Bark's Bites: Lincoln and Cadillac Should Be Trims, Not Brands

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth

As our own Matthew Guy has marvelously demonstrated recently, it’s widely known a new-car purchase’s best value can often be found in the base-level trim. Rarely is a vehicle improved in proportion to the cost of additional options. Nor is the money spent on additional options or higher trim levels recovered in resale as secondhand customers are reluctant to pay more money for bells and whistles because, quite often, they’re obsolete by the time the car sells the second time around.

If we take these truths to an obvious conclusion, it can be said that the higher the trim level, the worse the resale value — and in my years of experience working for Autotrader, I can tell you that’s true. Many of the low-end pricing tools used by dealers to determine used car values often don’t even take trim into account.

Is it any wonder then that General Motors’ and Ford’s top trim levels have wretched resale values?

No, I’m not talking about “LTZ” or “Titanium.” I’m talking about Cadillac and Lincoln.

Our friends at investigated which cars have the highest amount of depreciation in their first year of ownership. Or, in other words, which cars should be bought new, and which should be bought used. Here’s iSeeCars’ methodology: analyzed over 14 million cars sold between August 1, 2015 and July 31, 2016. New cars included in the analysis were from model years 2015 and 2016. Lightly or one-year-old used cars were defined as vehicles from the 2014-2015 model years with mileage within 20 percent of 13,476, the average annual miles traveled in the U.S., according to the Department of Transportation. Models with fewer than 250 new and 250 used cars sold were excluded from the analysis. The average asking prices of the one-year-old used cars were compared to those of new cars from the same model. The difference in price for each car was expressed as a percentage of the new model average price. This percentage was then compared to the overall percentage difference across all models. The models which had price differences of at least 1.5 times the overall average difference (of which there were 12 models) were included on the list of models to buy used. The 10 models with the smallest change in price were included in the list of cars to buy new.

The results will shock exactly nobody.

RankMakeModelAvg Price NewAvg Price Used (1-year-old)$ Price Difference% Price Difference1FIAT500L$23,390$15,294$8,096-34.6%2LincolnMKS$46,502$30,463$16,039-34.5%3VolvoS60$41,248$27,044$14,204-34.4%4KiaCadenza$37,714$24,774$12,940-34.3%5MercedesC-250$44,454$29,207$15,247-34.3%6NissanMaxima$36,650$24,181$12,469-34.0%7LincolnMKZ + MKZ Hybrid$41,913$27,736$14,177-33.8%8JaguarXF$61,829$41,863$19,966-32.3%9FIAT500$19,100$13,001$6,099-31.9%10CadillacATS$41,982$28,631$13,351-31.8%11Chrysler300$36,317$24,793$11,525-31.7%12BuickRegal$32,422$22,305$10,117-31.2%13CadillacCTS$53,688$37,298$16,390-30.5%14CadillacXTS$54,119$37,605$16,514-30.5%15LincolnMKX$49,483$34,465$15,018-30.3%16VolkswagenCC$34,445$23,995$10,450-30.3%17BMW6 Series$95,511$66,553$28,957-30.3%18DodgeCharger$34,519$24,084$10,435-30.2%19Chrysler200$25,106$17,517$7,589-30.2%20BuickLaCrosse$38,120$26,690$11,430-30.0%

As you can see, the pseudo-luxury cars from Lincoln and Cadillac make up almost a third of the list. Add the Buick brand to our count and the two Detroit automakers account for nearly half of the list. However, there’s not a single Ford or Chevrolet to be found. In fact, Chevrolet holds down the spot for the best resale value with its celebrated mid-sized truck, the Colorado.

So why do the Lincolns and Cadillacs tank so hard? Simple — they don’t have a brand anymore. They’re just a trim level, seen as a Titanium Plus of sorts. And as we discussed moments ago, trim levels and options don’t hold their value. It doesn’t help that Lincolns and Cadillacs are often sold side-by-side with Ford and Chevrolet counterparts, especially in flyover country. It’s borderline impossible to look at a last-generation Lincoln MKZ and not just see an uglier, gussied-up Fusion. Who’s paying $54,000 for an XTS when the Impala LTZ is $20,000 less? And while that doesn’t necessarily explain why the ATS and CTS are so high on the list, there’s no doubt a Chevrolet version of the ATS would probably do better. (I think they call it the Camaro.)

So why not just take the idea to its logical conclusion? Instead of having an MKX, why not just call it the Ford Edge by Lincoln? I mean, have you tried to buy a used Ford Edge? They’re stratospheric on the used market. Putting the Blue Oval on the MKX (and the MKZ, and any other MK you want) would actually improve its resale value, which would slow or even prevent its eventual trip to your local Buy Here Pay Here. And instead of everybody being shocked by how much value a Cadillac or Lincoln loses in its first year, we’d all just accept it as a higher trim level that lost some of its value, much like any other top trim.

Furthermore, you could extend it to the trucks and performance cars. The Ford F-150 by Lincoln would be completely badass. You can’t tell me that millionaire ranchers wouldn’t buy them. A Blackwood or Mark LT is a joke. An F-150 with wood trim and a premium sound system would sell for $80,000, all-day long. How about a Camaro coupe and sedan by Cadillac? Or a Corvette by Cadillac? (No, the XLR wasn’t the same thing.) And we’ve all been clamoring for a Lincoln Mustang, so why not a Shelby by Lincoln with 550 horsepower and the best interior money can buy?

In fact, the only reason I can think of for not doing it is to prevent the Cadillac and Lincoln names from sullying the brands of Ford and Chevrolet. But placing the Oval or the Bowtie on the upscale models might actually bring back some of the panache they’re missing now. It would also keep them from losing so much of their initial resale values, which would help GM and Ford justify a higher selling price on the front end.

Ford by Lincoln. Chevrolet by Cadillac. It’s got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
Mark "Bark M." Baruth

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  • Zackman Zackman on Oct 18, 2016

    Hmmm... Might as well price as follows, based on current Impala: Chevrolet Biscayne - Base trim, all-black grille. Fleet grade. Chevrolet Bel Air - Chrome surround on all-black grille. Rental grade. Chevrolet Impala - Chrome door handles and all-chrome grille. Better rental. Chevrolet Cadillac - Chrome everything. Aspirational rental. Same scenario for Ford if using the so-called "Taurus" as a base. I say "so-called" because that car SHOULD BE A GALAXIE! Chrysler? Who cares?

  • Boomstick0 Boomstick0 on Oct 19, 2016

    As far as Lincoln, I largely agree. They have been rebadged Fords for years. The new Continental looks to finally change that, but it may simply be an exception. As far as Cadillac, this couldn't possibly be any more off the mark.

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
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  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.