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Cadillac Takes Aim at Super-Tuned Europeans


LAS VEGAS — A new line of high-performance Cadillacs intended to compete with Mercedes-Benz's AMG cars and BMW's M-tuned vehicles will be launched as early as 2003, General Motors Corp. has announced.

The cars, which will feature a new dual-overhead-cam V-6 engine, are part of an extensive series of product launches in the next few years that GM executives hope will help regain some of the market share the company has lost during the last three decades.

Other new vehicles include the Chevy SSR, a two-seat pickup with hot rod styling and a fold-away convertible hardtop; a new crossover sport-utility vehicle for Chevrolet; a GMC sport-utility truck that brings the folding mid-gate from the Avalanche full-size pickup into a mid-size vehicle; and one or more small cars and PT Cruiser-like small trucks or vans built on platforms from Opel, GM's German subsidiary.

The aggressive roll-out of new products and engines--there also will be a new overhead valve, or pushrod, V-6 for mainstream applications--was described last week by Ron Zarrella, president of GM North America, at a luncheon kicking off the annual trade show put on by the Specialty Equipment Market Assn.

GM, once the auto maker of choice for many performance car buffs, also rolled out a new parts initiative at the show. The program, called Tech Connect, will enable aftermarket parts manufacturers to build their equipment to fit exactly into GM cars and trucks and to mesh perfectly with GM's engine computers and electrical systems. It mirrors a program Ford Motor Co. launched two years ago at SEMA .

John Middlebrook, GM's vice president of brand marketing and corporate advertising, said the program ultimately will involve almost all GM models but will start with small vehicles such as the Pontiac Sunfire.

But GM's forthcoming line of super-tuned cars probably won't need aftermarket enhancements.

Zarrella said the high-performance Cadillac CTS will have enhanced bodywork, sports-tuned suspension and chassis modifications and "extensive power train modifications" to make them competitive with cars such as the Mercedes and BMW super-tuned models.

Zarrella said that eventually almost all Cadillacs, except full-size sedans, will have performance-modified versions and that high-performance V-6 engines, some with superchargers, will be available for many other GM models.

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