Ford's Four Core Premier Automotive Group Brands: Where Are They Now?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Join the conversation
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!
- Sgeffe As was stated in another comment, the FAA nominee went down in flames. But the NTSB chairwoman certainly didn’t, and she’s certainly not qualified either!Lots of this kind of stuff going on both sides of the aisle—Ben Carson would have arguably made a better Surgeon General than HUD Secretary under Trump, for example.
- Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.
- Stuart de Baker EVs just aren't ready for prime time for those with a single car and who take road trips. Being able to charge as soon as you arrive at a charging station, and even the chargers working on your car is a crapshoot. In the former case, you could have to wait for nearly an hour while someone else is charging.I also don't find EVs particularly fun to drive (I've driven a Tesla Model S and an Ionic 5.) I LOVE driving my '08 Civic (stick). I love the handling, the feel and responsiveness of the engine, the precise steering (the Michelin Pilot Ultra Sport tires help, but even with the snows on, the car is a joy). I have 152k on the clock, and hopefully another 25 years or so of driving (I was born early in the Eisenhower Administration and I have exceptionally healthy habits), and I'm going to try to keep the Civic for the duration.My Civic causes a less global warming emissions than some of these humongous battery operated trucks.
- FreedMike They should throw in a Lordstown pickup with every purchase. Make it the “vapor twofer.”
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.
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.