LONDON - The launch of Cadillac in Europe has been an embarrassment for General Motors.
Just 984 Cadillacs were registered in all of Europe last year, down from 1,259 in 1998. Subtract from this the number of cars registered by GM Europe or GM dealers as company vehicles, and you get some idea of the task facing Cadillac in the German-dominated European executive market.
But GM and Cadillac finally may turn a corner in Europe with the Imaj concept car, an all-wheel-drive luxury sedan. Although it is closely related to the Evoq concept roadster, GM emphasizes that the Imaj has been designed and built in Europe.
The Imaj was styled at GM's Concept Design studio in Birmingham, England, under the leadership of concept vehicle design director Simon Cox. Sharp lines and angles complement soft curves on a body that could have been dreamed up by Ford's New Edge studio.
Under the hood, an updated version of the supercharged Northstar V-8 delivers 425 hp to the four wheels through a five-speed gearbox.
Like the Audi A8, the Imaj uses aluminum spaceframe construction. Whether it drives like an American or a European luxury car remains to be seen, but GM clearly has decided that it cannot sell Cadillac in Europe based only on its American heritage.
GM lists Delphi, IBM and Bose as major 'partners' in the Imaj project, supplying a baffling array of new safety and communications technology.
Bulgari, the Italian luxury-goods house, provides the final touches: the clock and instrumentation inside, and an accompanying aluminum luggage set.