Cadillac adds content to ATS to boost sales, values

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Cadillac hopes enhancements and streamlined trim configurations will boost slowing sales of the 2017 ATS due in showrooms later this summer.

Changes include eliminating the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder base engine for the sedan and coupe, and making the 2-liter, turbo engine standard.

The 2017 ATS starts at $35,590 including destination, up about $1,400 from the 2016 model, but it comes with the four-cylinder turbo Cadillac says tops the segment at 272 horsepower.

“That’s a great value enhancement,” Hampden Tener, Cadillac product planning director, said in an interview.

The car also comes standard with popular options including Cadillac CUE infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bose Premium Surround Sound and rear-vision camera. Those features coupled with the new engine are a $2,200 value, Tener said. A 3.6-liter V-6 engine is available on higher trims, beginning at $44,990 including destination.

The ATS, introduced in 2012 as a 2013 model, is aimed at the BMW 3 Series, bu sales haven’t taken off. Through June of this year, U.S. sales have totaled 9,764, down 21.9 percent.

Luxury sedan sales across the industry have slowed as buyers increasingly gravitate toward SUVs. The ATS also has faced competition from the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 and Audi A3, which both have lower starting prices.

Average incentives for the ATS in June were $8,000, a bit higher than the segment average of $7,500, according to J.D. Power Price Information Network. Cadillac says incentives as a percentage of average sales price across its cars and crossover portfolio is 1.4 percentage points lower than a year ago.

In early 2015, GM temporarily cut a shift and laid off about 450 workers at its Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant to trim inflated inventories of the ATS and Cadillac CTS.

Despite improvement, supplies of the ATS and CTS are both higher than healthy industry levels of 60-65 days, said Bill Rinna, senior manager of North American forecasts for LMC Automotive. The ATS at the end of June had 83 days supply, according to GM.

Residual values, or values of cars at the end of leases, for the ATS and CTS also are both lower than segment averages, said Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights for ALG. Higher incentives have hurt resale values for both models, Lyman said.

“We have seen a degradation (in resale values) with ATS and CTS,” Lyman said in an interview. “We have had to make some adjustments in our forecasts as the vehicle didn’t perform up to our expectations. We were very bullish on both of these vehicles from a competitive standpoint.”

Lyman said Cadillac’s pricing realignment for the ATS and lower incentives should boost residual values.

Cadillac executives have said they are dissatisfied with overall ATS and CTS sales, but they like the brand’s high average sales prices — part of Cadillac’s plan to reinvent and build the brand. ATS average transaction prices through June this year were nearly $38,000, about the same as the segment average and $3,000 higher than a year ago. The CTS average sales price was more than $53,000 in June and the Cadillac brand’s average sales prices of about $55,000 in June were the highest in the luxury segment.

For 2017, Cadillac is streamlining trims for the ATS and CTS to follow trims of its new vehicles. Tener said for the 2017 model year Cadillac is moving from 16 engine and trim configurations on the ATS to seven and from 16 on the CTS to 10 to make it easier for shoppers.

The CTS for the 2017 model year gets a new grille design and back fascia with vertical exhausts. The 2017 CTS starts at $46,555 including destination, $435 cheaper than the base 2016.