During the month, Cadillac sales rose 21% to 13,417. For the first seven months, Cadillac sales fell 13% to 76,229, about 5% of total GM sales.
Meanwhile, Lincoln's July sales fell 11% to 6,975. For the first seven months, Lincoln sales were down 2% to 48,937, partially due to discontinuation of the Town Car, which sold about 6,000 more cars in 2011 than in 2012. For the first seven months, Lincoln accounted for about 3% of Ford sales.
"We have transformed Cadillac," proclaimed Kurt McNeil, vice president for sales operations, on GM's July sales conference call. GM can "now compete outside of the traditional sweet spot of large trucks and utility vehicles," McNeil said. Cadillac sales included 1,739 new XTS luxury large sedans, while the first Cadillac ATS, a small luxury sedan expected to lead the brand's transformation, rolled off the assembly line in Lansing, Mich., on July 26. It is now starting to show up at dealerships.Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell said Cadillac's July sales benefited from incentives averaging around $5,200, the highest for any brand. "Cadillac is making strides, trying to shake things up and get aggressive," Caldwell told reporters on a conference call. She said the auto industry is now focused on the ATS challenge to BMW. "We haven't seen that delivery yet from Lincoln," she added. "They are going into a tough market as well." Lincoln awaits the first delivery of its transformation vehicle, the MKZ, which is scheduled to arrive in showrooms late this year. "That's going to be our turning point," said Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle, in an interview. "The MKZ is really the start of the new Lincoln." Merkle said the decline in Lincoln sales reflects an effort to diminish the brand's fleet sales. "Retail sales at Lincoln are in line with last year," he said. Looking ahead, Lincoln will introduce seven new or significantly refreshed models by 2015. 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. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/tedreednc.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
- Jim Cramer + 20 Wall Street pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Real-time trading forum
- Actionable trade ideas
- Real Money + Doug Kass + 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV