Cadillac general manager Jim Taylor has insisted the brand's new Europe-specific luxury sports sedan is not just a piece of 'badge engineering'.

The BLS, which enters European markets over the next few months, is based on the Saab 9-3 Epsilon platform - but it has been completely re-engineered, he told just-auto at the Detroit show.

He said Cadillac would not make the same mistake as Jaguar which has been criticised in some quarters after basing its X-type on the volume European Mondeo platform.

"In some ways Jaguar showed us how not to do it," he added. "For a start the Saab is a luxury vehicle in its own right so we did not feel we were coming off a volume platform and trying to build it up.

"If you don't differentiate adequately you are in trouble - this is not badge engineering and we are comfortable with the aesthetic and chassis differentiation."

The BLS was designed largely in Europe at GM's styling centres in Germany and the UK while Chip Thole, the vehicle's principal designer in the United States, ensured the brand's 'DNA' remained intact.

Thole said: "This is definitely not an American Cadillac as Europeans would generally perceive it, but a European car which we feel can compete with the established brands there as well as the Japanese contenders in the segment."

The front-wheel-drive model has GM-Europe-designed four-cylinder and diesel engines plus chassis settings specifically tailored to European roads.

Thole added: "The key challenge was to design a powerful-looking vehicle in a smaller package while retaining the distinctive Cadillac features. I think we have achieved this with the vertical lines at the front and rear and the chiselled surfaces plus the [warmth] of the interior."

Taylor added that currently there were no plans to sell the BLS in the United States. "Diesel engines and four cylinder engines will still not play in America, particularly in the luxury segment where size matters.

"We do plan to sell the car in other markets, however, such as the Middle East, China and Japan."

Chris Wright