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Here's Why Luxury Brand Trucks Failed

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2019

Within the last 20 years, three different luxury-brand pickup trucks have tried to make it in the market -- and, eventually, all three have failed, eventually retreating from the truck market due to poor sales and lack of buyer interest. Over the same time period, actual luxury pickup trucks have flourished -- so why is it that luxury-branded trucks couldn't hack it in a market that seems to love luxury trucks?

I think I have the answer, but first, let's take a look back at luxury pickups. The very first luxury-branded pickup was the Lincoln Blackwood, which came out for the 2002 model year and immediately failed to reach sales targets. In fact, it did so poorly that it was withdrawn from the market just a year later. Next, Cadillac tried its hand with the Escalade EXT, a 4-door truck based on the Chevrolet Avalanche. Although it enjoyed early success, sales slowed dramatically, and it was eventually canceled after two generations. Lincoln tried again with a luxury truck, the Mark LT, in 2006, but it met the same fate as its Blackwood predecessor: quick cancellation, though this time after three model years rather than two.

This is surprising, if you follow the truck market, because luxury trucks actually do really well. The GMC Sierra Denali was among the first luxury trucks, and it has spawned a seemingly unending lineup of pickups from rivals -- the Ford F-150 King Ranch and Platinum and Limited, the Chevrolet Silverado High Country, the Ram 1500 Limited, the Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition. Luxury trucks are in, and they sell well. So why didn't luxury-branded trucks sell well?

I have a theory: it's because truck shoppers want luxury pickups -- but, unlike basically every other vehicle shopper who wants a luxury vehicle, truck shoppers don't want luxury brands. Someone buying a luxury truck doesn't want a Lincoln or a Cadillac badge on the front -- they want a Ford badge, or a Chevy badge, because those are truck brands that make durable, long-lasting, tough pickups. Truck shoppers want all the amenities you'd get in a Lincoln or a Cadillac, sure -- and they might even opt for a Lincoln or a Cadillac SUV or car as a daily driver vehicle, or for a spouse or family member. But for their truck, their workhorse, their heavy-duty hauler, they only want an "everyman" brand -- or else it doesn't feel like a real pickup.

That's my theory, at least, but it seems to make sense, as luxury trucks are a lot more successful than luxury-brand trucks. Ford, Chevy, Ram, GMC, Toyota, Nissan -- they seem to have more equity in the truck world than a luxury brand ever will.

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Here's Why Luxury Brand Trucks Failed - Autotrader