CHICAGO - Mercedes-Benz has AMG. BMW has the M series. Now Cadillac may develop its own line of high-performance vehicles.
General Manager John Smith said GM is testing versions of the current Seville in conjunction with the program, code-named Blackfin.
Blackfin is an internal study, and there are no specific vehicles yet planned, Smith said.
'As a global brand, we know we need to do some niche-oriented or derivative vehicles. What we're not sure about is the direction we should go.'
Smith said the division is wrangling over whether to make Blackfin a separate brand name under Cadillac, and whether it should be applied to every vehicle in the lineup, including the Cadillac DeVille and Escalade sport-utility.
'Should we just rip a page out of the BMW M program, or rip a page out of Mercedes AMG, or do something else? We are having this debate internally,' he said.
Mercedes-Benz and BMW sell high-performance versions of their passenger cars under the AMG and M brands, respectively. The packages usually include tweaked engines, firmer suspensions and more aggressive styling - all for a higher price.
Cadillac is trying to reinvent itself to meet intense competition from Lincoln and from European and Japanese luxury brands. It introduced a new theme dubbed Art and Science in January with the Cadillac Evoq roadster shown at the Detroit Auto Show.
The Evoq is said to have a 'shadow' product development team headed by Corvette/Camaro vehicle line executive Dave Hill while it awaits final approval by GM's management board.
GM must make a decision on Blackfin this year if it wants to ensure Cadillac's next generation of products are designed with the concept in mind, Smith said.
A source at GM said the company's test cars - or 'mules' - are not equipped with the supercharged Northstar V-8 that debuted on the Evoq.
In Chicago, Cadillac unveiled two performance-oriented variants of the Cadillac Catera.
The Catera Sport will go on sale in mid-May with about $800 worth of styling, suspension and trim upgrades. The supercharged Steinmetz Catera is a 284-hp concept car built to gauge public reaction to hot rod Cadillacs.
The Steinmetz is so-named because of engine and body modifications made by the aftermarket tuner Steinmetz Opel-Tuning, a subsidiary of AC Schnitzer based in Aachen, Germany.
Featuring an intercooled supercharger with 18-inch Z-rated tires and PPG Orange Fire paint, the Steinmetz Catera is one concept 'out of the Blackfin file,' Smith said.