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Cadillac goes head to head with German automakers with new ATS

Cadillac got an early start on the 2012 Detroit Auto Show with the unveiling of a new small car Sunday night.

General Motors hopes the ATS will help Cadillac compete for the first time with BMW and Mercedes Benz. 

Most of the luxury cars sold around the world are small cars. Cadillac hasn't had a small luxury car for many years and it hasn't had a successful small car for even longer.

The acknowledged leaders are BMW with its 3 series and Mercedes Benz with its C-class cars. GM North American President Mark Reuss says the Cadillac ATS can outperform those German cars on the famous - or infamous - Nurburgring track - which features dangerous turns and steep hills that send cars airborne.

"[We're] taking on the European competition head to head. [The ATS] is a true driver's car in every sense," Reuss said.

Reuss said he thinks there might be demand for the ATS even in Europe, but Cadillac will focus on U.S. sales first. BMW launches its new 3 series at the Detroit auto show Monday.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.