Ford unveils return of the Continental

Updated: 2015-04-01 07:49

By Associated Press in Dearborn, Michigan(China Daily)

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Elvis Presley had one; so did Clark Gable. It was even the sedan of presidents. Then the name vanished amid an invasion of luxury cars from Europe and Asia.

Now, the Lincoln Continental is back.

Thirteen years after the last Continental rolled off the assembly line, Ford Motor Co is resurrecting its storied nameplate. The new Continental made its debut in concept form at this week's New York Auto Show.

Importance of China

After more than a decade of toying with alphabetical names like LS and MKS to be more like its foreign rivals, Ford's 98-year-old Lincoln brand is embracing its heritage, and the growing confidence at Lincoln after turning round a long sales decline. It is also a nod to the importance of China, where customers know the Continental name and appreciate brands with a rich history.

Ford unveils return of the Continental

The Continental was born in 1938, when Henry Ford's son Edsel commissioned a convertible he could use on his spring vacation. Thrilled by the reception he got as he drove the elegant sedan, Edsel Ford made the Continental part of Lincoln's lineup. The Continental soon became the pinnacle of American luxury.

Continental sales peaked in 1990 at 62,732. But after that, Lincoln's sales began slipping. Ford had acquired other luxury brands such as Jaguar and Volvo. Lincoln's designs got dull and failed to stand out from lower-priced Fords. The Continental was also squeezed by competition from the midsize Lincoln LS and the bigger Town Car.

Ford also underestimated the threat posed by German rivals and newer Japanese luxury brands. By 2000, Lexus was the top-selling luxury brand in the US. BMW took the top spot last year.

Ford CEO Mark Fields said that Lincoln isn't trying to be sporty like BMW or showy like Cadillac. Instead, it wants to give drivers an experience that is elegant and serene.

Ford has high hopes for the Lincoln brand in China, where it's opening dazzling new dealerships complete with waterfalls. Ford began selling Lincolns in China late last year, and plans to open another 20 dealerships this year.

(China Daily 04/01/2015 page10)