TRAVERSE CITY – Thanks to dedicated engineering and product-development teams, General Motors Corp.’s Cadillac division is on track to regain the brand exclusivity that will make it a viable rival to European and Japanese luxury sport competitors, says Dave Leone, chief engineer for the Cadillac Sigma Prestige Vehicle architecture team.

GM last year announced it had granted Cadillac its own exclusive product-development and engineering teams – no other GM division enjoys dedicated engineering investment – the better to speed the division’s return to competitiveness with the world’s top premium brands.

Cadillac says demand for XLR strong.

Now, says Leone, Cadillac’s new and upcoming products are beginning to prove the wisdom of that approach.

Leone says GM’s investment in Cadillac’s exclusive product development now is delivering a reinvigorated brand and world-class products. Chiefly, he says, Cadillac will continue with its priority on design and technical leadership.

“Today, there’s more respect for the role of design in the (Cadillac) business case,” says Leone. “In many cases, design even leads the process.”

He says intriguing sheetmetal will continue as a Cadillac talking point. Cadillac’s CTS entry luxury sedan, for example, was “out there” in terms of design when GM launched it in 2001.

He says the next CTS again will “push the envelope,” and the STS flagship launching this fall is “more mature,” but reinforces the edgy Cadillac family look of the CTS, XLR roadster and SRX crossover.

Leone also takes a swipe at some luxury sport competitors – primarily German makes – that have pushed hard into complicated and so far trouble-prone driver-interface systems and other electronic technology.

Cadillac will employ high-tech components “only where it makes sense,” says Leone. He says the luxury division’s philosophy is to use technology to “add convenience, not complexity.”

To do this, Leone says Cadillac’s product-development and design-focused engineering needs “suppliers who can execute.”

He adds that the Cadillac product-development process has identified bill of materials as a critical aspect of continued success. He says the division is “raising the bar” on bill of materials in order to deliver world-class interiors, for example.