By on December 15, 2015

The new Volvo XC90

The recent surge from Volvo’s U.S. automobile operations is fueled largely by the second incarnation of the brand’s flagship — the XC90. Sales of the XC90 nearly trickled to a halt at the end of 2014 and early 2015, as the first-generation SUV turned 12 years old.

But the XC90 has quickly regained its position as Volvo’s best seller. More importantly, November’s U.S. sales figures suggest that the XC90 does in fact have the ability to pull other Volvos ahead as well. Though sales of the S60, S80, and V60 are down 16 percent through the first 11 months of 2015, the trio jumped 38 percent in November, as XC90 volume shot beyond 2,000 units for a second consecutive month and as XC60 sales increased for an 11th consecutive month. Year-over-year, Volvo volume in the United States increased 91 percent in November 2015, the best year-over-year gain of any auto brand in America.

With 6,902 November sales, however, Volvo still trailed its former Ford Premier Automotive Group partner, Lincoln, by more than 1,000 sales in what was a disappointing month for Lincoln.

Remember the Premier Automotive Group?

Jacques Nasser’s brainchild didn’t hold Lincoln within its grasp for long and Aston Martin wasn’t a major player in the Blue Oval sub-group. Volvo, Jaguar, and Land Rover were eventually sold off for approximately $4.1 billion. Ford originally paid $11.8 billion for the brands.

But with Ford losing money on Volvo and disappointed that the funds invested to create a Jaguar revival were wasted, and with Ford in need of some cold cash, the Premier Automotive Group was dismantled by Ford between 2007 and 2010. Ford’s lone upmarket contender (besides $65,000 F-150 Limiteds), became Lincoln, a brand which suffered a 38-percent sales decline between 2003 and today.

Let’s reimagine the circumstances for a moment, then. Set aside the understanding that Ford’s Dearborn HQ would have made different decisions for Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo. Forget the fact that Ford needed money during those lean years last decade. Ignore the knowledge of Chinese and Indian ownership. What would the Ford Premier Automotive Group’s presence be in the United States now if such a group still existed? And in which direction have the quartet’s four core members travelled?

PAG
In 2007, one year ahead of a financial crisis that shook the auto industry, Ford’s Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, and Volvo brands generated 303,000 U.S. sales. (Lincoln was no longer officially part of Euro-centric PAG, but it was and is a Ford premium brand.) In 2015, the four brands are projected to produce 247,000 U.S. sales.

Ford Motor Company’s namesake Ford brand, however, has seen sales rise 19 percent over the course of that period, but joint Ford-Mercury sales – Mercury is dead now but was alive then – are up by a more reasonable 10 percent, slightly better than the 7 percent growth achieved by the industry since then. Year-over-year, sales of Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, and Volvo are collectively up 13 percent in a market that’s up just 5 percent.

2016 Jaguar F-Type

Jaguar
There are great hopes pinned on the second-generation XF, the launch of the entry-level XE, and the F-Pace — Jaguar’s first utility vehicle. Prior to their launches, however, Jaguar sales have crumbled. As part of PAG, Jaguar sold an average of 38,000 cars per year in the United States between 2002 and 2007. Yet by 2007, the free-fall had already begun, with Jaguar’s annual total down 71 percent in just five years.

It wasn’t just the loss of models. The flagship XJ lost more than half its U.S. sales between 2004 and 2007 — and it hasn’t recovered. Jaguar is now frequently outsold by tiny Maserati, which sold fewer than 1,000 cars in September and October, and now accounts for less than one-fifth of JLR’s total U.S. volume. Sales in 2015 are projected to fall to a three-year low before, we anticipate, surging in 2016.

2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Land Rover
In these SUV-crazy times, Ford bosses who knew that they had to sell the Land Rover brand must wish there had been some other option. Land Rover has already surged past its annual U.S. sales record in 2015, and 2015 isn’t over. Land Rover’s U.S. volume is propelled along by a larger lineup than the one Ford’s Land Rover offered.

Sales in 2015 should be 37 percent higher than they were in 2007, when Lincoln sold 2.8 vehicles for every Land Rover. Now Lincoln sells 1.5 vehicles for every Land Rover, and in November sold just 1.2 new vehicles for every Land Rover.

2015 Lincoln MKS

Lincoln
Will a facelifted MKZ be the seed of Lincoln’s rebirth? Of course not. And with consumers turning rapidly toward SUVs and crossovers, will a new Continental accomplish much for Lincoln? That’s not likely, either. But Lincoln does have SUVs and crossovers, right? Indeed, Lincoln has a full-size SUV which sells a third as often as the Cadillac Escalade and a Ford Flex-based crossover with fewer than 400 sales each month.

As for the new MKX, it doesn’t sell nearly as often as the old Cadillac SRX. And the MKC, the vehicle which should make hay as the market snaps up small luxury crossovers at a furious pace, suffered a 15 drop in sales in October and November as its segment jumped 45 percent, little more than one year into the fresh-faced MKC’s tenure. 2015 will be Lincoln’s best year since 2008, but growth is modest, and Lincoln is far off the pace achieved at the turn of the century.

161139-volvo-xc90-excellence-1

Volvo
The dawn of the first XC90 propelled Volvo to nearly 140,000 U.S. sales in calendar year 2004. The dawn of the second XC90 will not soon do the same. In part, that’s because the XC90 isn’t as popular now as it was then, even in these recent 2,000+ sales months.

Volvo sold nearly 3,300 XC90s per month in 2004. But Volvo’s other vehicles aren’t as popular now as they were then, either, and the brand now lacks true entry-level players in the U.S. market. Volvo sold nearly 27,000 S40s and V50s in 2004. Like Lincoln, Volvo is producing meaningful gains in the U.S., particularly in the second-half of 2015. Depending on the strength of December’s typically forceful luxury market, Volvo could produce a seven-year high in U.S. sales in 2015. Reaching back to the heights of a decade ago, however, will require more than just one long December.

For each of these four former Ford PAG divisions, there is reason to believe that maybe next year will be better than the last.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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64 Comments on “Ford’s Four Core Premier Automotive Group Brands: Where Are They Now?...”


  • avatar
    Mattias

    Jag sales will skyrocket once the XE (cheaper) and F-pace (SUV) go on sale… As for Lincoln i believe the Conti is a step in the right direction, I guess it took Mark Fields to understand Lincoln…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’m waiting for Bball to come in and yell “Nasssseeeer” like McBain yelling “Mendozzaaaaaaaaaa”.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      “Remember the Premier Automotive Group?”

      Naaaaaaasssssssssseeeeeeeeerrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I knew I could count on you.

        Btw AA is going to smack me with a $200 fee to alter my flight. I’m thinking its doable I just want to get an idea of a post Miami itinerary.

        Oh and does anyone have a promo code for Sixt I can use? Thanks.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I hate change fees. I have to see if I can move my flight too. As it is now, I’d be flying in the day after President’s Day and in ridiculous meetings all day. If I can fly in a day or two earlier, that would be great.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I hate for you to spend money on fees. I spec’d a rental at Sixt and at worse I could leave Sunday night, make the four hour trek to Tampa region and just have to leave by noon to make it back for the 6pm flight on Monday as of now.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Well, I fly Delta a lot, so we’ll see what they say. I don’t know what type of ticket work purchased for me. Sometimes they buy refundable fares this far in advance.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      That Lebansese born ex- Line worker at Ford Australia, has gone and managed to get a major management job at BHP Billiton, but the Global mine industry is crashing

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “And with consumers turning rapidly toward SUVs and crossovers, will a new Continental accomplish much for Lincoln?”

    McConaughey can sell anything.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Lincoln’s problem is the same as Cadillac’s (and Hyundai’s new Genesis brand) – they are stuck sharing showroom space and salesmen with lower priced brands. There are only so many luxury customers will to step out of a luxury showroom to try out Lincoln, Cadillac or Genesis in the mid market brand showroom.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        There were something like 200 standalone LM dealers as of 2011. Some may have gotten a Ford franchise but there are still at least three standalones in Pittsburgh alone (South Hills, Benson, Biondi). One of the things with Lincoln is they are, and to a point always were, tarted up Fords and used to sell Mercurys for volume which *were* Fords in every way by styling and badge.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      There’s a slight serial killer/assassin vibe from them – especially the MKX one where he’s diligently preparing to go out into the night.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Volvo and Jag should do much better in the next year or two. By 2020 the new XC90 will be Volvo’s oldest vehicle. With the entry level XE, new and cheaper XF and F-Pace Jag should improve as well.

    I will seriously consider buying a v90.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Jag has also extended its warranty coverage to 5 yrs/60,000 mi. which also includes no cost schedule maintenance.

      I don’t know how many converts that would make but if you’re thinking about a Jag and another brand it might be enough to pull you Coventry’s way.

      I’d look forward to V.W. doing the same. Say, 4/48 and include scheduled maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Seems a bit pointless when the vast majority of cars in their price range are leased for 3yrs/36K… Though I suppose if the warranty is transferable that would help residuals, making the leases cheaper.

        Though wierdos like me who actually BUY $50K+ cars do appreciate it. If only we got an XE or XF wagon, I might be tempted to replace my 328!. I do love me a Shaguar, baby!

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        A warranty that’s half as good as Hyundai is a step in the right direction.

        Including scheduled maintenance is a step toward the luxury of not being nickeled and dimed.

        As a guy who’s can afford a luxury car, but doesn’t need to show off, I’m willing to pay extra for an heirloom quality vehicle. But, it looks like the closest I can find to “heirloom quality” seems to be the higher trim levels of Toyota/Honda/Hyundai vehicles.

        Well, that and the Jeep Wrangler. But that’s not because of it reliability. Oh, and its far from ideal for on-road commuting.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Ford was right to repent of its mistake and sell off those duds.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Seems like it. All these years later sales are still struggling and many $billions still need to be spent on the brands. Its was a smart move.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Volvo and Jaguar had to make fresh starts. They had nothing in the pipeline. It stands to reason that they are just now starting to grow again, it took them 5 years to engineer and tool new platforms.

        Overall, this has been a positive development for all involved. Ford never understood the premium market, and they got out at a manageable loss. Volvo and JLR are able to control their own destinies, and are putting-out some of their best cars in decades.

        • 0 avatar
          VCplayer

          I actually wonder if JLR has been profitable at all at any point in the past 40 years. They are full of amazing promise, but they haven’t had consistent investment in them since nearly forever ago.

          Anyone buying one of those brands needs to make billions of investment before the mythical promise of sales can be fulfilled.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @heavy handle
          Volvo and JLR have publicly said they were glad to get rid of Ford’ s management. They have been both starting to rapidly grow

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Yep, they needed too much money for each of them, covering too many different directions and segments.

  • avatar

    B&B: Do you appreciate the new graphs? Do they add anything to these pieces?

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    My big question is, where the hell did all those customers move to? LR aside that’s about 200K worth of customers who went somewhere else. Have they just moved to other luxury brands? I feel like Volvo and Lincoln may have been devoured by the increasingly luxurious mainstream offerings. Something like a Fusion Titanium or Optima SX is every bit as nice as a Volvo or Lincoln. And WRT Jag, there is nothing about their non-F-Type products that warrants subjecting one’s self to the weak dealership support and horrendous resale values. It won’t be any better for the XE and F Pace.

    I think it would be interesting to do a similar analysis on all the brands…. compare market share of all the brands on a layer cake graph. I feel like that would be really telling.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      ‘My big question is, where the hell did all those customers move to?”

      I’d wager that most Volvo customers went to Subaru and Audi, depending on their price point.

      I think Jaguar has largely been hurt by the growth of LR honestly; people who think they want an XJ or something see it next to a new RR and it’s hard to pick the Jag.

      Lincoln is tougher to peg, though I’d imagine the customers probably just scattered to the winds really. Some to highly equipped models from more affordable brands and some probably went to real luxury marques.

      I disagree with your contention that the F-Pace won’t change things for Jag. It’s exactly the kind of vehicle that will make a difference in today’s market, and as long as the lease rates are competitive with Lexus and the Germans then they will move plenty of F-Paces.

    • 0 avatar
      ktm_525

      Audi.

  • avatar
    James2

    Wasn’t Aston Martin part of this disaster?

  • avatar
    Fred

    Looks like all these brands (except Land Rover) follow the same pattern. Maybe it’s the rise of the German and Japanese brands as the standard bearer of high end motoring. That and the general shape of the economy.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    The ghost of the baby Edward Tufte wants a word with you about those graphs.

    Especially the Lincoln one.

    Please to make the Y axis be based at ZERO, not 80,000; Lincoln sales dropped by 50%, max to min, not to almost zero, as a bottomed-out graph implies.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    I like that Volvowagen SUV there.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    The XC-90 looks like a winner. I’d want to get a better look at it’s long term reliability before I’d pull the trigger. The turbo and supercharged engine seems to be a bit complex.

    The F-Pace should hit the mark. Good looking, not too expensive, and it’s a CUV! That’s like hitting the trifecta at Monticello.

    And don’t forget Jaguars new warranty. 5 yr/60,000 mi., maintenance included. Makes you go hmmmmm.

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      Hate to say it but you are right about Volvo. I would wait 4 years before I pull the trigger on that one. This is the first all new vehicle from them in a few decades. Teething is bound to happen.

  • avatar
    George B

    My theory is that in 2015 there are mass-market brands and luxury brands with no room in the market in between. Land Rover has established itself as an aspirational luxury brand. In contrast, buyers see Lincoln more like a top trim level for Ford, but with the baggage of being a brand for old people. I believe that Lincoln did a nice job with making the MKC attractive to a non-retiree. Now they need to price it like the “Platinum” trim level Ford that it is.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Or just stop wasting money on Lincoln, pull the plug, and just sell more Ford Titaniums. The value proposition of Lincoln is lost on me.

      I like to think the big boys in Detroit know what they are doing, but sometimes I seriously wonder. At least Cadillac has a couple RWD platforms to distinguish them from Chevy and Buick.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Mark Fields & Co know what they are doing, they just haven’t had the cash to invest in a RWD platform for Lincoln. Other thing got prioritized.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Just put it on the F-150 platform and call it a day.

          It’ll ride and handle like a big American sedan, which is what everybody wants, right?

          It’ll be different enough from the product on which it was based that nobody can accuse a long sedan of being a badge engineered pickup truck.

          Oh, and the F-150 is reliable, repairable, and available with a variety of engines and wheelbases. The cars should last longer than the luxury lease queens.

          My guess is that the big engineering problem may be lowering it to a car-like ride-height. Engineering a car-like full-time AWD system might incur some expense, too.

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    I think Volvo is doing really well for it is, a pricey Sino-European import vehicle. The XC90 is a fantastic vehicle but it’s also a really expensive vehicle and it’s crazy to expect huge volumes out of a $50,000+ vehicle. But Volvo is supposed to be a cutting edge luxury brand so releasing a cheaper large SUV would be a problem.

    I am curious to see though if Geely will release their older XC90 based SUV outside of China. Being a Volvo it was ahead enough in it’s safety tech to still meet crash test requirements everywhere, and the only thing I could see it needing is maybe a slight update to the powertrain to improve fuel economy and it would make a pretty good large SUV for the non luxury crowd.

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