With Its Purpose-built Comeback Car, Lincoln Aims to Dethrone Cadillac

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
with its purpose built comeback car lincoln aims to dethrone cadillac

We’re not going to sugarcoat it — Cadillac routinely bests Lincoln in terms of sales. General Motors’ luxury marque constantly carves out a larger portion of the domestic market and has managed to make global inroads Ford’s premium division has not. For example, Cadillac saw 228,043 deliveries in the People’s Republic of China last year. Lincoln only saw 55,315.

However, the race at home is much closer. Last year in the United States, GM shipped 154,702 premium-badged cars to Ford’s 103,587. But Cadillac has been losing ground in North America while Lincoln has remained comparatively stable, slowly rebuilding its strength. Cadillac may still outsell Lincoln overall, but the gap is beginning to narrow.

According to Automotive News, this could set the stage for a comeback.

“Lincoln was not effectively competing with Cadillac in most ways a short time ago … but they’ve changed everything from the naming strategy to the styling strategy, and I think it’s completely worked,” Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, told the outlet this week. “Now it’s a much more interesting battle between the two brands.”

In addition to moving away from alphanumeric naming (take the hint, Cadillac), modern designs are less reminiscent of mainstream Ford models. The 2020 Aviator is a prime example. It’s tastefully styled, powerful for the segment, comes with a bevy of tech-related inclusions, will be offered with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option, and hides its ties to the Ford Explorer rather well.

By contrast, the Cadillac XT6 is much more reminiscent of the Chevrolet Traverse. It also has a less powerful engine than the Lincoln, lacks a hybrid or plug-in option, comes with front-wheel drive as standard (vs the Aviator’s RWD) and boasts a higher base MSRP.

Both crossovers went on sale within a month of each other this summer — leaving us to wonder how Cadillac’s long-term strategy of gently copying the Germans will play out. Lincoln is seeking cohesion, hoping to offer quiet luxury and heaps more than you get from Ford as standard. Cadillac is offering… something else. This could simply be because Lincoln is the hungrier brand and knows it’ll have to outshine Caddy to steal some of its market share.

From Automotive News:

Lincoln executives acknowledge much is riding on the Aviator. President Joy Falotico said it could become the brand’s bestselling U.S. nameplate, a title held by the smaller Nautilus crossover.

Lincoln officials have called the Aviator’s new name and design the “very best” of the brand’s DNA, and designers and engineers took care to differentiate it from the Ford Explorer, which is built on the same platform and assembly line.

Development teams for the vehicles worked in separate rooms and were not allowed to talk to each other, which has become common as Lincoln tries to prove its vehicles are more than rebadged Fords.

“I really do believe this is an inflection point for the brand,” Michael Sprague, Lincoln’s North American director of marketing, said a couple months back. “Over time, [with] vehicles like the Aviator and Corsair, we’re going to see more and more people discover this brand or come back to this brand. This is really going to put Lincoln back on the map.”

Ford is also aware that Aviator sales could cannibalize Navigator or Nautilus volume, but says it wasn’t worried. The manufacturer’s stated goal is to produce the best possible vehicle to bring in interested parties. Rebuilding Lincoln’s customer base remains the chief concern and that means maximizing satisfaction. To that end, the automaker said it will send some Aviators from the newly retooled Chicago Assembly Plant to one in Flat Rock, MI, for additional quality inspections.

[Images: Ford Motor Co; General Motors]

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  • Pb35 Pb35 on Aug 21, 2019

    I purchased a new Cadillac just about a year ago (CTS-V) and I think it's a wonderful car that makes me smile every time I push the start button. However, if I had to pick a vehicle to replace my wife's aging, 12 year old XC90 I would most likely pick this Aviator over the XT6. I'm sure the 3.6 is just swell but it was a dog in the XT5 I had as a loaner earlier this year so I don't imagine it's much better in a larger vehicle. For the record, my CTS has only been in for service once this past year for a loose ground cable that threw a check engine light. Otherwise, it's rock solid. Get one of these while you can, kids. Oh and in about 3 weeks GM is sending me to the V Performance Academy at Spring Mountain as part of my purchase where all my cares will melt away...

  • Deanst Deanst on Aug 22, 2019

    “V Performance Academy”? The name alone is cringe-inducing......

  • CoastieLenn So the Camaro is getting the axe, the Challenger is belly up, the Charger is also fading out of existence. Maaaaan Michigan better have a game plan on how to inject some soul back into the American carscape. The Mustang and Corvette can't do it on their own. Dark times we're living in, bro's. How long do you think it'll be before the US starts to backpedal on our EV mandates now that the EU has rolled back their ICE bans with synthetic fuel usage?
  • Duke Woolworth We have old school Chevrolet Bolts, only feasible to charge at home because they are so slow. Travel? Fly or rent luxury.
  • Styles I had a PHEV, and used to charge at home on a standard 3-pin plug (240v is standard here in NZ). As my vehicle is a company car I could claim the expense. Now we are between houses and living at the in-laws, and I'm driving a BEV, I'm charging either at work (we have a wall-box, and I'm the only one with an EV), or occasionally at Chargenet stations, again, paid by my employer.
  • Dwford 100% charge at home.
  • El scotto Another year the Nissan Rogue is safe.