"This will help expand the ATS brand name and car line to a wider audience," Jim Vurpillat, global director-Cadillac marketing, tells media here at an ATS coupe preview.
Through June the car tallied 14,910 sales, a respectable number that outranks some competitors but falls well short of WardsAuto's Lower Luxury segment leader, the BMW 3-Series, which saw 41,126 deliveries in the same period.
The ATS coupe "expands our portfolio offering, but it elevates ATS up a little bit," Vurpillat says.
He says the ATS coupe boasts the key characteristics, exciting driving dynamics and increased style, which draw buyers to showrooms.
The new coupe is based on the same platform as the ATS sedan and has about 50% exclusive parts, says ATS chief engineer Dave Masch. "But the focus is still similar: nimble, quick and fun-to-drive," he says.
Many of the changes are visual, says ATS coupe exterior designer Brian Smith.
The coupe shares a hood with the sedan but otherwise has unique exterior sheetmetal.
It has the same 109.3-in. (2,776-mm) wheelbase but wider front and rear tracks; a 1-in. (2.5-cm) lower roof; a lower-profile side mirror borrowed from the CTS sedan; a lower beltline over the rear wheels to emphasize a leaner body; a smaller, less spoiler-like center-high-mounted stop lamp; and frameless glass doors, allowing for thinner brightwork on the body.
Some of the design elements of the ATS coupe carry over to the ATS sedan for '15, including the new, wreath-less Cadillac emblem.
"That new badge really does a lot to modernize and update the look of our cars," Smith says. "It's not tied to the past in the way the wreath was, and we're really looking to the future here."
The front and rear suspensions, and much of the ATS sedan's structure, remains intact for the coupe, Masch says.
A similar curb weight to the 2.0L turbo sedan's 3,418 lbs. (1,550 kg) is expected for the coupe, thanks to two fewer doors balancing out added features and content, Masch says.
The 4-door ATS' 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. and 3.6L naturally aspirated 6-cyl. engines carry over to the new coupe.
The 2.0L turbo's specs improve for '15 for both the coupe and sedan, with a peak torque of 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm), up from 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) in the '14 ATS sedan and class-leading against turbocharged mills in the '14 BMW 428i, Mercedes-Benz C250, and Audi A5.
4G LTE Onboard
A more direct-feel steering system from ZF is new for '15 for both the ATS coupe and sedan, as is the availability of a variety of creature comforts including semi-aniline and sueded leathers; a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column; wireless charging for compatible smartphones; text message alerts; and 4G LTE connectivity for up to seven devices.
The 4G service, via OnStar, can be had for as little as $5 per month for 200 MB of data, or $50 per month for 5 GB, the latter aimed at those who want to stream movies on their phone or tablet.
New safety packages include features such as lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic belt tightening.
The ATS coupe will begin at $38,990 for a Standard-grade model with rear-wheel drive and top out at $49,200 for a Premium-grade model with all-wheel drive. Luxury and Performance grades are in the middle of the car's lineup.
Villpurat says the most popular model likely will be the 2.0L turbo Luxury grade, and that 70%-75% of buyers will opt for the 2.0L vs. the 3.6L; about 40% of ATS coupes sold will have AWD.
ATS coupe buyers are seen as younger and skewing more toward males than ATS sedan customers, similar to Cadillac's experience with the CTS sedan and coupe.
The average ATS sedan buyer is in his upper 50s, Villpurat says, noting that while that seems high, the average luxury buyer is 55, and BMW's average 3-Series customer is 53.
Cadillac expects the coupe to account for 20%-25% of total ATS sales, about double the 12% share typically seen among compact luxury models with 2- and 4-door variants.
Meanwhile, Villpurat says he expects new Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen to put his mark on the brand's marketing, but says he hasn't yet met him as de Nysschen won’t arrive at the office until mid-August.
While much of the criticism surrounding Cadillac’s U.S. sales falloff this year, down 1.9% through June, has focused on its perceived lackluster marketing, Villpurat doesn’t expect de Nysschen’s arrival to cause too much upheaval.
"I don't know if we'll rejigger everything, but anytime a new leader comes in (they put their mark on things). That's kind of what he's being brought in to do."