SHANGHAI – General Motors Corp.’s Cadillac division unveils the SLS, an extended version of the STS sedan designed for the Chinese luxury market, at this week’s Auto China 2006 show.

The STS has been cut between the B and C pillars and lengthened by 3.9 ins. (10 cm) to add rear seat legroom for chauffer-driven passengers.

The windows are equipped with sunshades and the rear seat is luxuriously upholstered in leather. Exterior alterations include extra chrome and a modified front grille.

The vehicle will have the same drivetrain options available in Cadillac’s U.S. lineup: the 4.6L Northstar V-8 and 2.8L and 3.6L V-6 engines. Pricing will be RMB500,000-RMB750,000 ($63,550-$95,330).

The SLS will be produced at the Shanghai GM Automotive Co. Ltd. plant for sale in China beginning in the first quarter.

The vehicle’s Chinese introduction is an important move for Cadillac, as the country’s mid-luxury segment is about 2 1/2 times larger than the entry-luxury segment, says Karen Rafferty, Shanghai GM’s Cadillac brand director.

“The luxury market in China is changing,” she says. “It used to be very chauffer driven. Now the cars are individually driven, although the owner keeps a driver on retainer for business purposes.

“So we have brought the SLS here. It’s a fun car for the owner to drive, but the back seat is fabulous when he’s the passenger.”

Rafferty, who has been with GM for 18 years, moved to Shanghai on a full time basis nine months ago.

Of her assignment in China she says, “It’s fabulous here. Cars brought me here, and I’m truly getting into the culture.”

Rafferty says understanding the local culture is crucial to successfully market vehicles here.

“I was born in a small town in Ohio and moving to Shanghai (has been) a great experience,” she says. “There’s something new to learn about the culture every day. I get out of the major cities and explore the provinces. You can’t get it out of a textbook.”

Cadillac currently operates 17 dealerships in China and will have 40 by the end of first-quarter 2007, Rafferty says.

“Our dealerships are not just showrooms; they’re a lifestyle experience,” she says. “You can stop in; relax; bring in friends; and enjoy luxurious surrounds; even if you come in just for an oil change,” she says.

The dealerships feature beverage bars and complimentary fruit and snacks