If Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) didn't quite "steal the show" at last week's New York International Auto Show, the Blue Oval certainly came close with its surprising Lincoln Continental Concept. Drawing on arguably Lincoln's most famous and storied model name, the Continental Concept is a close preview of an all-new Lincoln sedan that will make its debut in 2016, replacing the current MKS sedan.
Ford has a recent history of showing "concept" versions of its new models a year before revealing the official, final version. Generally, the concepts are like near-final-draft versions, very close to the look and proportions of the eventual production product -- but occasionally sporting some fanciful details that don't end up on the cars Ford builds for customers.
We expect the Continental Concept to follow the pattern. Ford CEO Mark Fields told us that it's a "very strong hint" of what next year's production car will look like. (He assured us that car will also be called "Continental.")
If so, the new Continental will turn heads. The Concept version is low and wide, with a lot of presence. Up close, it's quite a big car, with a backseat big enough for a six-footer to stretch out. That backseat features seats that recline, separate climate controls, and some of those show-car touches -- a champagne cooler, for starters.
But why introduce the Continental now? We asked Lincoln's president, Kumar Galhotra, to tell us how the Continental fits into his plans for the brand. In part, it's about the brand's ambitions in China -- but it's also about resetting Americans' expectations of Ford's old luxury brand around a new idea, "quiet luxury."
A transcript of the video is below.
John Rosevear: We're standing in front of the Lincoln Continental Concept. We understand this is a close preview of a car you intend to build. What does this do for Lincoln, this big sedan?
Kumar Galhotra: Well, John, we started our journey to rejuvenate the brand a couple of years ago. We launched with the MKZ. Since then, we launched the small premium utility, the MKC. We've also shown our MKX, the medium premium utility. We showed it in Detroit.
When we started this journey, we said we were going to have four all-new products by the end of 2016. This is the fourth product in that journey. To put it in context, think of it as the first cycle of products for the rejuvenation journey.
The large sedan was going to be our fourth product, and this is it, the Continental Concept. We are going to put it in production next year, in 2016, and the production car is going to be very close to what you see here.
Rosevear: What does a big flagship sedan do for the Lincoln brand? What are you hoping it will do for the Lincoln brand in terms of positioning and image?
Galhotra: In our journey, we're trying to strengthen our core with the three vehicles I mentioned, and having a big sedan is very important to luxury automakers for the brand. And the segment itself, from a business perspective, is still a very important segment. It is about 1.8 million units globally today. It's going to grow to about 2 million by the end of the decade.
China is playing a very big role in this segment, and China is very important to Lincoln. We launched the brand in China last year, and we took a lot of input from Chinese customers while designing this vehicle.