QOTD: Will Cadillac and Lincoln Regain Top-Tier Luxury Brand Status In Your Lifetime?
Cadillac enjoys some of the highest average transaction prices among premium auto brands operating in the United States. After years of Lincoln MKS disappointment, the new Lincoln Continental actually looks the part. Globally, Cadillac sales are rising month after month after month. In the U.S., Lincoln is rare among auto brands in a declining auto industry in 2017: sales at Ford’s upmarket brand have risen 3 percent this year.
Indeed, while discussing the apparent appeal of the Tesla brand last week, Jack Baruth said, “You might say that General Motors and Ford are going to build better, more reliable, and more thoroughly developed electric cars than Tesla can, and you’re probably right.”
“But the world doesn’t want an electric Cadillac or Lincoln,” Jack accurately points out, “for the same reasons it doesn’t want gasoline-powered Cadillacs or Lincolns.”
Regardless of how you grade the momentum of Cadillac and Lincoln, they are mere blips in the global luxury automobile market and remain rather inconsequential players in their U.S. home market, as well. Will that change in your lifetime?
Ever notice how the 20 compliments your spouse paid you over the last week are cancelled out by the one cutting remark on a Monday morning on your way out to work? In a moment of Monday maturity, you’re able to overlook the sharp insult, but it stays with you far longer than any positive comment.
Cadillac and Lincoln had their fair share of outstanding vehicles, from the ’46 Sixty Special and the ’57 DeVille to the ’37 Zephyr and ’61 Continental convertible. They were symbols of success, emblems of elegant excess, cars of a high caliber.
The mystique of domestic luxury was lost, however, not only by one harsh barb but by successive generations of Cadillacs and Lincolns that failed to compete with a European and then Japanese incursion.
Cadillacs that displayed the proper on-road behavior lacked the requisite premium interiors. Lincolns that possessed proper exterior treatment failed to measure up to expected reliability standards. Cadillacs that produced Nürburgring-mastering performance looked comically edgy. Lincolns failed to convince buyers that luxurious equipment levels counteracted obvious connections with regular Blue Oval machinery.
Cadillac and Lincoln are both building better cars, arguably perfectly competitive cars, evidently eye-catching cars. But does it matter?
Not now, not yet. Cadillac and Lincoln can’t undo the damage of decades in short order. In the minds of consumers in the duo’s own home market, the obvious premium vehicle choices reside in the showrooms of Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, BMW, and Audi. Cadillac and Lincoln simply don’t provide the same status.
Will they ever?
[Images: General Motors, Ford Motor Company]
Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.
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Never say never. Thing with Germans is that despite their obvious superiority in the end they have some real fatal flaw that undoes them. German army and weapons were considered superior and unstoppable. We all know how that ended. Japan also was expected to take over world just like China today and where are they now? Most of 2000s I worked on developing midware for mobile phones. Early 2000s America was considered to be far behind in that area. Europeans invented GSM, America was behind with CDMA networks. Nokia ruled the world and made premium phones. i-mode dominated not only Japan but also Europe and rest of the world. Everyone was studying Symbian (sh*tty British PDA/mobile OS). Nobody took rumors that Apple considering making mobile phones seriously. And then suddenly one day everything changed. When we finished our product for i-mode it became obsolete and i-mide was dead. And where is Nokia today? Europeans and Japanese became irrelevant. CDMA won and Europeans were always one generation behind because they had to redo all their network which was not designed for CDMA. So things may and will change in the ways you would never expect, you know. Especially when Silicon valley is taken into equation.
The thing that many other posters here have danced around is this: For Cadillac and Lincoln to make a go of it, they need the other brands in the stable to agree to play nice and agree to cede the top of the market to its respective luxury brand. As long as you can get a Chevy within spitting distance of a Cadillac in terms of cost and features, you're going to have a problem. Some of that is Cadillac needing to have more than Magnetic Ride Control, but some of that is Chevy needs to be willing to tell its customers "if you want Feature X you'll have to go to the Cadillac dealer down the street". This is especially true with Ford where there's no "middle" brand to carve out. That's the one thing about FCA... Chrysler may not ever be considered "near luxury" ever again, but the general one-or-at-most-two-brand(s)-per-segment philosophy makes that easier to do.