Automobile Magazine currently has a 2013 Cadillac ATS equipped with a 3.6 liter V6 in its long-term test fleet. The car has suffered from three issues since they first acquired it: a rough engine idle, off-center steering and a power steering warning light, which comes on intermittently.
While the quality issues have been irritating, there are always a few bugs in the first model year of an all-new car, and none of the problems have been totally crippling. However, the real problem lies with their Cadillac dealer experience.
5,000 miles into their ownership, Automobile brought the ATS in to their local General Motors dealer to fix the misaligned steering and address the power-steering warning light. A $90 four-wheel alignment was performed, which fixed the problem, but they were unable to resolve the warning light. About a month later, they brought the car back to the same dealer to fix the rough idle, which they described as a “noticeable stumble or shudder (for instance, when sitting at a red light with your foot on the brake).” The dealer told them there was an update for rough-idle in four-cylinder cars, but none yet for six-cylinder cars and they could not resolve the issue.
A little while later the car returned to the dealer with 14, 088 miles on the odometer. The rough-idle had persisted and the steering was once again misaligned. They told the dealer to keep the car until everything was fixed.
Another front-end alignment and new winter tires solved the steering issue, but the dealer was unable to fix the rough engine idle. Automobile placed a call with a Cadillac’s customer service line. A rep from GM is supposed to work with the dealer to resolve the problem. The rep took down all their information and promised they would call them back within 48-hours, which never happened.
Growing frustrated, they found a Cadillac-only dealer down in Ohio to see if they could help them out. They noticed the Cadillac dealer was very different from their local GM dealer, there was rich wood floors, leather couches and brick walkways. The technician there immediately recognized the rough-idle problem, but could offer no fix.
They consulted Cadillac engineers about the rough idle, who told them a calibration issue has affected a small amount of cars. The fix includes revised engine mounts and a software update, which should be available for six-cylinder cars later this year. The power-steering light was most likely an over-sensitive sensor.
Automobile says the frustrating, inconclusive experiences at the dealerships bring to light a problem with the brand’s dealer network. There are more than 900 Cadillac dealerships across the U.S. and only about 150 sell only Cadillacs. Compare that to Lexus who runs fewer than 250 dealers in the U.S., most of them separate from Toyota dealers. With over 900 dealers nationwide, it’s hard to give customers the upscale experience that should come along with a premium car. If you walk into a BMW dealership, the place most likely exudes high quality, while the same can’t be said for a Cadillac dealer selling a $40,000 ATS next to a Chevrolet Spark.
Automobile has the car for another four months and will most likely be paying closer attention to how the dealers perform rather than how the ATS does.