October 17, 2012

Cadillac ATS Delivers American Automotive Innovation

In January, The New York Times wondered aloud why Apple did not make the iPhone in America. The story heaped a torrent of commentary and scrutiny on Silicon Valley’s most valuable company. Whether you think manufacturing in the U.S. is right or not for Apple, Cadillac is proving that American-made technology can compete with the best.

The new Cadillac ATS was designed to be a luxury car world-beater - a tall order that required catching up to the likes of BMW’s 3-series and Mercedes’ C-class. But the folks at General Motors took a unique approach to the job and the ATS definitely arrives at the head of its class.

What Cadillac did is often overlooked in Silicon Valley. To help design the Cadillac User Experience (CUE), the company assembled a team of designers, engineers and software developers to shadow drivers while observing them in their natural habitat.

This “contextual design” technique required team members to accompany actual consumers, an eye-opening experience. The shadow team was able to identify several different driving styles, which were categorized under a pseudonym. One type of driver, dubbed “Spencer,” always needed to check text messages immediately, while ‘‘Emily” liked listening to music, whether on her phone, iPod or flash drive.

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