QOTD: What's the Least Premium 'Premium' Brand?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd whats the least premium 8216 premium brand

Premium. Is there a more alluring and misunderstood word in the world of vehicle branding? Occupying the rung just below “luxury,” — a category it’s often mistaken for, as language is malleable — premium concerns itself with value. Higher price, (presumed) higher quality, and, most importantly, a higher level of desirable content. All of these things give a premium product value. And there’s value in being seen in a premium vehicle, too, though maybe not as much as a true luxury vehicle.

Rolling up to the club in a Genesis G80, only to find yourself surrounded by Bentleys, Rollers, and Ferraris, would fill anyone with pangs of self-doubt. You’re not likely to impress anyone in that bathroom lineup with talk of the safety suite and ventilated leather you got for $10k less than the Germans.

As brand experts will tell you, luxury is more about the brand name (and what it brings to the table) than the functionality of the product. It’s about wants, not needs. With premium gear, buyers are looking to score themselves the trappings and quality everyone desires, only at a reduced price. There’s the value argument again.

With a solid tier of premium brands seeking your attention — a field Mazda apparently hopes to join — which premium automotive brand fails the hardest at actually being premium?

There’s numerous elements to consider, but the biggies are price, content, and cachet. Some brands have all three (it’ll vary depending on which model you’re looking at), others come up short.

Maybe the features you crave are only attainable after inflating the vehicle’s MSRP by that of a subcompact car; perhaps the brand itself, despite offering decent content for a competitive price, has seen some of its lustre rub off in past years.

It can be argued that Lincoln and Cadillac, once shiny beacons of luxury motoring, as well as brands everyone wanted to be associated with, now reside in the premium class. Confusingly, Cadillac offers a Premium Luxury trim. Mmm … okay. For the sake of this exercise, these two shall be deemed premium, joining the likes of Acura, Lexus, Infiniti, Buick (yes, Buick), GMC, Genesis, Alfa Romeo, and whatever other brand you feel deserves the label. Maybe Mazda exists on your list. Hey, newcomers are allowed; it’s up to the automaker to prove its premium worthiness, and it’s the consumer’s privilege to throw the label back in the OEM’s face.

As you’ve got no shortage of brands, models, trims, and packages at your disposal here, I won’t pollute the conversation with my own choices. There’s plenty of argument fodder here already.

So, have at it, B&B. Which premium brand does the worst job at being a “premium” automaker?

[Image: Acura]

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7 of 141 comments
  • EBFlex EBFlex on Jan 30, 2019

    Lincoln. It’s an insult to real “luxury” or “premium” brands. Although Lincoln is more of a trim level on a Ford.....not necessarily their own brand...

    • See 4 previous
    • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Jan 30, 2019

      @Art Vandelay If they'd announced they were going to make only 80 Acura NSXs, they'd have sold out in an hour for a million dollars a piece.

  • Jfk-usaf Jfk-usaf on Jan 30, 2019

    Making Lincoln a Ford trim level might not be a bad idea and might save them some money. Buick is not a premium brand. I believe that its purpose is for BM... I mean GM to have a step up name between Chevy and Cadillac. Want proof of who's premium? Go down to your local CarMX delear where they let you wander around without adult supervision and sit in a few cars. To me a premium brand is more than just name recognition and marketing. Its more than just initial quality. Its how their products are designed and how they hold up over time. Its how they excel performance wise within their segments. You sit in a Mercedes thats a few years old and then go sit in a Chrysler 300 or Buick LeSabre and you see and feel the difference between what is premium and what disintigrates into a pile of garbage in a few short years.

  • Dukeisduke "...some owners have to pay through the nose to tow their cars hundreds of miles to the nearest service center."Wow, that sounds like a plan.
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  • Corey Lewis The front end looks much better than current, but they lost me at the back with that black basket weave trim.
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