'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus - Ford Inside News Community
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post #1 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 09:14 AM Thread Starter
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'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus

Bradford Wernle
Automotive News
March 16, 2015 - 12:01 am ET

Florida auto dealer Bill Wallace routinely stages special promotions at his Cadillac and Lincoln dealerships to lure BMW and Lexus owners in for a test drive -- offers such as a free dinner for two or Starbucks coupons.

"We get the lowest response on those types of promotions of anything we do," he says. "But we continue to bang away at it."

For Wallace and other dealers who sell luxury brands such as Cadillac, Lincoln, Acura and Infiniti, banging away is a fact of life. Try as they might, those second-tier brands, with the exception of surging Audi, have struggled to make inroads against the powerful triumvirate at the top: BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

Dealer Bill Wallace: "We continue to bang away at" luring BMW and Lexus owners.

The truth for aspiring brands on the outside looking in is that the rising luxury tide is not lifting all ships equally. Luxury brand sales, up 6.4 percent in 2014, grew faster than the mass market, but the top three brands plus Audi enjoyed the lion's share of the gains.

Combined, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus accounted for more than half of all U.S. luxury brand sales last year. With luxury sales projected by IHS Automotive to grow from 11.4 percent of the market last year to 12.7 percent in 2016, the stakes for aspiring brands are high.

Though Acura and Infiniti sales grew in 2014, they did not keep pace with the luxury market as a whole, but the two Japanese brands have gotten off to a fast start in 2015. In 2014, Cadillac saw its share drop more than 1 point to 9.1 percent as its sales dropped 6.5 percent.

The big three brands enjoy an enviable combination of advantages -- deep product lineups, global reach, strong residual values and rock-solid brand images -- that aspiring brands cannot match.

Cross-shopping data show that customers of the aspiring brands are more likely to defect to one of the big three or Audi than the other way around.

Not since 1998 has any brand other than BMW, Mercedes and Lexus topped the U.S. luxury market in sales. That year, Lincoln led the field. Before 1998, Cadillac held an unbroken grip on the top spot going back to before 1970.

Since Mercedes grabbed the top prize in 1999, imports have dominated the playing field. Lexus ruled 11 straight years from 2000-10. These days, the top three remain locked in a bitter struggle for the luxury title. BMW has taken the crown three of the last four years but is third so far this year, trailing Mercedes and Lexus.

Ambitious Lexus is breathing down the neck of Mercedes-Benz in a bid to regain the top spot it hasn't held since 2010. Through February, Lexus sales have jumped 26 percent, passing BMW to move into second place behind Mercedes. Like its rivals, Lexus is basing its growth on an aggressive product offensive.

"If I did not want to resecure that luxury leadership position, then my boss probably put the wrong person in this job," Jeff Bracken, Lexus general manager, said at the Detroit auto show. "It's important. No question about it."

Mercedes has been equally bullish. "With SUV sales up 22 percent, we expect our momentum to continue as new or redesigned versions of almost all our light trucks hit the market in the next year," Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, said in a March 3 release.

In 2014, BMW topped the U.S. luxury field with an 18 percent share, followed by Mercedes Benz with 17.5 percent and Lexus with 16.5 percent. From there, it's a substantial drop to Audi at 9.7 percent and Cadillac with 9.1 percent. Together, the top three accounted for 52 percent of the luxury market. No brands come near that kind of dominance in the mass market. The top three mass-market brands -- Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota -- accounted for 43.8 percent of nonluxury sales in 2014.

So dominant are the three top luxury brands, they're almost playing in a different segment, says Tom Libby, analyst for IHS Automotive.

When Lexus introduced its NX compact crossover in 2014, sales of the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLK declined, while sales of competing vehicles from "striver" brands weren't affected, he says.

"One could conclude there's a lot going back and forth between those brands," says Libby. "When one of those brands brings out a strong entry, it does not affect the strivers. So perhaps it's a separate market."

Says Chris Lemley, who owns two Massachusetts Lincoln dealerships: "If you look at sources of sales and defections, those four brands [including Audi] are cannibalizing each other for the most part."

The top three brands enjoy higher loyalty rates than the brands fighting to join the club: 58 percent of Mercedes-Benz owners who went shopping in 2014 stayed loyal to the brand, followed by BMW at 53 percent and Lexus at 52 percent, according to IHS data. Among other brands, only Lincoln hit the 50 percent mark.

Chris Sutton, vice president of auto retail for J.D. Power and Associates, says customers of the top three luxury brands cross shop the other two far more than they do the brands in the second group, with the possible exception of Audi.

"Among customers who bought a BMW in 2014, 21 percent visited an Audi dealer, 20 percent of them visited a Mercedes dealer and 14 percent visited Lexus," Sutton said. "Everything after Lexus is in single digits."

continued: http://www.autonews.com/article/2015...utonews-weekly
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post #2 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 10:53 AM
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Re: 'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus

Nothing abouth the double digit growth of Lincoln in 2014...

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post #3 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 11:26 AM Thread Starter
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Re: 'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus

They did mention Lincoln's sales growth from 2013 to 2014 and gave the credit to the MKC. It's a rather long article based off automotivenews standards, you have to read the rest on their website. Basically what I got from the article is that the tier 2 brands don't have enough product to compete with the German 2 and Lexus.

It spoke about Lincoln doing 1 product at a time. As much as I would like to see a new MKS, I don't think it's going to do much for Lincoln's sales maybe brand recognition if done right; I rather they fast track the Navigator and especially the MKT replacement, and maybe something smaller based off the Ecosport platform, that's where the volume is and expanding worldwide.

side note: I saw my first GLA on the road this weekend, it looks like a tall hatchback and is significantly smaller than the MKC. Looks wise I see MB's design dna but nothing else.
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post #4 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 12:11 PM
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Re: 'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus

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Originally Posted by iculookn View Post
They did mention Lincoln's sales growth from 2013 to 2014 and gave the credit to the MKC. It's a rather long article based off automotivenews standards, you have to read the rest on their website. Basically what I got from the article is that the tier 2 brands don't have enough product to compete with the German 2 and Lexus.

It spoke about Lincoln doing 1 product at a time. As much as I would like to see a new MKS, I don't think it's going to do much for Lincoln's sales maybe brand recognition if done right; I rather they fast track the Navigator and especially the MKT replacement, and maybe something smaller based off the Ecosport platform, that's where the volume is and expanding worldwide.

side note: I saw my first GLA on the road this weekend, it looks like a tall hatchback and is significantly smaller than the MKC. Looks wise I see MB's design dna but nothing else.
You are rigth. For Lincoln ( and Cadillac) is imposible to battle BMW and Mercedes-Benz because those auomakers produce a great variety of vehicles that fill all the niche we can imagine. BMW have 5 crossovers: X1, X3, X4, X5, X6 and soon will come the X7 . Lincoln only have 2: MkX and MKC plus the Navigator. In the sedan department BMW have the 3 , 5, 7 series, plus the coupes variants: 4, 6 series. Lincoln has the MKZ and the MKS. In the small segment, BMW have the 2 series, plus the new variants: 2 active tourer and active tourer 7 seats. Lincoln has nothing here. Mercedes-Benz has a line that mimic almost exactly the BMW line. Is imposible to compete with this line of cars and crossovers launching 1 new car a year.

The case of Lexus is strange. The line is not as wide as the germans. But have great succes in USA. Maybe the quality and the service are the main reasons.

Audi is , actually, challenging the other germans. Their line of cars and crossovers are growning and resembling every day more to BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

I think Lincoln ( and Cadillac) will be happy making some profits selling a good number of cars in USA and China. Beyond that, is too much to spect. Compete with the big (luxury) 3 is imposible.

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post #5 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 12:31 PM
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Re: 'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus

Call me crazy - but I'm actually delighted that Lincoln is not aiming for being another BMW or Mercedes. Why? Because everything comes at a price and that's literally what I'm NOT willing to pay anymore.

BL will be something unique in its class and since you can't beat the Germans at their own game, why not try to set up your own?

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Re: 'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus

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Call me crazy - but I'm actually delighted that Lincoln is not aiming for being another BMW or Mercedes. Why? Because everything comes at a price and that's literally what I'm NOT willing to pay anymore.

BL will be something unique in its class and since you can't beat the Germans at their own game, why not try to set up your own?
The problem long term is the middle brands are getting squeezed out. A Ford exec just recently commented that the going is tough in EU because of the ultra cheap brands at the bottom combined with the tier 1 luxury brands moving into that middle ground. We're already seeing some of that here with each of the Tier 1 brands introducing a smaller, cheaper vehicle in the US.

Near term its not a huge issue, but mid to long term Ford could be facing some serious problems.
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Re: 'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus

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Originally Posted by LincolnFanFl View Post
Call me crazy - but I'm actually delighted that Lincoln is not aiming for being another BMW or Mercedes. Why? Because everything comes at a price and that's literally what I'm NOT willing to pay anymore.

BL will be something unique in its class and since you can't beat the Germans at their own game, why not try to set up your own?
THANK YOU!!!!!

I have been trying to say the exact same thing here for years actually, that Lincoln does not have to follow Cadillacs step in jacking up prices significantly, just to be taken more seriously as a luxury brand and get on peoples radar. They can do all that with great product, style and content and a great price. I get so frustrated when I read posts wishing that Lincoln match the Germans in price. WHY???? I want a Lincoln in the near future. I want value, not wannabe imagery based on false content. I want luxury value, and that is not an oxymoron or a poor strategy.

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post #8 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 02:12 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus

Nothing in the articile of reference made an issue of price except when it came to Cadillac. Lincoln has the most value of all the luxury brands maybe on the exception of Acura but Lincoln offers more if you want to pay for it(BL). I hope they keep it this way.

What BMW is doing the best(sales wise) and MB/Audi is following is capitalizing on it's available platforms and making multiple "unique top hats" from each one. No vehicle in Lincoln's lineup has a "unique top hat" outside of the MKT and MKS. Is their room for Lincoln to make another vehicle on the C1 and/or CD4 platform besides the MKC and MKZ/MKX/future MKS. Can they make a vehicle that's geared more towards the "sport" thats similar in size to the MKC but has a unique top hat? Can they do the same with the CD4, similar in size to the MKZ, but maybe more 4 door coupe or 2 door coupe?

This article was primarily about product and the Tier 2 not having enough. Ford is really good at making multiple vehicles on the same platform especially on the Ford side but I would like them to do the same with Lincoln. I know their is oppurtunity for product growth just by using different "top hats" from it's core products of MKZ/MKC/MKX/MKS.
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post #9 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 02:17 PM
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Re: 'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus

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Originally Posted by SP1966 View Post
The problem long term is the middle brands are getting squeezed out. A Ford exec just recently commented that the going is tough in EU because of the ultra cheap brands at the bottom combined with the tier 1 luxury brands moving into that middle ground. We're already seeing some of that here with each of the Tier 1 brands introducing a smaller, cheaper vehicle in the US.
That, however, is also an opportunity for Lincoln. In order for the luxury-brands to move into that middle-ground, they have to - as you pointed out - go smaller. And that could be the moment people might come to their senses and actually start to compare what x amount of $$ will get them at each individual brand. BTW, this is also the reason why I pointed out before that attractive lease-offers will play a MAJOR role in the future for Lincoln.

I didn't abondon BMW because all of their products are too expensive. There are plenty of options at BMW for $600/month - but are they actually better? I switched to Lincoln because the comparable product simply has the better value. Sure, I could also get a loaded X3 instead of a loaded MKX (or an X1 instead of the MKC) but I'm not only tired of spending a HIGH amount on these Tier 1-brands, I'm not willing to spend more on them in relation to what I can get from Lincoln, either.

So in other words, 'downsizing' and compromising on the product just to get a certain badge on the hood is not an option anymore - at least not for me.

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post #10 of 37 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 02:45 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 'Tier 2' luxury brands struggle to compete with elite Germans, Lexus

Hopefully a lot more consumers start thinking like you.
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