If attention from the media is any indication, one of the hottest cars unveiled at the New York International Auto Show last week was Ford Motor Company's (NYSE:F) dramatic Lincoln Continental Concept.
For now, the Continental is a "concept," meaning it's not officially set for production. But Ford officials at the show made no secret of the fact that they'll be building something much like it, and soon.
As you'll hear in the interview video below, Ford CEO Mark Fields told us that the concept offers a "very strong hint" of what next year's all-new Lincoln Continental will look like. The production version of the Continental is expected to be revealed in about a year. It will go into production later in 2016, as a replacement for the current Lincoln MKS.
We don't know much about the production version yet. We do know that it will feature a new version of Ford's "EcoBoost" twin-turbo V6, a 3.0-liter engine that will (for the time being, at least) be exclusive to the Lincoln brand.
The car is believed to be based on a stretched and widened version of the architecture that underpins the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans, and the production version is expected to be all-wheel drive -- but we don't know that for sure yet.
However, it is known that China has a big role in Ford's plans for its new luxury car. Ford introduced the Lincoln brand in the nation last fall, after finding that Chinese customers held the brand in exceptionally high regard. We weren't surprised when Fields told us that the designers of the Continental Concept took Chinese tastes into account as they put together the car.
But as Fields said, it turns out that Chinese tastes and American tastes aren't all that different. He expects the new Lincoln to find an American audience that is drawn to the brand's new theme, "quiet luxury."
What do you think? Will the Lincoln Continental put Ford back into the luxury-car game here in the United States? Check out our video interview with Fields -- which we filmed right in front of the Continental Concept, on Lincoln's auto-show stand -- and then scroll down to leave a comment with your thoughts.
A transcript of the video is below.
John Rosevear: So we have the Lincoln Continental Concept here. Tell us a little bit about it.
Mark Fields: Well, as you know, as a company, we have a strong commitment to Lincoln as a world-class luxury brand with a client experience to match. And we made the commitment, back in 2012, for four new products in four years. This is the fourth product. We committed to a full-size luxury sedan, so we're introducing our Lincoln Continental Concept and this really represents, for us, the future of what we call "quiet luxury," which is around elegance, it's around effortless power, and it's around a serene and relaxed interior.
Rosevear: We call this a concept, but we understand this is a preview of something you intend to build.
Fields: Next year (sometime next year) we will be launching the production vehicle, and we'll call it "The Continental," into the marketplace. This concept gives you a very strong hint of what the production model will look like.
Rosevear: One of the things that stands out is a very big and roomy backseat. When we see that, we start to think, "Oh, China!" because we know that's a big selling point in China. How is the Lincoln effort going in China, and how do you see this fitting into that?
Fields: It's going extremely well. We launched Lincoln in China in the fall of last year. It has exceeded our expectations since we launched it. Clearly this segment in China is the largest full-size luxury segment in the world. As we designed this vehicle -- and we did research in the U.S. and in China -- interestingly, John, the wants and needs of customers [indicated] there were more similarities than dissimilarities.
One of the biggest differences, though, between American and Chinese consumers, is this particular vehicle in China -- the buyer that buys this is chauffeured, so they're sitting in the backseat. So we have spent a lot of time in the rear seat -- the roominess, the amenities -- to appeal to that Chinese consumer, and we have a lot of expectations for our growth in China.