The Lincoln Continental’s last stand

Reports have surfaced that the Lincoln Continental may be phased out once the current generation ends. Is this it for the grand American sedan?

In high school my friend had a 1975 Buick Riviera. It was a boat. Actually, more barge-like. The land barge was difficult to drive and even harder to park, and while it had seen better days, there was still a lingering sense of grandeur to it. You still felt like a king on the road, even when you weren’t sure the car would last the journey.

While at one time the personal luxury car was the ultimate sign of accomplishment, it has been given the backseat with the rise of SUVs and cross overs. Luxury brands have devoted their resources to putting luxury into SUVs and with the probable demise of the Lincoln Continental, it could be the last we see of the big American sedan. And that would be a shame.

Not enough McConaugheys

The current generation Lincoln Continental debuted in 2017 as a replacement for Lincoln’s MKS. It became the longest wheelbase Lincoln produced since the late 70s and boasted the most powerful engines ever put in a Lincoln. Most importantly, it had all the trimmings and features you’d come to expect in luxury.

Just look at the car, it’s gorgeous.

But it’s not selling. There are just not enough Americans ponying up the cash for it. Sales figures for the Continental are pretty dire for 2018. So far there have been 1573 sold. In 2017, the first full year of the current generation, Lincoln sold 12,012. When compared to other large luxury sedans, it’s not bad, but perhaps for the same parent company that ships 2400 F-150s per day, those numbers aren’t exactly meeting expectations.

Here are some figures for competitor brands and their large luxury sedans alongside the Continental:

Mercedes Benz S-Class: 15,888
Cadillac XTS: 16,275
Lincoln Continental: 12,012
Cadillac CT6: 10,542
BMW 7-Series: 9276
Genesis G90: 4398

To an outsider and non-beancounter, those numbers look pretty good. Selling better than the BMW 7-Series, and more than doubling the fledging Genesis brand. But perhaps to Lincoln, those numbers just aren’t good enough, especially in comparison to its GM counterpart, the Cadillac XTS (although selling a little better than the CT6).

We live in an SUV world

These numbers, of course, pale in comparison to the number of SUVs sold in the US last year. For Lincoln, the literal silver lining is that their Navigator is seeing a rise in buyers. With 2351 units sold for January and February of 2018, the year looks promising. Lincoln isn’t done with new SUVs either, with the announcement that they are bringing back the Aviator nameplate.

Where does this leave the Continental?

It leaves it in uncertainty. For those like myself who love their sedans big and beautiful (and local), it’s another sad indictment of the dying segment. Brand perception doesn’t help Lincoln either, unfortunately. With the widespread appeal of European names in the luxury market, there is a tendency to believe that a big sedan with the words Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi are better than ones named Lincoln or Cadillac (they are not).

With the money you end up paying (you’d pay double for an S-Class, and let’s be honest, it’s not worth twice the money), you can’t go past the value of an American made luxury sedan. And doesn’t just feel good to buy an affordable Lincoln instead of overpaying for an Audi?

But that’s just me, a dying breed whose love for the luxury automobile is best described as low to the ground, beautifully sculpted and tech’d up, and proudly saying “Made in Detroit” (okay, technically made in Flat Rock, but close enough).

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