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Auto Show Notebook: Legendary Continental name inspired Lincoln's designers

Plus: Quick Hits On The Chevy Malibu, Subaru's STI Plans, Volkswagen's CC And More

Lincoln Continental Concept In New York 2015 | Autoblog Short Cuts
Lincoln Continental Concept In New York 2015 | Autoblog Short Cuts / Image Credit: AOL On
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What's in a name? A lot for the Continental concept, and it gave Lincoln designers a sense of purpose as they styled the brand's upcoming flagship sedan. "The moment that we told them, it was amazing," Lincoln president Kumar Galhotra said. "They totally got it."

"It" is cutting-edge technology wrapped in stately, large-sedan design. It's a nod to Lincoln's storied past, but a signpost for where the brand is heading. Though the Continental name dates to the late 1930s, Lincoln designers avoided making the concept overtly retro.

"You can't let it pull yourself back too far in history, but you've got to design a car that lives up to the name," Galhotra said.

Speaking to Autoblog on the floor of the New York Auto Show where the Continental formally debuted Wednesday, the Lincoln president reiterated that the car is on track to launch in 2016. It will compete against the Audi A6, Lexus GS, BMW 5 Series and other large luxury sedans. After its debut, the concept in New York will fly to China – another critical market for Lincoln – for display there. It will be replaced in New York by a prototype without an interior.

The Continental is the latest high profile play by Lincoln to raise its image with consumers, who have either ignored or forgotten about it amid steep competition in the luxury sector from German and Japanese brands and a potentially resilient Cadillac. Lincoln sales are essentially flat compared with 2014 through the first quarter of this year, with total volume of 21,478 units. The middling start to 2015 comes on the heels of nearly 16-percent sales growth last year spurred by the launch of the MKC and the prominent signing of Matthew McConaughey to star in Lincoln advertisements.

Other News, Notes & Quotes

Speaking of names, Chevrolet did its homework before deciding to proceed with "Malibu" for its new generation of midsize cars. "We went out and researched it," said Alan Batey, president of General Motors North America. "People actually like the name 'Malibu,'" he said. Admittedly, the current Malibu has struggled in the marketplace against entrenched competitors, Batey said, but he's optimistic its awareness and historical value are assets to the dramatically redesigned sedan."The name's strong," he said.

Meanwhile, in other Chevy news, the brand kicked off a new marketing campaign, "Real People, Not Actors" Wednesday. It will show consumers interacting with Chevys and their spontaneous reactions to the vehicles. One spot features a family driving happily in a Traverse while connected to the Internet using 4G LTE, while a another family motors along in a Ford with wailing children – who aren't occupied by wifi-in back "It's going to really open people's eyes to Chevrolet, to the reality of Chevrolet, today," GM president Dan Ammann said in a keynote speech at the show.

Optimism abounded in New York, and companies remained bullish with their sales projections for the rest of the year. Mercedes US chief Steve Cannon pegged the market for at least 17 million this year, and expects the SUV market to turn into a "feeding frenzy" as fuel prices remain low. Batey said GM's forecast is also for "north of 17" million.

Elsewhere, Subaru is serious about promoting STI as a significant part of its business. No longer just a special model designation in the Subaru line, STI will be used for its motorsports campaigns and aftermarket parts. The coming-out party began in New York, where STI signs were displayed prominently throughout the Subaru display, and the brand showed a BRZ-based STI Performance concept.

Mercedes used drummer Cindy Blackman Santana to roll out the AMG GLE63. She's the wife of legendary guitarist Carlos Santana and has toured with Lenny Kravitz.

Not to be (completely) overshadowed, Smart showed off the 2016 Fortwo, which has been redone inside and out. Notably, it gets a dual-clutch transmission that remedies the uneven shifting that was a trademark of the previous generation. The New York Police Department is also testing Smart cars for potential use.

Finally, our Steven Ewing got the lowdown on the next-gen Volkswagen CC. VW is readying a new version of its swoopy CC sedan. Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Volkswagen's member of the board of management responsible for development, said the next CC "will push the brand to more emotional, more dynamic design" when it launches. But it won't be vastly different than things we've already seen – the Sport Coupe Concept GTE from this year's Geneva Motor Show is a strong indication of what we can expect.

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Lincoln Continental Concept In New York 2015 | Autoblog Short Cuts

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