It won't be long before Mercedes is the No. 2 luxury marque in the United States. Cadillac already has lost first place to Lincoln. After Cadillac introduces its Escalade sport-utility and Lin-coln introduces its LS6/LS8 entry-level Lin-colns, Lincoln may widen the lead. And Mercedes nosed by Cadillac for second place in March.
The automobile business is still changing faster than anyone could have predicted.
A couple of segments are changing the face of the marketplace. It's not yet clear just how big the sport-utility market will get, much less if it will ever top out. Obviously, it will never capture 100 percent of the market. But it's going up and, like the stock market, no one is willing to bet against it. And while the car segment is soft and getting smaller, the luxury-vehicle segment gets hotter every month.
It is amazing to watch the performance of Cadillac and Lincoln and Mercedes and BMW. While Cadillac stood by, Lincoln jumped in with its own version of the popular Ford Expedition, and the Lincoln Navigator took off like a rocket. Production can barely keep up with demand. Meanwhile, Cadillac is trying to convince everyone that its Catera - a version of the popular Opel Omega - is a smashing success.
While Cadillac was busy putting a pretty face on the Opel - and finally deciding that the GMC Yukon would make a wonderful Cadillac - Ford was developing smaller, entry-level vehicles for Lincoln and Jaguar, off one new platform. At the same time, Mercedes and BMW just keep rolling along with new sport-utilities, sports cars, station wagons and other models for both Europe and the United States.
And it all started with Lexus and Infiniti just a short decade ago. With the introduction of those two Japanese luxury marques, the market changed forever. All of a sudden, the Americans and Germans realized that it was no longer business as usual.
The luxury market has more competitors and more new models than ever before. Upscale buyers have never had more choices.
But when Lincoln outsells Cadillac, it's an event worth noting. In fact, Ford Motor Co. is getting dangerously close to General Motors in total U.S. volume, with three makes of vehicles vs. GM's seven.
The war is the luxury market and it circles the globe, and it's not going to get any easier.