How the Lincoln Continental Concept almost wasn't
CEO Mark Fields: Early Design Drafts Lacked 'Oomph'
Speaking at the private reveal event for the concept yesterday, Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields revealed that when the design team started working on the vehicle that eventually became the Continental, the designers thought it was just another full-size luxury concept, and were turning in ideas to match. The problem, Fields said, is that this was an important vehicle to get right.
"A full-size luxury sedan for a luxury brand is a very important marker that, I think, sets the beat for the brand and it creates a lot of awareness and favorability if you do it right," he said. "As we were designing this concept ... we reviewed with the designers the themes. The first couple of themes the team came with really didn't do it for us because we want to make sure that every vehicle that we bring out with Lincoln moves the brand forwards in a big way. So we went through the first couple of them and we really didn't get that kind of 'oomph' in the pit of our stomach."
The team was stuck with an upcoming debut and nothing exciting to show for it, until the past was brought into the present. "In one of the design reviews, we were looking around at everyone and we mentioned, you know what, why don't we call this the Continental Concept? And I have to tell you, the body language was unbelievable in the design showroom. Everybody's head snapped up and you could see everybody's eyes widen and they started nodding and they said, 'now we get it.'" Aside from the Navigator, every vehicle Lincoln currently sells is simply named a trio of letters that start with M and K.
Fields knew that the large luxury segment sedan is important for a company like Lincoln, with about 1.8 million units sold last year and an expected growth to around 2 million units by the end of the decade, he said. "When you think about where that growth is coming from, it's still a substantial segment here in the US, it's a very substantial segment and even more substantial segment in China. As a matter of fact, that segment grew by 17 percent last year and China is the largest market for full-size luxury sedans." Given the positive reaction to the Continental Concept thus far, bringing the name back from the dead might be just the thing Lincoln needed.
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