Will General Motors Company Continue Dominating Ford in Luxury?

Although Buick and Cadillac had an impressive 2013, the latter has struggled through the first quarter of 2014.

Apr 28, 2014 at 9:48AM

Although General Motors (NYSE:GM) is suffering from what appears to be a never ending barrage of bad news regarding its recall issues, the automaker does have some bright spots. 

Aside from a low valuation and nice dividend -- both of which Ford (NYSE:F) has as well -- GM sports a better luxury line than its Michigan counterpart. 

General Motors owns the Cadillac and Buick brands, while the Lincoln brand belongs to Ford. 

And while everything seems to be going downhill at General Motors at the moment, the automaker can still boast about its luxury lineup. At least, for now. 

A luxurious 2013, subpar 2014
In 2013, both Cadillac and Buick did well, showing full year sales gains of 21.9% and 13.9%, respectively. 

Lincoln on the other hand, dragged sorrowfully behind, with sales slumping 0.6% from year ago figures. Observe the table below for the full results:


2013 Sales

YTD Change










Source: GoodCarBadCar (2013)

However, 2014 is shaping up to be different, for now, anyways. Although the brutal winter -- here in Michigan, we recently broke the snowfall record in Detroit -- has negatively affected sales, the luxury sales between the two companies has been the opposite from 2013. 

Through March, Buick has churned out a 11.1% increase compared to the same period last year, while Cadillac's sales have slumped 7.3%. Sales for Lincoln have soared 35.9% compared to last year's results. Below is a more thorough detailing of the first quarter:


2014 YTD Sales

YTD Change










Source: GoodCarBadCar (2014)

Ford's Lincoln line is indeed showing relatively strong growth in the first three months of 2014, but let's not also forget how many cars it's truly selling. 

Year-to-date, Cadillac has sold nearly twice as many vehicles than Lincoln, while Buick as sold 2.5 times the amount of vehicles. Between Cadillac and Buick, the duo has sold almost five times more vehicles than Lincoln this year. 

It's still too early to tell how the year will shape up. On one hand, poor weather is sure to slow down luxury car sales. On the other hand, Lincoln doesn't seem to be having an issue. 

A hopeful feather in Cadillac's hat
Last fall, the 2014 Cadillac CTS was named Motortrend's Car of the Year. The vehicle beat out other luxury automakers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar. 

While the announcement isn't exactly new news, it brings a much bigger story with it. It shows that Cadillac is innovating and making meaningful strides that will hopefully convert into auto sales, (but thus far, has failed to do so). 

The CTS isn't the only car Cadillac is focused on either. The Cadillac ELR, Escalade and ATS are being revamped in an attempt to be more attractive to customers, and the late arrival could be one reason sales are slumping. 

The ELR has very slowly been making its way to dealerships, while the Escalade will be available in the spring and the ATS will be available in the summer. 

Bob Furgeson, senior vice president of global Cadillac, said the brand "will release at least [one] new product a year for the rest of the decade." 

Weather isn't a problem?
While it's easy to assume that weather is slowing down luxury sales, other brands aren't feeling the same pinch. Below is the year-to-date auto figures for several luxury automakers:


2014 YTD Sales

YTD Change






















Source: GoodCarBadCar (2014)

I find these results somewhat disturbing for Cadillac. While it has indeed made some noteworthy and positive adjustments to its lineup, something doesn't seem to add up.

Other luxury automakers -- namely Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus -- have sold a lot of cars in 2014 and have demonstrated decent to strong growth. 

Despite the weather, everyone but Cadillac seems to be selling cars. This is not encouraging at the moment, but I'd like to see what a few months of nice weather can do for the automaker. 

The Foolish takeaway
I don't know that Cadillac and Buick will be able to outpace its European counterparts in sales volume or sales growth this year. I've surfed the web, trying to find an explanation. 

One theory that I have found in dozens of comment sections -- especially in What's the Matter With Cadillac? by the Fool's own Adam Levine-Weinberg -- is that the prices are simply too high. While comment sections may seem like an illegitimate source, consider that the people commenting are the consumers. They're telling us it's too expensive. 

And as things stand now, Ford's Lincoln brand continues putting distance behind it compared to General Motors' luxury lines in 2014. 

We're only one-fourth of the way through the year, so there's still plenty of race left to complete. Lincoln stumbled last year, but has gotten off to a good start in 2014. The question will remain: Can General Motors continue dominating Ford in luxury?

Only time will tell between the two. The crown still belongs to General Motors, but Ford is making a charge at the throne.

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Brett Kenwell owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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