Cadillac's absence from Australia means it won't be a threat to the prestige brands here. In its home market however, the ATS is lining up against the strong-selling smaller prestige models from BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Lexus and Infiniti.
"It's a segment dominated by German cars, including the BMW 3-series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4, so we've developed a compelling and convincing new challenger," GM global product development boss Marry Barra said.
The ATS enters the Cadillac line-up beneath the CTS range, bringing its own take on the brand's now familiar styling and utilising the same rear-wheel-drive layout that (almost) all of its rivals rely on for that "real driver's car" image.
Like its German peers, Cadillac has looked to a range of four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines to deliver a balance of fuel efficiency and straight-up power for buyers seeking a hard-edged performer.
Engine options include a 201kW/353Nm turbocharged 2.0 litre four-cylinder engine, a 149kW/255Nm 2.5 litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder mill, and the updated 237kW362Nm version of GM's 3.6 litre V6 petrol engine.
In the new 2012 BMW 3 Series range, the small Caddy's rivals include the 180kW/350Nm 328i, and the 225kW/400Nm 335i flagship.
Mercedes' updated 2012 C-Class sedan is available with 150kW/310Nm in the C 200 and the C300's 185kW/340Nm. In the C-Class Coupe C 350 is a 225kW/370Nm 3.5 litre V6.
Weighing in at around 1540kg, the ATS is in the same ballpark as its main rivals, and GM says it has achieved a 51/49 weight distribution, promising sharp handling and balance.
The suspension package includes MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear, and GM's adjustable magnetic-ride dampers are also available.
Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions will be offered across the range, and an all-wheel-drive system will feature on the optional extras list.
Don't hold your breath for an Australian debut. While Cadillac was scheduled for a local launch in 2008, the global financial crisis that followed saw the project indefinitely shelved - there's been no word since.
Speaking with TMR, Holden's Shayna Welsh said that while Cadillac is always a brand that Holden will keep an eye on, "an Australian launch is not currently on our agenda".
With GM and Holden now focused on German brand Opel for its assault on Australia's premium car segment, we may never see Cadillac here at all.