Cadillac’s new compact 2013 ATS is here and plans to take on BMW’s 3 Series – the world’s best-selling premium compact sedan.

But can Cadillac to win this race? Well we don’t know yet, but one think is for sure: the 3 Series served as the ATS’s benchmark.

“If the price is similar to the Europeans and the monthly payment similar, it will be a challenge to reach their volumes,” Tom Libby, lead North American analyst for R.L. Polk & Co., said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg.

“Those two brands (Mercedes and BMW) and those two models, particularly the 3 Series, have extraordinary equity in the mind of the luxury consumer.”

The main problem is that Cadillac hasn’t led in U.S. luxury sales since 1997 – and compared to BMW or Mercedes Benz, Cadillac sold only about 60 percent as many vehicles as Germans sold.

“This is the first time any American luxury carmaker has built a vehicle on par with the best of what the Germans have to offer in this segment,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior auto analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

“Nothing has ever before come even close in amenities, styling or performance.

And keep in mind: the 2013 Cadillac ATS is a near carbon copy of the 3 Series: It’s within 0.3 inch in overall length and within 0.2 inch in width.

The ATS 2.0L makes 272 hp and 260 pounds-feet of torque, and it feels similar to BMW’s turbo four: plenty of low-rev torque and quick sprints.

Also, if the acceleration estimates from Cadillac are correct, the ATS’ more powerful variants essentially match the 328i and 335i sedans, even though the ATS has horsepower and weight advantages over comparable automatic BMWs:
– The 2.0L ATS has 32 more HP and is 40 kg lighter than the BMW 328i
– The 3.6L ATS has 21 more HP and is 60 kg lighter than the BMW 335i

But there’s a catch: the ATS has a six-speed automatic transmission while the 3 Series comes with the new eight speed automatic.

The basic ATS sedan starts at $33,095, excluding destination costs – $1000 less than the basic 3 Series, and over $3000 less than the new 3 Series. A well-equipped premium version will cost about $51,000.

General Motors’ Cadillac brand on Wednesday launched one of its most crucial marketing campaigns since the automaker emerged from bankruptcy.

The campaign, from Fallon, Minneapolis, will hit TV airways July 27, the opening night of the 2012 Summer Olympics from London, and run through the rest of the 17-day event with the first eight of a projected 40 ads and online video shorts.

But again the competition is “in the area”. BMW has unveiled last week their Olympic Park Pavilion, expected to draw thousands of visitors each day of the Games.

In addition, BMW provides 4,000 vehicles for the London games as part of its Olympic sponsorship.

The Big Challenge
At the end, the BIG challenge for ATS is “nobody knows what that is.”

“It is an incredibly challenging segment in that you’re talking about people who are generally making their foray into luxury and so they’re very image conscious,” Rebecca Lindland, an industry analyst with IHS Automotive, said.


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