Decades have passed since Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) Lincoln and General Motors Co.’s (NYSE: GM) Cadillac were in demand among luxury car buyers. That has not changed as COVID-19 has blunted car sales, though they have started to recover. As people recently considered what luxury cars they might buy, the two U.S. brands fell well down the list, far behind the market leaders made by German and Japanese manufacturers. Nothing the two American car companies have tried has made them consumer favorites for a very long time.
Kelley Blue Book’s Brand Watch Report for the second quarter of 2020 included results for what it calls brand “consideration.” Buyers considered buying BMWs ahead of other luxury brands, with 24% of shoppers preferring it in the survey. It was followed by Audi (owned by Volkswagen) at 21%, Lexus (the luxury brand of Toyota) at 18%, Tesla at 16%, Mercedes at 15% and Acura (Honda) at 12%, the same as Cadillac. Lincoln posted a figure of only 7%.
Lincoln and Cadillac did not show up at all among the top three brands based on what Kelley Blue Book says are the 12 most important considerations when people shop for luxury cars. These are durability, safety, driver comfort, driving performance, technology, interior layout, reputation, affordability, exterior styling, fuel efficiency, prestige/sophistication and ruggedness.
Notably, the fact that a luxury manufacturer has updated or added a new model was, in some cases, important. This was the case with the BMW 5 series, which recently got a facelift, according to Kelley Blue Book.
The study did not say why Lincoln and Cadillac did so poorly. They often rank well on studies of quality. Yet, they still are often bought by older buyers, a shrinking group. Each also has a small model line compared to the industry leaders. BMW has 16 models and a performance car lineup. Lincoln has six models.
It has never been quite clear why Cadillac and Lincoln, once the category leaders, were buried by brands from Germany and Japan. They may have become less well built than at one time. They may have had been left behind in performance and style. Whatever the reasons, they have not just fallen behind. The competition is so weighted against them that there is no reason to believe they will ever catch up.