Both of America's domestic luxury brands seem to be stuck in neutral.

It's ironic that Cadillac and Lincoln got new bosses within days of each other this month. It's also a commentary on the fact both of America's domestic luxury brands seem to be stuck in neutral.

Cadillac has received barrels of good ink in recent years, thanks to its sporty, fun-to-drive cars with gaudy horsepower figures and eye-catching designs. The problem is sales have been uneven, and this year they've fallen 1.9 percent to 82,117 vehicles.

Enter Johan de Nysschen. You know him from such roles as the head of Audi in the United States and more recently, as the global boss of Infiniti. Both brands have somewhat underdog status compared with segment leaders Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus, and de Nysschen was lauded for his work at his previous stops, overseeing sales and product successes.

Cadillac went out and got a "name" with a proven track record. The 54-year-old South African brings strong leadership and industry credibility to a brand that needs both. He'll be tested right away, as 554,328 Cadillac CTS and SRX models were recalled in June in the United States for ignition switch problems. More recalls involving Cadillacs and other General Motors vehicles for a welding problem was also announced in July.

He's taking over for Bob Ferguson, who had been dividing his time between Cadillac and handling GM recall response on Capital Hill. Ferguson moved to a full-time role as GM's top public policy and government relations executive in July.

Meanwhile, Ford tapped a relatively obscure engineer, Kumar Galhotra, to lead Lincoln. He's replacing an industry star, Jim Farley, who's giving up the reins at Lincoln to focus on his other job – overseeing Ford's global marketing efforts.

Galhotra doesn't have as much name recognition as Farley or de Nysschen, but that means nothing. Lincoln needs momentum, and the only way Galhotra will ultimately be measured is through increasing sales and strengthening the product portfolio.

Lincoln is an example of perception not exactly meeting reality.

Lincoln is an example of perception not exactly meeting reality. Would you believe the brand's sales are up 16.3 percent this year? The MKZ midsize sedan and the MKX crossover have had strong years, and the addition of a compact crossover, the MKC, should help. The problem is Lincoln has only sold 44,522 total vehicles this year, which is about how many Mustang models Ford has sold so far in 2014. It's not hard to post a sales increase when you have nowhere to got but up.

Still, Lincoln has decent products in most of the critical segments of the industry. It has building blocks. There is substance, which is something Galhotra brings. He has been Ford's vice president of engineering for a year, so he had a hand in the development of some Lincoln models that we have yet to see. Before that, he was Ford's vice president of product development for Asia Pacific and Africa and was chief engineer for the Escape crossover in the early 2000s.

Galhotra, 48, needs to raise the profile of the brand and make people want its cars. It's telling that Lincoln sales can be up significantly, yet it's still perceived as a dying brand, while Cadillac's volume can drop, but it still garners positive stories in the press and enthusiastic reviews from consumers.

Lincoln and Cadillac have been inextricably linked since the early 20th century, when they were founded about 15 years apart by the same guy, Henry Leland. Auto pioneers jumped jobs even more back than, leading to one of the auto industry's most interesting historical quirks.

So yes, it's ironic, curious and probably coincidental that two brands that share so much history have new leaders at the same time. It's another interesting footnote in their intertwined stories, but it really doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what Cadillac under de Nysschen, and Lincoln under Galhotra, do next.

Other News and Views

Aston Martin LagondaAston Martin teased its new super sedan this week and will resurrect the Lagonda name for its ultra-limited, ultra-exclusive car.

We're starting to see Aston Martin's expansion strategy slowly come to the surface. Aston needs to fill out its portfolio, and something to slot in (well) above the Rapide is a good start that won't offend traditionalists. Now, this car is extremely limited and will be put together at the same shop that did the One-77, so there won't be many of them rolling around – early reports suggest that fewer than 100 will be built. Still, this is a sign that Aston is preparing to become more aggressive in its product cadence.

Nissan CubeNissan plans to replace the Cube with an "iconic" design.

Hmm, what could that be? Speculation/hopes immediately point to the iDX sports car concept, but that project could be in doubt. Icing the Cube was the right move for Nissan, as just 336 units were sold in June. But replacing it with something in red-hot small car/baby crossover segment could make sense. Besides, the design won't be a problem. Nissan design boss Shiro Nakamura has overseen everything from the attractive yet reserved new generation of the Altima, to Infiniti's Essence and Emerg-e concepts. Don't forget, he did the Isuzu VehiCross, too.

Dodge ChargerDodge will reportedly build a Hellcat-powered Charger.

That makes a ton of sense, since the Challenger and Charger are based on the same platform and Dodge has already gone to the expense of developing the engine. Plus, the 707 horses of the supercharged V8 might be slightly more civilized in a sedan and give Dodge the opportunity to show-up the Chevrolet SS.

A Dart Hellcat? Now that's crazy.


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  • 63 Comments
      _I_I_II_I_I_
      • 5 Months Ago
      I love the idea that hiring an engineer to head Lincoln might mean that at this moment, they believe product is the critical piece for success of the brand…
      tj.james8
      • 5 Months Ago
      Lincoln is doing better this year, Cadillac not so much, but this is not a sprint but a marathon. Both have new models in the works are both are focusing on not just the US market but the global market. Both can end up winners in their own respects. Sadly, once traditional and popular big domestic luxury sedans just aren't doing it for buyers anymore or at least not right now. Sales of the Cadillac XTS/DTS, Chrysler 300, et al have been declining for years even with significant cash incentives. Pound for pound, inch for inch, the big domestic sedans are cheap cheap cheap but sales have been going down down down.
        Carpinions
        • 5 Months Ago
        @tj.james8
        Cadillac's sales so far this year are almost double what Lincoln has sold in the same amount of time. Cadillac is slow at the moment, but that statement is very relative considering the volume both brands command. Cadillac well more than doubled Lincoln's numbers last year, and even if they maintain their mediocre pace through the rest of 2014, they're still on target to sell about double what Lincoln did in 2013. Clearly Cadillac knows it needs to make a move and they have by picking up de Nysschen and moving slow performers away from the brand. They also have a brand new CTS, a brand new Escalade, and the ATS with the newly minted coupe.
      Winnie Jenkems
      • 5 Months Ago
      Wooo, Lincoln fanboys sure are out today. Look, here's the truth: Cadillac and Lincoln do not currently operate in the same universe. Cadillac executives have said it does not consider Lincoln to be a competitor, and Ford execs have admitted Lincoln "isn't true luxury." Fact is, despite the slipping sales, Cadillac is light years ahead in terms of product. Lincoln is just starting to produce some compelling vehicles... the MKC looks good, the styling translates much better to a CUV, and it's priced right. Early reviews have been promising; it appears to be a strong competitor in a crucial segment. I think it will do well. I was glad to see improved interior materials (wood, leather, metal) in the MKC, a welcome contrast from the acres of Ford-standard cheap grey plastic covering the console of the MKZ, which is unacceptable at the price point and has no place in a luxury car. The MKT has a very nice interior, but both it and the MKS are still hampered by baleen whale styling and desperately need a refresh. I'd really like to see either the MKS or a new car on a RWD platform; if Ford insists on plowing ahead with FWD platforms they need to at least develop a full-time rear-biased system like the Quattro on most Audi's. The A8 is a very large FWD-based car that is regularly praised for handling like a much smaller vehicle... the reason? Quattro. It's how they can drop a 520 hp V8 into the thing without it torque steering into a tree. Lincoln would do well to develop such a system of their own, and use it as a differentiator from Lincoln's Ford stablemates. What Lincoln really needs to do is something that will get people talking about the brand and into the showrooms. I can't believe "One Ford" intends to use that great new global Mustang platform on just one vehicle. Lincoln should also embrace its heritage of big stately luxury cars and give us a proper RWD long wheelbase flagship in the style of the '60s Continental and worthy of the name, suicide doors and all. Remember that great concept from like 2002? Still waiting.... I believe Lincoln can be a great success and contribute a disproportionate share of profits to Ford's bottom line, but only if it's managed right. This starts with Ford taking some of its billion-dollar quarterly profits and actually investing the resources in its luxury brand necessary to make it a serious competitor in today's luxury market.
        Carpinions
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Winnie Jenkems
        +1 from me for telling it straight. If Lincoln were putting out concepts like the El Miraj and Ciel, I'd be saying "Whoa! They mean business!" But they aren't. They aren't even putting out concepts at the level they were 10-15 years ago. They showed up to last year's Monterey week with a pre-production MKC that...will maybe convince a few high-rollers to buy for their daughters when they turn 16...? Not the kind of show to be hawking $40k wares at when the attendees are racing 6 and 7-figure collectibles on a track, none of which sport a Lincoln badge. And, they showed the Black label upgrades which, while nice, are only unique in the market niche occupied by Lexus ESs and Acura TLs. It's not going to sell Lincoln any more cars than they have now, because the point is the product, not how dressed up it is. Product is why so many people will sell their soul for even the cheapest BMW 3-series. Sure it's got manual windows, hand-operated wipers, and more plastic than a Kia Forte, but damn it, I have a 3-series (on lease) and I can look like I make 50% more than I do rolling into the local multiplex! I'm exaggerating a bit, but who doesn't try to snap up the closest German car when given a shot at it? The MKZ is the best product Lincoln has had since...well, probably the Navigator over 15 years ago. None of their other current cars register with any seriously sizable audience, and good cars like the LS were reliable but invisible. Until Lincoln has a Lutz making bold decisions on product, they are going to have problems.
        AAA
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Winnie Jenkems
        Big, fat, whopping +1
      gtv4rudy
      • 5 Months Ago
      When GM and Ford discarded their luxury brands for the huge SUVs and pickups in the 90s, consumers looking for their luxury cars went to foreign brands and from there the luxury cars from Mercedes, Lexus, Acura, Infinty and BMW etc. took over the market for good and are not looking back.
        Chris
        • 5 Months Ago
        @gtv4rudy
        Nothing is for good, and the European and Japanese were gaining ground and had established a presence long before the suv craze of the 90s. Just look at any movie or show from the 1980s, lots of European sport luxury cars. With the American luxury brands, it was as much an image problem than as anything else.
        Basil Exposition
        • 5 Months Ago
        @gtv4rudy
        "Acura, Infinty... took over the market" LOL!
      jonnybimmer
      • 5 Months Ago
      People have known Lincoln has been in need of a reboot for a while now, that's nothing new. They've rebranded themselves already, we're just waiting for Ford to commit more resources to the brand and for more fully developed cars like the MKC & MKZ. As for Cadillac, since when have they been stuck in neutral? Sure they have their duds here and there (lookin at you ELR with your ridiculous pricetag) but overall the brand has been growing pretty well since it's Art + Science rebrand back in the early 2000's. They just need to keep improving the lineup they currently have, and bring out a flagship already!
      Cruising
      • 5 Months Ago
      One thing you can count on is luxury CUV's will sell. Lincoln MKC has a good chance in the market, they need to invest in some more. They also could use a legacy halo type car paying homage to the past but giving press and public something to talk about. Cadillac needs to focus on the CUV market. The SRX is ok but they need something else, it would be unwise not to invest in some platforms. The Buick Enclave is a good seller so are the Chevy ones and GMC, Cadillac needs at least two or three. Americans want CUV's.
      George Strickland
      • 5 Months Ago
      Cadillac raised the prices too much,especially on the cts,but they are still doing ok,at least a caddy is a caddy,lincoln simply rebadged some fords.
        Hampton
        • 5 Months Ago
        @George Strickland
        Good point.When a Caddy approaches Mercedes pricing guess which I'm buying. Cadillac needs to prove itself as a premium luxury VALUE offering
          Bandit5317
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Hampton
          I don't totally disagree, as I loved how much of a bargain the last gen CTS was, but GM is trying to make Buick the value luxury offering. They're doing a good job, too. It's just a shame that most of them are FWD. I guess if they were RWD, then there wouldn't be much differentiation from Cadillac.
      Avinash Machado
      • 5 Months Ago
      Cadillac will be getting an S-Class competitor the LTS.Lincoln has nothing in response to that. They are more like a Buick competitor.
      dohc73
      • 5 Months Ago
      That's because their bulk-sales Deville no longer exists and the sad beached whale look of the XTS doesn't fill the bill. Nor do the letters X T or S.
        Nowae Amigivingittwo
        • 5 Months Ago
        @dohc73
        Yup using vague names or numbers is silly. I would use some heritage names if they still have them or have they given em up, Is 'continental' still controlled by Bentley? I remember DeVille and Fleetwood, Lido, Premiere, Zephyr, Cosmopolitan.
      bookemd
      • 5 Months Ago
      I know there are Ford Fans and GM fans and from someone who has no horse in the race I feel Cadillac is in a much better position. As well as the average person (knows nothing) hears Cadillac they think decent not great luxury whereas hearing Lincoln they think of a town car.
      george
      • 5 Months Ago
      I see a lot of new product, and no new sales from Cadillac. I think they have the wrong mix. 3 sedans close in size, and one POS CUV. Lincoln is focusing on the growing trend of CUV's and that will win over customers. MKC appears to be a winner.
      george
      • 5 Months Ago
      Cadillac styling is getting old. Lincoln has fresh new style, and that will be a huge bonus for them. Cadillac has one good product, the CTS. But now they priced it far too high and sales are suffering. It sold before mainly due to discounts.
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