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By Jerry Flint
WardsAuto.com, Mar 26, 2008 10:00 AM

Commentary

The wonder of the luxury-car business is there’s so much money to be made from it.

Mercedes and BMW are making billions. I recall, a couple decades ago, that Ford’s Lincoln Town Car, alone, was earning $1 billion a year.

Ferdinand Piech is trying to move Volkswagen out of the “people’s car” business and into the “rich guy’s car” business with models such as the Phaeton; and brands such as Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti and the expansion of Audi.

Fiat wants to grow Alfa Romeo and Maserati. I suppose we’ll see a luxury version of the $2,500 Tata Nano one day.

But is there a place for Detroit in the luxury-car business? Despite the success of the Cadillac CTS, the Detroit auto makers are being whipped now, even in their home market, let alone the global luxury car business.

Last year, Cadillac ranked fourth in luxury brand sales in the U.S., behind Lexus, BMW and Mercedes. Lincoln was a distant fifth.

Chrysler is out of the luxury-car business. Does anyone even remember the Imperial, or the very classy old Chrysler models?

Ford’s luxury plant in Wixom, MI, is shuttered. Lincoln has a lineup, but the strangely named MKZ and MKX are dolled-up versions of Fords.

The Town Car will be gone soon. The question is, can a luxury division be built with gussied-up Fords? Another luxury model, the MKS, is coming soon. It’s big enough, but it only has a 6-cyl. engine. And the Lincoln MKS will be built in the same plant that builds the Ford Taurus.

There’s no question Ford wants to build up Lincoln. Most are sold in Lincoln Mercury showrooms, and the idea seems to be to phase out Mercury and build up Lincoln.

Trouble is Ford hasn’t shown any flair for luxury lately, and it is about to sell Jaguar and Land Rover.

There has been some talk of a rear-drive sedan somewhere down the road, but it’s difficult to put much faith in the talk, considering Ford’s neglect of the once hugely profitable rear-drive Town Car.

The only real domestic player seems to be General Motors and Cadillac.

But no Cadillac competes in the top end with $70,000-plus big dogs, such as the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-Series and Lexus LS.

One size down, the Cadillac STS is sinking fast against the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series, with only 21,000 sales last year, less than half BMW and Mercedes sales.

Yes, in the U.S. the CTS is competitive against smaller and midsize Mercedes, BMW and Audi models. A gorgeous coupe is coming to join the 4-door. But the larger DTS (formerly the DeVille) is fading.

The big Escalade SUV is a success, but not other models with monikers such as XLR and SRX.

There was to be a new model in a few years, a big, rear-drive car replacing both the STS and the DTS. That’s been needed for 20 years, but the way GM is ducking big, rear-drive car programs, I’m not sure it will happen.

Then there’s been talk of a smaller Cadillac, but again, it’s just talk right now.

http://wardsauto.com/commentary/can_detroit_compete/
 

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Why is Flint always so negative? Sometimes he's spot on with analysis but othertimes I want to smack him -- what gives? And to top it all off, some of his thoughts or predictions just seem off.
 

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Lexus makes luxury cars? I always thought of the lower end models like the ES as more expensive Toyotas. The LS 600 is really the only thing they have that competes with true expensive luxury cars and even that is a bland looking souless appliance AKA a disposable luxury car. I'll take a Cadillac any day over a Lexus for it's far more distinctive exterior styling and greater personality and it would seem reliability. A fellow co-worker just bought a 2007 ES last Summer and has already had the transmission replaced under warranty and the plain unprotected sides of the passionless appliance are already marked with several door dings where the bodyside molding use to be. Needless to say she is not to happy.
 

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the point of everything he writes is Detroit stinks and is getting their butts kicked by superior foreign automakers. He can change the details but his point is always the same.

He says the DTS is fading fast but provides no sales figures to support that. He mentions STS sales for last year but doesnt mention sales increasing since the 2008 model has come on line. Flint is a person who believes the sales are the only measure of competence. Instead of saying Cadillac has some good vehicles that havent gotten traction he says Cadillac must not be capable of making decent luxury cars because several models havent met sales expectations. Whats interesting is no one bothers to compare the sales of the Infiniti FX or M or Lexus GS and IS to their counterparts from MB and BMW. The truth is that the STS' sales are in the same range as the Infiniti M and Lexus GS and far better than the Acura RL. All brands are having a hard time cracking the dominance of the 5 series and E class. The same goes for competitors to the Lexus RX- Infiniti, MB and Cadillac have had little luck in slowing sales of that mode.
 

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Why is Flint always so negative? Sometimes he's spot on with analysis but othertimes I want to smack him -- what gives? And to top it all off, some of his thoughts or predictions just seem off.
Because FLINT, like the rest of the press.. wanna sell their articles... plus to be honest... he is kinda right. GM needs to simply Go BALLZ 2 the WALLZ with Cadillac and eff CAFE.. but I devised a solution that would make Cadillac Standard of the World and get it closer to the CAFE Standards... If only they would LISTEN... LOL!!!

(Alpha)

BLS 2.0LdiTurbo 300HP, 3.6LDi 330HP, 3.0LDiTT 425HP Vseries (yes there is a 3.0L V6 TT in the works for 2010)


BTC/and BTC Convert
Mild Hybrid with Li-Ion Available on all Bseries

Starting at $32K-$45K

(Theta/Epsilon)

BRX 2.0LdiTurbo 300HP, 3.6LDi 330HP

Mild Hybrid with Li-Ion Available on all Bseries

Starting at $32K-$45K

(SigmaII)

CTS 3.6LDi 330HP, 6.2L 402HP, 6.2L S/C 550HP Vseries
CTS and CTC Convert
Mild Hybrid with Li-Ion Available on all Cseries

SRX (same choices as CTS, as SRX would be a CTS "Tall Wagon."

Starting at $42K-$70K

(Zeta)

XLS 6.2L 402HP, 6.2L S/C 520HP Vseries 6.2L S/C 620HP SuperV
XTC
Dual-Mode Hybrid except Vseries

Starting at $58K-$115K

ULS (Sixteen) 6.2L 550HP, 6.2L 620HP SuperV
Dual-Mode Hybrid STANDARD on all
This one would basically be a personal Limo that looks almost identical except in size and interior to the XLS

Starting at $100K-$150K

(Y-Body)

XLR 6.2L 450HP, 6.2L 620HP Super V

Starting at $86K-$150K

(Omega modified Ybody)

ULX(Cien)6.2L 620HP Mid-Engined

Starting at $155K-175K

(GMT)

Escalade (Eseries) 6.2L 450HP (other GMTs except H2 will always have 40 less), 6.2L S/C 6.2L 550HP Vseries

Starting at $58K-$100K



***** NO DIESELS 4 Cadillac... Allow the Dual Mode and Mild Hybrid to do what the Diesel would do. Point of fact is that in the BRX, 4 instance, using the Vue as an indicator, would currently be able to get 25/32 mpg... with the lithium battery change over in 2010... the mileage should hit about 30/38MPG
 

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Also making the change from V8s to V6s makes absolutely no sense on a complete spectrum since most of GM's V8s get similar Fuel Economy as their(and everyone else's) V6s. Turbo normally requires PREMIUM... so Why bother? Hook the Mild Hybrid with the new Li-Ion up to the V8, V6, or 4cylinder and U instantly have 20% better economy (See Vue Example on page 1). Dual Mode is fine to use but I would save it for SUV/TRUCKS and top lux offerings, thus the premium price can be easily absorbed.

A twin Turbo 3.6L would yield about 420HP minimum. If GM gets the Volt out by 2010, and implements it's tech in at least 2 cars in each of it's mainstream efforts, as a variant or option, such as a Cobalt and Malibu at Chevy, an Astra and Aura at Saturn, a 9-1 and 9-3 at Saab, etc... along with the Volt... CAFE Standards will be reached without having to change the V8 line-up... GM also now has Direct-Injection tech for it's V8s, which will yield another 10% Fuel Econ/ 15% HP.

Basically I think Lutz doesn't like to be PUSHED into doing anything by the Gov... Thus he got miffed and said/says what he said. I can understand that.. any American could. Remember the Boston Tea Party?

Also I think that the BLS should be redone sitting on the 9-3TurboX base ONLY... and be sold here as AWD ONLY, until it goes RWD on Alpha. If It doesn't go RWD... I think the AWD only version with proper engine treatment, none being a V8, would be fine as long as the 4cylinder and V6 stayed in line with the HP range of the 3series. A Twin Turbo 3.6L or the upcoming 3.0L Turbo would surpass the M3 in power.
 

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I don't understand why everyone here is bashing Flint. What exactly did he write that was untrue?

Cadi is 4th in the US. Detroit really does not even compete in the high end luxury market. Of the brands he mentioned - lexus, mercedes, and bmw - they are all making BILLIONS in profits, while GM has lost billions each of the last several years.

Bashing the author instead of rebutting what he said with proof is a clear sign of fanboyism and putting your head in the sand.
 

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Though progress is slow.....time will tell if Cadillac is a one-hit wonder or not against the Europeans. Things certainly ain't lookin pretty though.....

And GM ever does one right by Buick....perhaps we'll have a viable Lexus competitor here (same w/Ford & Lincoln) ??
 

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I don't think they can compete with the biggest cars, like the S600 or 7 series or A8. But a size smaller, yes.

There isn't enough sales to be had to warrant the expense of developing those big cars.

That and GM still does not appreciate the finest details of quality. They can make a 99% luxury car, but they just miss that. Even if they do, the 7.A8/600 buyers are too snobby to buy a GM product.

But anything up to a 5 Series or so, Caddy can definitely compete.
 

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It's been six years already.
So thirty years of screw ups should be fixed in 6 years?
I suppose the 10 years of over eating and no excersize should be fixed with a month of slimfast and sit-ups too.
It will take time and effort to correct decades of neglect and horrible leadership decisions. Be realistic people. Great strides have already taken place with stellar results....
 

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Cadillac needs a well rounded lineup with modern V8's V6's turbo 4's and diesels. All RWD too. And they need to get away from the gangster stigma with the chrome overkill escalade etc. Be more discrete yet elegant.
 

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I don't understand why everyone here is bashing Flint. What exactly did he write that was untrue?

Cadi is 4th in the US. Detroit really does not even compete in the high end luxury market. Of the brands he mentioned - lexus, mercedes, and bmw - they are all making BILLIONS in profits, while GM has lost billions each of the last several years.

Bashing the author instead of rebutting what he said with proof is a clear sign of fanboyism and putting your head in the sand.
Do you have some numbers to go along with your claim?
I doubt "Billions" in profit is being made in any of these companies you mentioned. Especially the Lexus brand which is a dolled up Toyota.
 

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Do you have some numbers to go along with your claim?
I doubt "Billions" in profit is being made in any of these companies you mentioned. Especially the Lexus brand which is a dolled up Toyota.
Lexus' lineup may be full of a few 'dolled up' Toyotas........but ill be damned if they aren't taking Buick & Lincoln to the cleaners.....
 

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Cadillac needs a well rounded lineup with modern V8's V6's turbo 4's and diesels. All RWD too. And they need to get away from the gangster stigma with the chrome overkill escalade etc. Be more discrete yet elegant.
I taught of another way, I could also imagine a car chase scene in a movie where the good guy in a Cadillac chase a bad guy in a BMW. Then the good guy menaged to get the bad guy off the road and his BMW a) hit a gas station like "Bullitt" and explode or b) go straight to a cliff (and no enchancement with CGI)

I don't think then the bmw fan might react well :rolleyes:
 

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I don't understand why everyone here is bashing Flint. What exactly did he write that was untrue?

Cadi is 4th in the US. Detroit really does not even compete in the high end luxury market. Of the brands he mentioned - lexus, mercedes, and bmw - they are all making BILLIONS in profits, while GM has lost billions each of the last several years.

Bashing the author instead of rebutting what he said with proof is a clear sign of fanboyism and putting your head in the sand.
Flint knows that a new smaller Cadillac sized below the CTS is on the way; he also knows that an RWD/AWD full-size replacement for the STS/DTS is approved (though delayed). He knows that the SRX is being dropped and that a new, smaller crossover based on the Provoq design is coming. He also knows that the STS has never really competed effectively with the E-Class/5 Series as the present model was a last minute redo of a pre-Lutz design that was very unappealing. Flint also knows that the DTS (while certainly an old design) remains a strong seller with a lot of appeal to its customers. And he knows that the Escalade is the market leader in luxury trucks. Finally, he knows that the CTS is certainly a worthy competitor to the Europeans and Japanese. The thing that he knows best, however, is how to criticize our American car companies for what they lack instead of what they have. If Cadillac (and GM, for that matter) was able to compete in foreign markets without all the taxes and regulatory issues like the Europeans and Japanese are able to over here, then the playing field would be more even. As it stands, Cadillac is making progress. Is it as fast as we'd like? Certainly not. But given the handicaps and US economy as it stands, it would be nicer to hear Flint and other AMERICAN writers tout what is great about OUR cars for once.
 

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Mercedes, BMW and even lexus didn't get where they are today overnight. Because of Cadillacs recent history, they have it harder than that of a brand new line. It will take GM time to build up the Cadillac name. Starting with mid to lower price luxury car like the CTS that competes with cars that are much more expensive is the same way lexus entered the market years ago.

If one remembers, lexus was made fun of when they first came out. The ls series was the size of a 5-series or E-class, but it didn't have the flair or consumer awareness. A few generations later, the ls series from lexus is car that many regard as a true luxury automobile in the same realm as the S-class and 7-series.

Give GM time, Cadillac will rival and surpase those other companies. They need to rebuild the publics confidence in their products first.
 

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Give GM time, Cadillac will rival and surpase those other companies. They need to rebuild the publics confidence in their products first.
I concur, problem with people is that they expect instant results. All of GM's recent vehicles are great so I expect the next wave to be even better.
 
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