The automaker showed off how it was updating its entire Camaro line to improve aerodynamics, and unveiled a redesigned Cadillac CTS sedan and refreshed versions of Buick’s Buick LaCrosse and Regal models.
Changes range from the entirely new CTS design to relatively minor updates in the Buick. How they will resonate with car shoppers is a question.
“Car buyers will ultimately deliver the verdict on GM's updated vehicles, but the fact that GM is willing to evolve their product lines is certainly a step in the right direction," Caldwell said.
Notwithstanding the hyper 500-horsepower Camaro, GM made the biggest splash with the new Cadillac, Caldwell said.
“It brings more depth to the Cadillac brand and it is harder for buyers to walk away when there is something good and new,” Caldwell said.
GM grew the size of the CTS by about 4 inches from the current version and gave it a new engine with the intent of making it more competitive with the popular German mid-sized luxury sedans such as the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-class and Audi A6.
It also will be fast. The CTS will now pack a 420-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 engine giving the sports sedan a zero-to-60 mph time of just 4.6 seconds.
The bigger CTS helps Cadillac offer cars in most of the major luxury vehicle product segments. The auto brand also sells a smaller ATS sedan, meant to compete with BMW’s 3-series, as well as the larger XTS sedan and the SRX and Escalade sport utility vehicles.
"The brand is stronger than it has been in decades, and the product portfolio is the most competitive in recent memory," said Tom Libby, an analyst with automotive research firm R.L. Polk & Co.
However, GM executives seemed to be the most excited about bringing back the high performance Camaro Z/28.
Mark Reuss, president of GM’s North American operations, introduced the car in a multimedia show featuring an Aerosmith soundtrack saying: “If you want a street-legal track car, this car for you. It is the real deal.”
Chevrolet has done all it can to make this a speed machine. It removed speakers, carpeting and insulation – anything that adds weight but wasn’t either critical to the car’s operations or required by law.
When it goes on sale a year from now, the Z/28 will feature a lightweight, high-revving, 7-liter V-8 engine that produces about 500 horsepower and has high-tech features such as titanium intake valves and connecting rods as well as sodium-filled exhaust valves. Other features include carbon-ceramic brakes and integrated coolers for track use.
The Buicks revealed at the show are updated and refreshed models with modest exterior changes but new interiors and technological features.
The LaCrosse, for example, will offer a suite of the new radar- and camera-based safety features that are making their way into luxury cars and the upscale trim packages on some of the mass market vehicles. The LaCrosse will get a blind spot alert system, it will warn the driver if the vehicle is unexpectedly wandering from the traffic lane and will have a forward collision that indicates a potential crash threat.
Another optional feature is adaptive cruise control, which senses traffic in front of the LaCrosse to adjust vehicle speed, including stopping the vehicle in heavy traffic and accelerating again when it is clear.
The big change for the 2014 Regal is a new 4.2-inch color display in the instrument panel, and a revised center console with fewer buttons and less clutter.
The outside of the Regal, sold in Europe as the Opel Insignia, will have only subtle changes, such as LED daytime lamps and LED taillights.
While most of the new Regals carry over the same drivetrain from the current version, some models will get a new engine. The Regal Turbo and Regal GS will now share a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that's essentially the same unit found in Cadillac's compact ATS sedan. In both of these Regals, it can produce 259 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
Buick has had three consecutive years of sales growth and sold more than 180,000 vehicles last year, up about 2% from the previous year and the most for the brand since 2007.
“What's important about this growth is that so many of our customers are new to the brand. More than 43% of Buick buyers come from non-GM brands, and half of those came from imports,” said Tony DiSalle, Buick’s U.S. marketing manager.