Cadillac hasn’t given up on sedans just yet, indicated by its reveal of the 2020 CT5 this week in New York City. While the CT5 is nearly identical in footprint and powertrain cadence to the BMW 5 Series, and the “5” even looks a lot like an “S” on the back, this car really does replace the ATS.
The first indication the CT5 was being viewed as an ATS competitor was the Cadillac press release regarding the car. Cadillac referred to the car as its new “compact sedan,” despite having less-than-compact dimensions.
Further conversations with Cadillac employees here in NYC have further confirmed the thought process behind calling the CT5 the brand’s “compact” and it has everything to do with the legacy of the CTS.
The first two generations of CTS were based on GM’s Sigma architecture. That architecture allowed the CTS to be sort of a tweener; it was priced closer to the compact BMW 3 Series, but its dimensions suggested it was more of a midsize sedan. For example, the first-generation CTS had an overall length of 190 inches, though most competitive reviews compared it to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C Class.
Cadillac decided to expand the CTS in the second generation car, upping the length slightly to 191.6 inches; limited likely by the fact it remained on the Sigma architecture. Here too, the car was generally compared to compacts, though it was starting to become debatable if the car was really a compact or midsize.
The confusion led from the fact Cadillac was constantly pricing car more in line with compacts, despite a physical size closer to that of the midsize competitors.
Once the CTS moved to the Alpha platform in 2014, the company decided to go all-in by positioning the CTS clearly as a midsize luxury sedan. Since then, sales have fallen significantly from the car’s heyday.
In hindsight, Cadillac feels part of the CTS’s success back in the day stems from the value proposition the car offered by being midsize in size and compact in price. This strategy is coming back with the 2020 CT5, which is very close to the BMW 5 Series in size, but still two inches shorter than the outgoing CTS.
So, one can expect the CT5 to be priced closer to that of the 3 Series and C Class than the 5 Series and E Class.
Will this strategy work? Well, it apparently worked on the first two generations of CTS, but the market was very different back then. The buying public will certainly take notice if the price tag of the CT5 is considerably lower than that of competitors that are similar size, but the content level cannot be significantly different or the plan may backfire.