If car buyer brand performance is any measure of the success of a nameplate, Cadillac and Lincoln still have a long uphill battle against foreign competition. Brand weakness is yet another hurdle each has to overcome in their long-shot bids to gain sales and market share in the luxury sector.
New Truecar data that measure brand performance across eight yardsticks, which include customer loyalty, incentive prices and market share change, show that Lexus is at the top of the list among all brands. The division of Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) has had sales in the United States slip compared to BMW and Mercedes. That is partly the result of shuttered factories in Japan due to the earthquake there. Lexus usually ranks near the top of measures of quality perception made by firms such as J.D. Power.
In third place, behind Land Rover, is BMW, which has vied with Mercedes for the past two years to win the sales crown in the United States. Mercedes is in ninth place, tied with Porsche.
Lincoln is in 17th place and Cadillac is in 23rd place. That puts both behind even mostly mid- and low-price brands, which include Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen.
The next significant information on the health of Cadillac and Lincoln will be the sales performance in 2013 of new models, particularly against larger competitors based on sales. For Cadillac, these are the ATS and XTS. For Lincoln, it is the MKS. Cadillac has the larger model line compared to Lincoln by far. But there is no evidence yet that Cadillac’s models can compete with similar models in the BWM, Mercedes and Lexus lines. If Cadillac and Lincoln stumble early, they likely will have lost another year.
Cadillac’s parent, General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), and Lincoln’s parent, Ford, cannot give up on the luxury market. A luxury brand is necessary to make the offers of the world’s largest car manufacturers complete. But completeness does not translate into success. Cadillac and Lincoln have shown they have no chance to compete with the world-class models in the sector.
Douglas A. McIntyre