By on August 19, 2019

Image: Ford

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.”

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

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.

Image: GM

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.

Image: Lincoln

“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.

Image: Lincoln

[Images: Ford Motor Co; General Motors]

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50 Comments on “With Its Purpose-built Comeback Car, Lincoln Aims to Dethrone Cadillac...”

  • avatar

    How hard it must be to dethrone pimped-up Chevy?

  • avatar

    Lincoln has finally nailed the exterior design direction that it wants to go and the interiors are superb and far beyond what Cadihack has been offering. Now with the right products and a consistent approach to its vehicles, Cadihack had better watch out. None of the new Cadihacks is compelling and is simply boring to look at. Sure you can spend lots of money to get a performance model, but you can’t undo bland exteriors and interiors that would have barely worked for Kia a decade ago. The interiors on the entire line of Cadihacks is subpar to every vehicle that says it is a luxury one. Heck, even Hyundai and Kia’s interiors are better looking and more luxurious in their latest 3 row SUV’s than Cadihacks.

    • 0 avatar

      I see at least 10 Cadillac’s on the road for 1 Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar

      Lincoln won’t compete with anyone without performance sedans. Lincoln’s look good, but their performance is lacking in every area. Does Lincoln want to go back to 70s barges that cannot turn worth a damn.

      • 0 avatar

        “Does Lincoln want to go back to 70s barges that cannot turn worth a damn.”

        I don’t know if Lincoln wants that, but the people actually buying new vehicles sure seem to be fine with it.

      • 0 avatar

        EVERYBODY who has tried to go after BMW and Audi with performance sedans has foundered, if not outright failed.

        the cluelessness of the automotive enthusiast has no limit.

        • 0 avatar

          Do you think Rudolf Uhlenhaut would recognize today’s AMG-EVERYTHING! Mercedes-Benz? As someone who has had four Audis, what are they sportier than? I had two that were powerful, but all luxury cars were traditionally powerful. I had one that could go around corners, but it was a limited production model. None of them were overtly sporty. Mercedes-Benz probably sells a higher percentage of AMG badged cars than Audi does S or RS cars. Adding power to an Audi just reveals its handling weaknesses more greatly.

          When it comes to BMW, they have traded handling for gadgetry and coarse engines that are about numbers. They’re basically where Detroit was in 1958.

  • avatar

    The Continental concept tied everything Lincoln had been trying to do together, and the more recent product introductions followed pretty naturally from it. They’re converging on a nice mix of quiet, big power, American-style chrome, and well-equipped, unusually rectilinear interiors. It’s something very different from the import brands.

    Meanwhile, Cadillac feels a bit lost. Its strategy of turning into the BMW of the 2000s didn’t work, because nobody actually wanted what BMW used to sell, they just wanted the badge. (That’s why BMW itself isn’t BMW anymore either.) Now the Cadillacs that are coming out have the feel of “a product, any product, just so we have something in the dealers.” Profits mostly seem to derive from the Escalade, which is the most cynical thing any luxury maker sells. I don’t understand where the brand is trying to go.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, you can understand why they’re a bit lost — they built world-class cars (at least from a handling/ride perspective) and nobody cared. That was a gigantic investment. But GM is soon realizing what Chrysler already has. People will buy American cars no matter how terrible they are, as long as they’re flashy and discounted.

      The Continental, btw, has been a tremendous flop. Lincoln is only going to emerge from the basement of luxury car sales with flashy SUVs. It’ll probably work well for them.

    • 0 avatar

      They also have the lousy handling to match.

  • avatar

    Saw a new Lincoln Continental on display at Costco the other day. It was painted Geriatric Maroon or whatever, but it was still a nice enough looking car that I stopped to take a closer look.

    I don’t think a Lincoln has turned my head since the Mark VII. So something must have changed. (Hopefully it’s not just me getting older.)

  • avatar

    do they at least share the same body-in-white? im guessing yes, which still means every outside panel can be different.

  • avatar

    I’m finding for the first time in my life (80s kid), Lincoln’s are catching my eye for true luxury presence. Sitting inside is also quite impressive.

    2 things here
    – why the heck would you need to ship from Chicago to Flat Rock for quality inspection? Highly odd.
    – I hope and expect that Ford and GM realize that while they are competitors that there is an entire world they’re competing against. This isn’t 1960.

    Lincoln is doing it right while Cadillac is sliding. Luxury brands is all aspiration and feeling special. The new Lincoln’s are and continue getting better. Cadillac is going backwards.

  • avatar

    Quit saying bad things about Cadillac. They are having a hard enough time what with their overpriced mess of CUVs and SUVs and only one decent offering, and that being a Chevy truck. And China is teetering on recession- try to think of something nice to say about them or they may soon be gone. Actually applies just as much to Buick.

  • avatar

    While Lincoln is coming to market with a fully fleshed out set of trims and powertrains for each model, Cadillac comes out with less, and then, as if to acknowledge that they are lacking, mumble something about other engine options in the future. Look at the recent V sedan introduction. They made a special presentation of them, and then had to scramble to announce higher power versions. Did they really think they’d get away with calling those cars V’s? Did they really plan higher power versions, and if so, why not make them part of the overall presentation?? Hot mess, Cadillac.

  • avatar

    You’d think that Cadihack would have learned from Lincoln’s failure with alphanumeric names for products. I guess they are insane expecting different results. Sadly, the naming issue is not Cadihack’s worst problem – that centers around how indifferent they are about everything that is not an engine or suspension. Who wants to be caught dead in something so bland and tired? Even the pimpness of their Escalator is now wearing off. What will the Escalator be renamed to be? ROFL.

    • 0 avatar

      What good are Lincoln’s fine engines if the handling of their vehicles are so poor. Even some reviewers say current Lincolns don’t do well in sharp turns. I don’t want to drive that way.

      I wager a Navigator turns no better than a 1980 Town car.

  • avatar

    Both Cadillac and Lincoln have shot themselves in the foot so badly over the years that I’m surprised either are still in business, but from this point forward I think Lincoln is finally on the road to recovery and will overtake Cadillac in the coming years

    • 0 avatar

      Neither should still be in business. At one time in automotive history Cadillac and Lincoln presented the buying public with really unique, limited edition, super high quality cars. A sight to behold. A symphony on wheels.

      These days both Cadillac and Lincoln present the buying public with blinged-out, gussied-up, over-priced clones of their bread&butter line vehicles.

      Take as an example the 1958 Lincoln Continental. What a beautifully styled, and unique car! I bought my wife a 1992 Towncar because she liked the styling. Gone are those days of styling and design.

      But these days, what do either of these vaunted brands offer a connoisseur of luxury cars? Nada! Bupkis. Zip.

      OTOH, if you need cheap, leased transportation, that’s a cut above the mediocrity of today’s auto industry, it is hard to beat the 0-0-0 lease deals that pop up ever so often on unsold Cadillac and Lincoln dealer inventory.

      A driver can put with most anything for 36 months.

    • 0 avatar

      I think they’re both on the road to recovery, but they have both chosen very different paths. Cadillac chose to chase the Germans. To their credit, they have made admirable strides in this endeavor (they even developed the LMP race car!), but their fruits have been inconsistent, and mediocre offerings such as the handsome ELR were left to rot on the vine instead of being nurtured into truly quality products. Nobody said chasing the Germans would be easy.

      When Lincoln first started their turn-around, I used to chide them for trying to be a sort of Andy Worhol of the automotive industry; but I’ll be a darned sock if they haven’t actually darn near pulled it off. Holding on to the little things they did right when they did everything else wrong, like matching base-model pricing on both regular and hybrid vehicles, and continuously improving their latest offerings starting from the Max Wolff era Z, not quite there as a quality car but about 80% there, the MKC – about 85% there, the Continental – 90%, the Navigator – 95%, to the Aviator which looks like a solid home-run from practically every angle – even Top Gear likes it.

      So long as both companies stay their respective courses, listen to their customers, and don’t succumb to corporate bean-counters like they have in the past, they’ll both have a lot to offer the world in the future.

      • 0 avatar

        Cadillac wasted decades trying to make fake German fake Luxo-Chevys.
        They will waste their REMAINING decades? years? trying to sell mobile toasters.
        But at least they did the LIMP race car, at least they did THAT.

  • avatar

    I saw a new Lincoln (still haven’t got the names correct) ahead of me on the freeway entrance. (It was grey, which I think all of those types are). I didn’t really see it well, because I was driving my Toyota Corolla and this thing when we got on the freeway went REALLY fast to the left to get in the lane for I-80, I’m guessing to the Airport. It was pretty good looking and better than any kinda Cadillac I’ve seen lately.

  • avatar

    As much I do not like Ford Escape and other CUVs I actually like Lincoln Corsair and can imagine owning one. But still need to see it in flesh.

    The problem for Lincoln might be the dealer experience. E.g. do they provide new Lincolns as a loaners in case of e.g. warranty repair? Subaru does for unlimited period of time which may extend up to 1 month (from personal experience, more than 1 month you can file lemon lawsuit), while Ford does not even for few days.

    • 0 avatar

      Both Lincoln and Cadillac give you a Lincoln for a Lincoln and a Cadillac for a Cadillac when yours is in the shop. So they are doing at least that much correct. But here are what my experiences have been with both:

      Cadillac – i had an 09 CTS for a year and had a loaner SIX times. During those times i discovered if you put a charging cell phone on the passenger seat, the car would throw an airbag error warning. I experienced that multiple times in brand new CTS and XTS models. I also had an ATS with 600 miles on the clock go into limp mode and then completely die, needing a tow on my way home from work. The dealership in question had me ride back to the dealership in the tow truck to get a new loaner and said something along the lines of “sometimes you just have to deal with this sort of stuff” when i complained about the situation. That was the last straw and I traded the Cadillac in for a Lincoln within a week of that happening. I dealt with 2 different dealerships during my ownership and I’d give them a solid D. There’s nothing luxury about how i was treated, which is a shame since i enjoyed the cars when they worked.

      Lincoln: i currently have 12 MKZ. It’s nowhere near a $40k car or whatever it was new, but they are depreciation kings so it makes a great commuter. The dealership i got it from won’t make another cent off me, they nickel and dimed me on stupid crap and flat out lied about covering certain expenses during the sale of the vehicle. I’m using another dealership now that has actually been pretty good to me and i feel they are honest when i go in for service. The ding they get is that the loaners i get from them don’t come from the dealership, but from the Enterprise down the street. So i have to get shuttled back and forth to pick up and drop off my car. That also means they depend on rental cars to represent their brand when owners come in for service, which is spotty. Again, you get nickel and dimed with things like fuel level and the navigator i had once had clearly just come off a long road trip and needed to be cleaned up. I will give them credit in offering the navigator when i asked what i could take – i doubt Cadillac would’ve let me take an Escalade. I’d give Lincoln a B on account of the shady dealership dragging them down and the rental cars for loaners.

      Overall, i thought Cadillac was going the right direction from about 2003 – 2013ish. They stumbled with the last gen CTS and lost the plot with when Johan de whatever took over. They’re sacrificing their unique and recognizable styling can’t seem to stay the course long enough to price they have basically caught the Germans in terms of performance. If they could’ve gotten the interiors a bit nicer i think they would’ve been sitting pretty good around 2010-2013.

      Lincoln, on the other hand, is continually improving and seem to understand they can’t right the ship in a single product cycle. While the styling language hasn’t been especially consistent, they’re figuring out the interiors and have realized you don’t need to be able to put down a 9 minute lap at the ‘ring in your luxury sedan or crossover. Their cars are comfortable and mostly good looking with some decent usable performance on the road.

  • avatar

    I looked at the Caddy and the Lincoln and they were both nice but then I looked and drove the Hyundia Palisade Limited. I ended up buying the Palisade and got a better equipped vehicle and saved literally thousands of dollars.

    • 0 avatar

      Weird because everyone says the MKExplorer and MK Expedition are so great because they have power.

      It’s almost as if power just really isn’t that important.

  • avatar

    I think Cadillac deserves some props. For a couple of decades they have been producing distinctive cars and some very good cars. It’s tough to be “aspirational” in a country that has no “aspiration. Economic mobility is stagnant or trending down, and the landed gentry ain’t yearning for a Caddy, ain’t interested in any attempts at a new design language, and will buy the same krautmobiles they will always buy – with an occasional Jag thrown in for a touch of rakish rebellion.

    During this time Ford has produced mostly mediocrity, assembled with offhand sloppiness. Lincoln has been dormant. This boring – no scratch that – good taste – SUV is mediocrity covered in leather. and in my opinion, isn’t worthy of much praise. Comfortable mediocrity may sell but who cares – certainly not me, and probably not Ford. Lincoln will eventually die from boredom, the only surprise is that it still exists.

    • 0 avatar

      Cadillac had a good thing going with the 1G and 2G CTS, but they were never able to build on things while those were in production and the later dual-prong approach of the ATS/3G CTS was nuclear-level stupid. The upcoming CT4 and CT5 don’t look especially promising either.

  • avatar

    “Last year in the United States, GM shipped 154,702 premium-badged cars to Ford’s 103,587.”

    Are we just talking about cars, or are we including CUVs and SUVs? Those numbers are pretty jarring. Cadillac once sold 234,171 de Villes in 1977. They had no trucks to offer, but they also sold a meaningful number of Eldorados, Fleetwoods and Sevilles that year in a market about 2/3rds the size of today’s. Just holding market share would have meant selling around half a million vehicles now.

    They essentially had three models in 1977, although one of them was available in multiple body styles. Sevilles came one way. Eldorados came one way in 1977, the convertible having been killed after 1976. The de Ville/Fleetwood hardtop bodies were dead, so really it was just two doors or four doors. They all rode the same wheelbase and were the same length for 1977. Compare that to the number of models and platforms it takes for them to slightly outsell the 1977 Coupe de Ville(138,750) today. It’s no wonder Americans don’t like Cadillacs. They’re made for the Chinese who don’t have much in common with us when it comes to automotive heritage or driving conditions once you escape Blue dystopias.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t necessarily hold up the Cadillac of 1977 as an exemplar of a division that was succeeding. The high sales numbers of the ’70s reflected the fact that management, starting in the mid-’60s and worsening into the ’70s, had decided to cash in on the brand’s cachet and move as much iron as possible. Sales numbers went up; quality, prestige, and resale values went down.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s what the Germans have been doing for almost thirty years. Those 1977 Cadillacs were the last universally well-received American luxury cars. The buff books respected them, and the market loved them. There were European reviewers who said they didn’t know why anyone would drive an imported luxury car in the US when you could have such a serene, cossetting and powerful car for twelve grand. It’s certainly true that the interiors were cost-cut and taste was questionable, but auto-making is supposed to be a business instead of an instrument for social engineering. 1977 Cadillacs printed money, and the buyers came back to have their loyalty rewarded by Olds diesel engines, comically styled Sevilles, V8-6-4s, HT-4100s and Northstars. You can’t blame the 1977 de Ville for Cadillac selling 150,000 vehicles a year in the US today.

        • 0 avatar

          “That’s what the Germans have been doing for almost thirty years.”

          I almost added a 2nd “grain of salt” paragraph which would have agreed with your reply. The phenomena we cite aren’t mutually exclusive. Also, leasing vs selling is the big X-factor in the BMW-Mercedes market shift.

          Interesting aside: Up until recently, there were two very elderly people in my building who had a ’76-’79 Seville. Never having fallen into the hands of neglectful 2nd/3rd/4th owners, it was in nice shape 40 years on. Of all of Cadillac’s missteps, I DON’T think that car was one of them. Per your remark, the next Seville failed to build on that success.

          • 0 avatar

            The Mustang and MKIII taught Ford that there was no reason to make excellent cars. Buyers responded to styling and marketing instead of technology, performance, or quality. GM learned that lesson with the Oldsmobile-engined, Nova-chassis-based, Veblen-good that was the first Seville. The second Seville had the potential to be worth its price, but the own-goal styling and efforts to comply with CAFE made it the butt of jokes instead. At least it had independent suspension and refinement that went beyond adding hundreds of pounds of dead weight to damp ride movements and road noise.

  • avatar

    If the MKExplorer is the best of the Lincoln’s DNA (whatever that nonsensical corporate speak means) then there really isn’t much hope for Lincoln.

    A generic and sometimes sloppy exterior coupled with a poorly designed interior is not a recipe for success. Much like with the Ranger, the only thing it has going for it is the engines but at that price point a V8 is a must. A high strung, gas guzzling 6 cylinder isn’t good.

  • avatar

    As a current owner of classic Cadillacs and Lincoln’s. Both brands have there strengths and weaknesses. Not one is better at everything.

    The last awesome and most impressive Lincoln’s of all time were the 79 Mark V and Continental Town Cars. After 1980, they were still good cars, just not as impressive or that nice. The 80’s-90’s Town Cars definitely don’t ride as smooth as the 70’s Lincoln’s which are very solid, isolated feeling, kinda floaty, and extremely quiet riding cars, while Cadillacs weren’t as isolated or quiet.

    70’s Lincoln’s definitely ride better than any similar year Cadillac, I know since I’ve owned some

    The last great true Cadillac of Cadillacs were the 92 Broughams. It’s traditional styling never looks bland or boring like what came afterwards.

    My 87 Brougham is a “real” Cadillac IMO, every newer Cad I’ve been in or drove, felt so generic and cheap. At the least those Broughams still had real stainless trim, chrome trim on many parts of the car. It’s build quality is really good for being built in the 80’s when the majority of cars were crap. They were a gold mine for the brand since it literally was the same car since 1977 with just different drivetrains over the years.

    Lincoln’s greatest decade was the 60’s, and the 50’s-60’s for Cadillacs when it came to overall high build quality, styling, performance, innovation, and when their cars actual stood out and made statements.

    Currently Lincoln has finally woken up and realized being unique and American has upsides and the German domination in luxury field is played out, sportiness doesn’t work for a American luxury marque. Leave the rough riding, quick handling BMW’s to BMW.

    Sometimes I feel like none of the executives at Cadillac have any common sense. If the press, consumers are praising the name changes that Lincoln has done, maybe Cadillac should rethink their stupid marketing strategy and vehicle names. It’s working for Lincoln and thank God they aren’t ashamed of being who they are and what they once were, cars that were silent on the road, and drove so smoothly over the worst roads conditions. Classy and stylish.

  • avatar

    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…

  • avatar

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

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