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Next Cadillac Compact Car Will Likely Be Rear-Wheel Drive

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Cadillac compact car

The next Cadillac compact car will slot beneath the Cadillac ATS ( pictured)

Cadillac is looking to take advantage of the current demand for compact luxury cars. Right now, instead of spending $33,990 on a Cadillac ATS sedan, shoppers in the market for a small car with a big name are opting for the Mercedes-Benz CLA-class and the Audi A3, which both start below $31,000. This compact class is quickly becoming the fastest-growing segment globally in the luxury-car business, meaning that Cadillac can’t afford to sit on its hands any longer.

Cadillac marketing chief Uwe Ellinghaus told Car and Driver this weekend that the automobile manufacturer is working on a new Cadillac compact car that will slot below the ATS sedan. Although details remain elusive, Caddy’s top leadership apparently wants the brand to differentiate itself from German competitors by not building the new cars on a front-wheel drive platform.

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“Our future is rear-wheel drive and, of course, all-wheel drive where appropriate,” Ellinghaus said in an interview with C&D. “My personal crusade is to spare us a hell of a lot of dilution of our emerging brand image by moving to front-wheel drive for potential smaller cars. As you know, the entire competition is moving to front-wheel drive for their entry-level cars. I am under a hell of a lot of pressure, as are [Cadillac chief engineer] Dave Leone and [executive director of Cadillac design] Andrew Smith, because front-wheel drive offers these package and cost advantages. If we are just after the lowest price point possible to enter the category, we would have to go front-wheel drive tomorrow. That said, what is the reason to buy a Cadillac in that segment in a couple of years’ time when all the German competitors will have front-wheel drive? It is that we are maybe—if we are lucky—the only ones left with rear-wheel drive.”

Despite better driving dynamics, a rear-wheel drive model would be less spacious and more expensive, which probably wouldn’t help Caddy in their efforts to compete with foreign brands.

“You will tell me that people don’t care about front- or rear-wheel drive, and I am with you,” said Ellinghaus. “They often don’t even know whether they have front- or rear-wheel drive. The issue is that only rear-wheel drive offers you the proportions for a better-looking and better-driving car that people indeed recognize. But they are not aware that the reason why they find this car appealing and like the driving characteristics more is based on the drivetrain principle, rear-wheel drive.”

Ellinghaus suggested that the next ATS would be longer to compensate for the long hood required in a rear-wheel drive model, providing more legroom for drivers. Other details are sketchy, and the car probably won’t debut until 2016, then going on sale sometime in 2017.

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