Andrew Palmer, who’s overseen Aston Martin as its CEO since 2014, painted a harsh reality for luxury brands nestled within mass-market automakers.
Speaking to attendees at the Automotive News World Congress, Palmer said he’s skeptical that Cadillac, in particular, can break through at General Motors. Palmer previously worked for Nissan.
He said there’s a major disadvantage to luxury brands bundled within major OEs and said, “Basically, Cadillac inside of GM, Lincoln inside of Ford or Infiniti inside of Nissan—none of them will make it.”
Palmer made the comments as he touted how Aston Martin’s independence from a major automaker (Aston Martin was formerly a part of Ford) has helped it flourish in recent years. He named the company he oversees as one of six elite and true luxury brands alongside Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, McLaren, and Rolls-Royce.
He added a prediction that in the next 10 years, the industry won’t see any of the lower echelon brands break through into the elite space, taking aim at Cadillac, Lincoln and the like.
His sentiment makes some sense. Palmer explained that brands such as Cadillac, Acura or Infiniti are tied to sales volumes and a drive for profitability within the parent automaker. And in the pursuit of sales figures, incentives can undermine the experience. According to Autodata, Cadillac’s average incentives were $8,900 on a vehicle. BMW and Mercedes-Benz trailed the figure with an average of $5,750 worth of incentives on a new vehicle.
Stephanie Brinley, IHS Markit principal analyst, echoed Palmer’s words and used the 2020 Cadillac XT6 as a prime example. She said such a vehicle shouldn’t have been greeted to the lackluster response it received. The XT6 rides on an established platform within GM, yet isn’t packed with much technology compared to rivals. Cadillac is supposed to be GM’s lead technology brand. The weak comparisons to the Lincoln Aviator luxury SUV were almost instant upon its reveal.
GM President Mark Reuss, who has oversight over Cadillac, took the fall and made no excuses as to why Super Cruise isn’t part of the XT6, one of Cadillac’s technology masterpieces found only in the CT6 sedan. At the same time, he said Cadillac’s push to lead GM into the electric-car space is the brand’s last chance at true success.