The Big 3 didn't discontinue their full size body on frame cars because they were forced to. They did so because demand had dried up for these things. Consumer preferences have changed, and like any company that wants to make a profit, they wisely made some product lineup changes. It's obvious this was the right move, because all 3 companies are now showing profits, whereas in the recent past they were losing untold billions of dollars. If they had continued on with "Business as usual"- AKA building the same cars - then they would probably be in serious trouble right now.
I would also disagree that the 90's Cadillacs were at all competitive. They were minor upgrades to the same old same old. They were in no way competition for any of the European or Japanese luxury cars. Hence why starting in the 2000's, they started getting rid of the old lineup and replacing it with the much improved models they now have, which are indeed more competitive.
As far as Lincoln, well there's only so much you can do with badge-engineering, and that's pretty much all their models are right now: Re-badged Fords. If they want to get serious about actually competing in the luxury car market, then it'll take a lot more than that. Hopefully we will soon see something entirely different from them in the future.
"Problem is, the youth are the driving force in marketing, its been that way for years. This makes no sense to me, since the older people are generally the ones with a bigger pocket book."
Well, thankfully the Town Car has a great reliability reputation. Mine is 16 years old, and still looks great and runs like a bear, so in reality, the last generation Town Car will still be around 16 years from now, and you can say pretty much the same thing about Park Avenues. My father, who has owned mostly Buicks since 1958, currently has an 03 P.A. approaching 100k, and it has had barely any problems.
With the exception of protecting its occupants in a crash, our Lincoln MKZ does everything our Town Car did, and does it better. It is faster, handles better, gets much better gas mileage, and is much easier to park. We don't miss the extra tonnage of the Town Car. Lugging around an extra ton of steel doesn't really enhance driving pleasure all that much. Yes, we'd be more likely to be killed or injured in a crash with a larger car, but as time passes, the larger cars will eventually be gone, and I won't miss them.
You fail to see the point. Not everyone wants to buy a European or Japanese luxury/sports car. Sure, those cars have their strong suits, however it was nice when Detroit offered a unique product. Now all the manufacturers are trying to be the same thing to everyone, and in most cases Detroit falls short. When people have to choose between an Impala or a Camry, obviously a lot more people choose the Camry. If GM would get a drift and try to build a unique product like they did back in the 60's and 70's (back when the Impala name meant something) they might be on top again. As long as they keep trying to mimic Japan and Europe, they will continue to come up short.
Actually, people are choosing Camry less and less. Toyota sales were down double-digits again last month, while GM, Ford and Chrysler all continue to climb. And comparing a Chevy Impala to a Camry is sort of like comparing a Yugo to a Corvette. The Camry is noted by virtually all automotive sources as one of the most boring cars ever built. One of my neighbors was just given a Camry loaner car while he is waiting on crash repairs on his Chevy. He can't wait to get the Chevy back. He says the Camry is the worst-handling and most boring car he has ever driven.
I believe some of us are on the same page. I would totally agree that what Detroit needs to do is offer something very different from the European and Japanese automakers. People buy Japanese and European brands for their specific styling, handling, and engineering aspects. That, and there is some prestige attached to some brands, whether deserved or not, based in many cases from their heritage.
The problem with Detroit's luxury car makers of the past, is that they failed to keep up with current trends. That doesn't mean that they had to copy everyone else. They simply lost relevance because they didn't advance their brands and kept the same formulas for too long. That isn't to say that what was offered was technically bad. But people buy cars for many reasons, and one of the most important is style and impression. It's a very human, emotional experience - buying a car, and people that used to work in Detroit - like Harley Earl - knew how to design cars that brought out people's emotions.
I do feel that they're doing better. I think GM has done a good job with Cadillac. They're edgy, original, and unique. They look American. I personally feel the brand and design needs to be pushed further. Cadillac at one time represented class, luxury, and desirability. They're getting closer. Cars like the CTS coupe are beautiful. I would love to have one of those. I only say this because I work in Silicon Valley, and the cars I see the most on the roads here luxury-car wise are primarily the European brands. These people want to be seen in these cars and they want that prestige and exclusivity - or at least have people think what they're driving is exclusive. I am not seeing a lot of Caddys. That signals to me that the ball needs to be pushed further. When I start seeing tons of Buicks, Cadillacs, and Lincolns being driven by these same people, then I would consider that a success for these brands. Again - I think they're doing a good job. But there's always room for improvement.
As far as Toyota sales and the Camry, there's a big difference between the reasons for buying a Camry and buying say - a Corvette or a luxury car. That model has routinely been at near the top of the quality and reliability reports for decades. I realize some people don't like them for whatever reason - either because they just don't like imported cars period (which this one isn't as it's actually made in the USA) or they think they're boring or whatnot. Has the model and brand had some slip-ups? Sure. But they're a brand that for the most part makes reliable products. But the reason people buy these is because they just want a car that will get them here and there, and do it reliably. Given that the model has a universally well-known reliable track record, perhaps styling is given a bit of a back seat - even though the new one actually looks pretty sporty. In all honesty the Camry, Fusion, Taurus, Malibu, and various other family sedans look somewhat similar, because there's a formula for making sellable family cars, and thus why the similarities.