The first car to roll off the Lansing Grand River assembly line is the Cadillac CTS, a $30,000 sedan that replaces the poor-selling Catera. The vehicle features a brand new rear-wheel drive architecture called Sigma that will form the core of Cadillac’s future product portfolio.

It is part of a $4 billion overhaul of GM’s Cadillac division. Sales of the luxury cars dropped from a peak of 350,813 in 1978 to 189,154 in 2000 and only 172,083 in 2001. During that 23-year stretch, foreign brands such as BMW, Jaguar, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz slowly chipped away at Cadillac’s lofty perch.

To stem that sales erosion, restore Cadillac to prominence and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the brand, GM is launching a new lineup of vehicles. Legendary names, such as Eldorado and Fleetwood, are being shelved in favor of more European acronyms, such as CTS. The first letter identifies the series of the vehicle, while the second and third letters describe the body style. For instance, CTS stands for "C-series touring sedan."

"Customers in other parts of the world are accustomed to alphanumeric names for their vehicles, and eventually, all our vehicles will have names that reflect our global nature," explains Mark LaNeve, general manager of GM’s Cadillac division. He says the CTS is an "entry luxury performance sedan" that competes in the largest luxury car segment. It is designed to go head-to-head with the 5-series BMW, the Mercedes C-class and the Lexus ES 300.

Cadillac’s new lineup of vehicles feature sharp angles, a large, distinctive grill, and vertical headlights. "Our bold, new direction for Cadillac styling is the strongest design statement in the luxury segment in a long, long time," claims LaNeve. "We want Cadillac to have a unique look." According to LaNeve, the new design borrows the "sharp forms, angular shapes and crisp edges" of the aerospace and computer industry, among other high-tech geometric influences.

To refine its products and boost its image, Cadillac turned to a couple of Europe’s most famous motor racing venues. The CTS was extensively tested and tweaked at the 12.8-mile, 177-turn Nurburgring racing circuit in Germany. And, a team of Cadillac-powered prototype sports cars is being entered in this year’s 24-hour endurance race in LeMans, France.

"Cadillac is again on the move, reaching out to new customers with the promise of breakthrough design and market-leading technology," says LaNeve. "For the better part of the 20th century, Cadillac was truly the most aspirational brand. Cadillac was the brand by which all others were measured. We intend to carry this same spirit forward into the 21st century as we connect with today’s luxury customers."

LaNeve believes the new cutting-edge spirit of Cadillac is reflected in the Lansing Grand River plant. "It is a world-class facility which will help us realize the vision of making CTS the world-class car it was designed to be," he concludes.