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Here’s Why Luxury Brand Trucks Failed

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 In fact, it did so poorly that it was withdrawn from the market just a year later.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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10 COMMENTS

  1. I own a 2012 Escalade EXT Premium and I think it’s great. It functions like a luxury SUV most of the time and when I need to work or carry 4’x8′ plywood of drywall, it can transform into a pickup truck and do that too.

  2. Always wondered why no luxury branded mini-vans. They seem closer to the CUV/SUV end of the “truck” spectrum. Plus, they can be optioned to luxurious and expensive degrees.

    • There is the Mercedes Metris, but the US version is severely crippled and overpriced as Doug noted in a review last year 😛

      Agreed, I’d love to see a Lexus or Acura minivan. In Asia you can find ridiculously luxurious minivans (JDM Odyssey, Alphard) that more than deserve luxury badges. I’d totally buy an Alphard if I had a large family. 
    • I think because a minivan is considered to be a roomy car on a budget, which is why they are considered uncool. Also, minivans are already around 50k, if you added 10-15k for a Lexus or Acura minivan you are getting into Tahoe, MDX, Q7, GLE, maybe even a slightly older suburban or higher optioned GLE or X5.

    • I suppose you could count the Dodge Grand Caravan vs. the Chrysler T&C, but that leaves Honda to make an Acura minivan, Toyota for a Lexus minivan and Nissan to make an Infiniti. 

      They probably know that vans have a stigma in America, and they don’t want their luxury model nameplates to have that stigma in their lineup.
  3. It’s ironic since Ford-Lincoln made the Blackwood first as a super-niche high end truck only to be criticized for making the bed unusable. So then the Mark LT came out as just a more luxed-up F-150 with a usable bed. 

    Now, the Blackwood is becoming collectible though where the Mark LT looks just like a rebadge job it was. 
  4. Actually the Blackwood was 2001 only it was sold for the 2002 model year only in Mexico and the first model year for the GMC Sierra Denali was 2002 before that it was the GMC Sierra C3 in 2001

    • Oops got that wrong the Blackwood did come out for the 2002 model year but it was only sold in Mexico for the 2003 model year

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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