GM Leads Ford in Luxury as Cadillac Outpaces Lincoln
The luxury sector is hotly contested, with BMW and Mercedes ensconced as market leaders. Polk estimated that aggressive product introductions will drive Cadillac's share of the U.S. light vehicle market from 1.2% in the first six months of 2012 to 1.3% in 2013 and 1.4% by 2015. In 2015, BMW will have 2.4% of the market, Mercedes-Benz will have 2.1%, and Lexus will have 2%. Lincoln, which had a 0.7% share in the first six months of 2012, will have 0.9% in 2015, the firm estimated.
Independent automotive analyst John Wolkonowicz said that Cadillac moved more quickly than Lincoln to remake itself and that it has succeeded in creating a strong brand identity.
"Cadillac made an investment in reinvigorating the brand sooner than Lincoln did and in a more costly and more effective manner," Wolkonowicz said. "No other car looks like a modern Cadillac, which has a hard edge look that is very contemporary and very distinctive. MKZ has not done that."
Moreover, while Lincoln is widely considered to be a beneficiary of Ford CEO Alan Mulally' s OneFord plan, Wolkonowicz said the plan has a downside in that "Lincoln is somewhat limited in what it can accomplish in terms of a unique platform because Lincolns are built from Ford platforms, and that means front-wheel drive architecture."
BMW and Mercedes, the leaders of the luxury segment, both generally offer rear-wheel drive, although BMW will introduce its first front-wheel drive vehicle this fall at the 2012 Paris Auto Show and Mercedes has said it will introduce a compact sedan with front-wheel drive in the U.S. market.
"A rear-wheel drive platform provides different proportions," Wolkonowicz said. "The dash to axle dimension is long and the front overhang is short. I don't think the average consumer can articulate that, but BMW and Mercedes have looks provided by rear-wheel drive proportions. The Lincoln has the proportions of the Ford Fusion, from whence it came."
Wolkonowicz said it may be that while Lincoln proclaims it is targeting BMW and Mercedes, the natural targets in the luxury sector, its real target may be Buick, which is "basically a front-wheel drive brand and is above the mainstream, but is not full luxury."
Merkle said Lincoln is comfortable with front-wheel drive architecture. "The styling and the proportions of the 2013 MKZ speak for themselves," he said. "We feel very confident about the car, given the positive reaction that we've gotten." All-wheel drive is available as an option, he noted.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.