General Motors has launched its US luxury brand Cadillac at the 2008 Australian International Motor Show in Sydney. Sales in both Australia and New Zealand start early next year. Launch show models were the CTS sedan and CTS Coupe Concept.

This is actually a re-launch as the brand is returning 'down under' after a 70-year absence.

Cadillacs were built and sold in Australia during the 1930s. Cars were initially exported (in right-hand drive) from Detroit between 1927 and 1934 before shipments of CKD chassis (to be fitted with locally-produced bodies) and complete vehicle knock-down kits for local assembly began.

The LaSalle Series 50 sedans and the Cadillac Series 60 models were assembled in Adelaide with Holden- built bodies (GM's Holden unit was a local body builder before being turned into a complete car maker in 1948), and were designed to look much like similar models sold in the US.

"With cutting edge design, serious performance and a comprehensive package of luxury appointments, Cadillac will appeal to prestige car buyers and offer a genuine alternative to the traditional European brands," said GM's premium brands director Parveen Batish.

Continued growth in Europe and emerging markets like China and Russia, paired with the brand's introduction in South Africa in 2007, have supported Cadillac's total sales growth this year outside of the United States of 11.5% to the end of July 2008, the Australian unit said in a statement.

The Australian/NZ-specification CTS will have a 227kW, 3.6-litre, V6, direct injection, petrol engine with variable valve timing and six-speed automatic transmission.

Unlike many of competitors, this engine requires only regular unleaded petrol (91 octane RON in both countries; higher than the 87RON of US regular), resulting in additional savings for the owner, GM said.

Customers will have the choice of two suspension settings.

Standard equipment will include Stabilitrak electronic chassis/stability control system, front, side and curtain airbags, ambient interior lighting system, integrated iPod/MP3 compatibility and audio system with integrated 40 gigabyte hard drive.

CTS sales start 'down under' early in 2009. The production CTS coupe arrives late in 2009. Cadillac will join Saab and Hummer in Antipodean showrooms and be managed in both countries by the GM Premium Brands group. There are already 13 dealers in Australia and three in New Zealand.