Owner Tim Cashman of Cashman Cadillac in Las Vegas sits in his showroom, next to oil portraits of his father and grandfather, the dealership's founder when the city was a desert dot on the map, and talks hopefully about Cadillac's future.

Mr. Cashman sees a return to Cadillac's glory days if General Motors Corp. can carry out its "arts and science" vision for the famous brand.

He says, "If GM executes that strategy in a timely manner, Cadillac will regain its stature as the world's premier automobile, regain its artistic dominance in styling and leverage the science that goes into building cars."

Cadillac Division General Manager John Smith outlined that arts and science fusion when he introduced the Cadillac Evoq concept car this year.

The idea is to develop vehicles with cutting-edge design and high technology.

Mr. Cashman believes that neo-Cadillac philosophy will be embodied in upcoming milestone vehicles. Those include the 2002 Catera, which will be built in Lansing, MI, and is described as looking like a four-door Evoq, a roadster that is due out in 2003.

Mr. Cashman also cites the "son of Escalade," an impending LAV - or luxury activity vehicle - as a vehicle which will put Cadillac in the marketplace's fast lane.

Meanwhile, many dealers say the 2000 DeVille is generating a lot of showroom excitement, even though Mr. Cashman notes that it was developed before Cadillac launched its arts and science movement.

The 2000 DeVille and dressed-up 2000 Catera are pulling in "the middle-aged crowd we've lost to Lexus, BMW and Mercedes," says Tony Catalfo, general sales manager of the Ed Morse-owned Bayview Cadillac, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Mr. Catalfo, whose dealership is amid Florida's huge retiree population, says the somewhat unexpected pull of the restyled DeVille for younger buyers could spark a sales comeback at his dealership in particular, and for the brand in general.

He says, "If we can get the cars, we should boost our new-car sales to nearly 1,000 this year from 837 last year.

"We led south Florida in January-August deliveries, on which our allocation is based, so if production steps up to demand, we should notch a 10% rise next year on top of 1999's jump."

So enthused is Bayview Cadillac about the trend that it and the Morse group's four other Cadillac stores in Florida -in Brandon, Delray Beach, Pembroke Pines and Tampa - planned two customer debut parties for the 2000 DeVille.

One would entertain seniors and the other their children, with live music tailored to each generation's tastes.

"The word is out that the DeVille is at last a Cadillac winner," says Mr. Catalfo. "And the Miami Herald made the DeVille its front-page feature for the South Florida auto show section in October. That hasn't happened for Cadillac in 20 years except for when the new Seville came out."

Sharing in the hope and anticipation out West is Dennis Springer, general manager of the Lund Cadillac flagship store in Phoenix. More than 5,000 turned out for a Sunday night DeVille launch party at the Lund North Phoenix dealership, one of three Cadillac stores owned by John R. Lund in the Arizona capital. Thanks to the heightened interest in the Cadillac lineup, reflected by the redesigned DeVille, the Escalade full-size SUV and an enhanced Catera, the Lund store expects to deliver about 1,500 new cars this year, up from 1,299 in 1999.

"We had an unbelievably high share of younger buyers at the party," reports Mr. Springer. "They have gone to competition, even though many learned to drive on their dad's Fleetwood or DeVille.

"Now, the word is getting around that with the 2000s, an Evoq sports coupe coming, plus a four-door pick-up (to compete with the Lincoln Blackwood, due out late next year), Cadillac is going to appeal directly to a new generation."

Lund Cadillac also drew a record turnout at $175 a ticket for its "Zoofari" event raising funds for the Phoenix zoo. New Cadillac models were on display, and the attendance was largely from the post-World War II "baby boomer" generation.

New safety aspects of the 2000 Deville are of special interest to Cadillac shoppers, says Mr. Springer.

These include the industry's first "night vision" application; ultrasonic rear parking assist; a "safety cage" around the passenger compartment, and new optional rear-seat airbags.

Some dealers, however, feel it's too early to judge whether Cadillac can reverse its slide of the late 1990s.

A GM dealer in Maryland, who asked not to be named, contends that Cadillac "has been late in catching up to Lincoln and Lexus in brand expansion and styling."

He explains, "The luxury market has become very crowded and it's time Cadillac regained its old role as the groundbreaker, not the copycat follower. Maybe Evoq will start a new era."

Chevrolet-Mitsubishi-Jeep dealer Tim Parra, of Irving, TX, near Dallas, complains that Cadillac has "raided" the Chevy Tahoe-GMC Yukon platform for Escalade after losing ground to BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Infiniti in luxury sedans.

"GM is cannibalizing Chevrolet and GMC to prop up Cadillac," declares Mr. Parra.

In addition to the flagship DeVille, the 2000 Catera now also is reaching out to younger families in northeastern Wisconsin, says Scott Dean, general manager of Bergstrom Chevrolet-Cadillac, Appleton, WI.

"They've done a good job restyling the Catera for 2000 as Cadillac's entry-level sedan," says Mr. Dean.

"We're on track at Bergstrom Chevy-Buick-Cadillac to top last year's sales of 128 new Cadillacs," says Tim Bergstrom, general manager of the 17-dealer Bergstrom chain's flagship store, Bergstrom Chevrolet-Buick-Cadillac, Neenah, WI.

Adds Mr. Bergstrom, "And that's without enough 2000 DeVilles and Cateras till late this year. There hasn't been this much excitement about Cadillac around here in a long time."

Dealers also applaud Cadillac for returning to the limousine market in 2000 after seeing Lincoln grab 85% of it with the rear-drive Town Car.

The 2000 DeVille will offer a limo package with front-wheel drive and night vision.