The Frankfurt auto show, which begins Monday (Sept 12), marks an important moment for General Motors Corp. as it attempts to establish Cadillac on the home turf of the world's greatest luxury auto makers.

GM will debut the production version of the Cadillac BLS midsize sedan, and show the performance versions of the STS sedan and XLR roadster for the first time in Europe.

“BLS is an important addition to our Cadillac portfolio, it provides a critical entry with which to grow our business in key international markets,” says Jim Taylor, Cadillac general manager.

The unveilings follow the European launch of the CTS sedan in 2003, the XLR and the SRX cross/utility vehicle in 2004, and the STS in 2005.

The front-wheel-drive BLS provides Cadillac with many attributes important to European consumers that the similarly sized CTS does not fulfill. It offers the first turbodiesel in Cadillac's history and is nearly 6 ins. (15.2 cm) shorter and more than 1 in. (2.5 cm) narrower than the CTS.

Cadillac BLS

“Premium is not a question of vehicle size but purely of excellence,” says Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman-product development. “And in this aspect, the Cadillac BLS will definitely be a top player in its league.”

The 1.9L 4-cyl. mill, with common-rail direct-injection technology and 150 hp, is fitted with a diesel particulate filter and complies with Euro 4 emissions standards. The range of gasoline engines - all turbocharged - includes two 2.0L 4-cyl. versions (175/210 hp) and a 255-hp 2.8L 6-cyl. unit with twin-scroll turbocharger and variable phasing of the intake camshafts. The BLS offers 5- or 6-speed manual transmissions and 5- or 6-speed automatic transmissions, depending on the engine type.

“The BLS was developed for luxury customers, with particular attention to the demands of the European and other international markets,” says Taylor.

Based on GM's Epsilon architecture, the BLS will be built at Saab Automobile's Trollhatten, Sweden, plant. Key Cadillac design traits - vertical headlamps, sharp sheet-metal creases, 3-spoke steering wheel and interior analog clock - are maintained. Sales are scheduled to begin in the spring.

A supercharged adaptation of GM's 4.4L Northstar engine generates power for both the STS-V and XLR-V high-performance cars. Due to a larger engine compartment that allows more induction and exhaust capacity, the STS-V offers more horsepower (469 hp) than the XLR-V (443 hp). With sales in Europe scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2006, pricing for the STS-V and XLR-V will be announced at a later date.

Meanwhile, Chevrolet uses the Frankfurt show to debut its new Aveo subcompact car. The 4-door notchback will be available with either a 1.2 or 1.4L engine and optional 4-speed automatic transmission. Aveo deliveries will begin in the spring.

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com