DETROIT – General Motors Corp. will lean more heavily on its Cadillac luxury brand in 2007, specifically the volume-leading CTS, in order to prop up car sales, the division’s top executive says.

“We had to phase in three different Escalades last year, so we really didn’t have a full year of (trucks),” Jim Taylor, general manager-Cadillac, says at the North American International Auto Show here. “We’ll be able to sell every one of these we make,” he says of the CTS.

CTS sales are expected to begin in late summer, with worldwide exports to follow in the fall. The car is assembled at the Lansing (MI) Grand River plant, along with its STS sedan and SRX platform mates.

The ’08 CTS sedan’s choice of engines includes a 3.6L direct-injection V-6 rated at 300 hp, a 2.8L V-6 and 3.6L V-6. The car also is available with all-wheel drive for the first time.

However, Taylor says CTS pricing must stick close to its $30,000 base sticker price.

The Lansing plant will build 30,000 to 35,000 CTS sedans this year, with initial output to begin in July, followed by larger volume in September. Taylor also tells Ward's Cadillac will be making some announcements in the coming year regarding diesel powertrains. The Cadillac BLS in Europe currently is in production with a diesel for the first time, he confirms.

Cadillac’s average buyer today is in his late 50s, down from the low 60s in recent years. Taylor credits the CTS and Escalade SUV for pushing the ages lower.

As the brand continues its market approach of attracting younger, upscale buyers with disposable incomes, “It’s important to us the Escalade and CTS are very strong in representing that new customer,” he says.

Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman-global product development, agrees a more youthful market is critical for Cadillac.

“It’s a strategy that has to work, because I think today’s Baby Boomers, the 55 to 60-year-olds are probably very strongly oriented toward the German luxury brands,” Lutz says.

“We notice with the current CTS, we have a very young and very diverse demographic. Up to now, this approach to marketing to a younger and hipper audience has worked for us. I see this as phase 2 in the Cadillac renaissance.”

scanderson@wardsauto.com