Cadillac vs. Lincoln rivalry plays out next month

By Chris Woodyard

Cadillac vs. Lincoln. It’s rivalry that goes back decades — and it’s going to play out again next month at the North American international Auto Show in Detroit.

Cadillac is going to introduce an all-new 2013 Cadillac ATS compact luxury rear-wheel drive sedan, one of four General Motors’ concept or production vehicles making world premieres at the Detroit show. Lincoln is going to show off a new vehicle that could mark the first of the brand’s attempt to rival BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Both brands have more at stake than just normal introductions. Each wants to show they still matter, that Detroit can produce world-class luxury models that rival the best of the Germans and Japanese.

Ford’s Lincoln showed off refreshes of its MKS sedan and MKT crossover in Los Angeles last month that should improve sales. In Detroit, it will unleash its new MKZ sedan, which apparently will decouple it from being the Ford Fusion clone that it is today. Still no sign, however, that Lincoln plans to ditch its confusing names as Ford CEO Alan Mulally has hinted would be a possibility.

General Motors needs to show that Cadillac can produce a credible small luxury car to compete against Lexus IS and BMW 3 Series:

The last attempt in the 1980s, the Cimarron, was a laughable disaster of “badge engineering” — just rebranding a Chevy — run amok.

“ATS is a crucial part of Cadillac’s expansion,” GM Senior Vice President of Global Product Development Mary Barra told the Automotive Press Association on Friday. “ATS enters the biggest market segment in the global luxury car industry, both in terms of volume and importance.

ATS will be sold as agile, quick and to fun drive. It should also help Cadillac contribute to GM’s increase in fuel-economy ratings needed to meet federal rules for 2016. The ATS goes into production next summer at the Lansing, Mich., Grand River Assembly plant.

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