DETROIT -- The Cadillac Seville flopped in Europe, but General Motors vows that its successor, the STS, will be a credible luxury car in the home of Mercedes and BMW.
GM is building the STS on the Sigma rear-wheel-drive luxury architecture used in Cadillac's CTS sedan and SRX sport wagon. The Seville was on a front-drive platform shared with the Cadillac DeVille and Buick LeSabre.
Bob Jones, program engineering manager, says rwd was necessary to get "no excuses" ride and handling for European and U.S. luxury buyers.
"To get to the level of handling and vehicle dynamics that is competitive with the best of what Europe has to offer, rear-wheel drive is the only solution," Jones says.
Cadillac sold just 187 Sevilles in western Europe in 2003.
In keeping with Cadillac's high-tech theme, GM has loaded the STS with features such as magnetic ride control, StabiliTrak, keyless access with push-button start, remote start, adaptive cruise control and a four-color head-up display.
The STS goes on sale in the United States this fall, and European sales begin early in 2005.
The STS will be a key product in Cadillac's effort to build a dealer network in Europe - and it is noticeably European-sized compared to the Seville.
Though the STS's wheelbase, at 116.4 inches, is 4.2 inches longer than that of the Seville, its overall length of 201 inches is nearly 5 inches shorter.
Mark LaNeve, Cadillac marketing general manager, says GM is determined to make the STS a credible competitor to such vehicles as the BMW 5 series in Europe.
"We won't ever be huge volume, but we felt that we needed to be mainstream luxury player and not an oddity," LaNeve says.
GM has set the U.S. base price for the STS at $40,995, including destination charges. The base model includes a 3.6-liter V-6 with 255 hp. But the price climbs steeply for the 4.6-liter, 320-hp V-8, which starts at $47,495.
All-wheel drive is optional with the V-8 version at launch and will become available with V-6s later.
Jim Taylor, vehicle line executive for the Sigma architecture, says GM will be careful not to tilt initial production too heavily toward high-ticket models - a move that hurt the SRX during launch.
He expects that 70 percent of buyers will choose the V-6.
Cadillac is aiming for 30,000 STS annual sales in the United States, compared to 18,747 Seville sales last year. Taylor says the STS will be more clearly differentiated from the DeVille, which remains a front-drive vehicle.
Taylor says the luxury sedan segment is unlikely to expand significantly, so any STS gains will have to come from a competitor such as the 5 series or Mercedes-Benz E class.
"This is not a growing segment - it's 300,000 (U.S. sales) all day long," Taylor says. "We're going to have to get sales from somebody else."