The nameplate game of luxury brands and domestic luxury’s image problem

One development that has caught my attention recently is the upcoming nameplate changes for Cadillac and Lincoln.

For more than a decade now both Cadillac and Lincoln have been running with a letter-number combination for their nameplates just as their luxury import counterparts have always done, whereas in prior decades these two auto makers had actual names for their vehicles.

With Lincoln re-introducing the Continental in 2016 and Cadillac evolving its nameplate structure with the CT6, the dice are rolling for these two auto makers.

But will nameplate changes alter the perception people have of these two brands?

Both brands have struggled as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus began dominating US luxury sales the last 20+ years. And now Audi is climbing into this arena.

2016 Cadillac CT6

The Elegant 2016 Cadillac CT6

The Image Problem

While Cadillac has in my opinion an amazing product, it’s image and pricing are working against the brand.

To give you an idea about Cadillac’s image problem I can share a personal story that occurred about 7 years ago when I was attending a family reunion in the Florida Keys. I had rented a CTS for me and my wife and 3-year old son to commute from Ft. Lauderdale.

At the time I was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee and my wife was driving the all-new Mercedes-Benz R-Class. I chose the CTS because it was the best option available, but I wasn’t especially excited about being in a Cadillac. It was just another car to me at the time. A car for old people really. I was 33 then.

Upon arriving, my cousin who I hadn’t seen for several years had commented on the Cadillac. He seemed really impressed about what I was driving.

“It’s only a rental,” I said, not thinking much of it. Not because I felt the Cadillac was inferior, but because I had no emotional connection with the brand.

Since this time we both became Lexus owners and are quite fond of the Lexus brand which has worked hard over the years to win over younger drivers.

Just stick with something already

So what is it that makes a luxury brand appealing in the US? Is it the naming convention? I doubt it. Is it price? Is it value? Is it advertising? Is it history, or newness?

Of course, it’s not one thing in particular. It’s all of these things combined over time and it’s a slow-moving process. Changing the nameplate, in my opinion is inconsequential except when it is changed to often.

Benz has classes and BMW has series. Lexus and Audi use a letter-number system. Cadillac and Lincoln can’t make up their minds and as a result chase away potential drivers.

About the Author

Ryan G
Ryan Gerardi is Chief Editor of AutoConverse Magazine and Executive Producer and Host of the AutoConverse Podcast and Live Weekly Broadcast. He is also Founder & CEO of AutoConversion with nearly 20 years experience in the automotive industry. Ryan concentrates his efforts today on exploring people, ideas, and technologies related to how we get around and how we are connected.