Lincoln used to mean something. It was a status symbol above most other brands, but as time has gone on, and as the market shifted and Ford adjusted how it does things, the brand has become but a shadow of its former self. The latest generation Lincoln Continental was supposed to change that. It was supposed to usher in droves of new customers for the brand and bring the dawn of a new age for Lincoln. It didn’t. It likely won't for the rest of its days, which could be short.
Rumors swirl of its imminent demise. According to Ford Authority, the model could be discontinued after production of the current generation car ends. Ford Authority cites “sources intricately familiar with Ford Motor Company’s future product plans for its premium Lincoln brand.” We sincerely hope this isn’t the case, but we’re not surprised.
Lincoln had an opportunity with the Continental and squandered it. The Continental is close to being what it needs to be, but like Lincoln’s other products it lacks focus and a true appeal to the kinds of buyers that the brand should try to entice with its products.
The Continental Isn’t Good Enough
The simple fact of the matter is that the Continental isn’t good enough to do the things Ford wanted it to do. It’s not thrilling enough to reel in younger, well-to-do buyers, and it’s not soft and luxurious enough to entice older buyers who want a floaty Lincoln of old. The car suffers from disparate interior materials, some of which are subpar quality for a vehicle with such a high price tag.
The button transmission is annoying, and the exterior of the car isn’t quite what it needs to be. There are still elements of the vehicle’s exterior and interior design that remind us of how far Lincoln has sunk in the last several decades. While the car is a valiant effort in many ways, it’s not enough, and a big part of that comes down to the target market for the brand.
Lincoln Needed a Tighter Target Market for the Car
We get the feeling that Ford doesn’t know what to do with the Lincoln brand. Ford is heavily concentrated on the future. It’s worried about millennial buyers and has marketed its cars that way. Lincoln doesn’t fit into this overall push. With most of the brand’s cars being little more than rebadged overpriced Fords, they don’t fit the market very well. Why would you buy a rebadged Ford car that's more expensive?
This should have changed with the Continental, and it did for the most part. Lincoln tried hard to properly target the modern luxury car buyer, but it made a huge mistake. That mistake was that it tried to satisfy all modern luxury sedan buyers. The Continental tried to be a large luxury sedan that can also impress on a curvy road. It came surprisingly close to achieving its goal, but Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, and Cadillac all do this better.
Instead of trying to compete with the best in the business at their own game, Lincoln should have narrowed its target market more and focused exclusively on an older, wealthy demographic that wants a soft and luxurious cruiser. If the brand had laser-focused on this type of buyer when developing the car and then continued that focus when marketing it, the Continental would have stood a better chance of living a long and illustrious life. It could have returned Lincoln to its former glory.
Another mistake was to give it sporting driving chops while keeping the Continental name. We get that they needed to appeal to a younger demographic, the future of their customer base needed to be heard. Leaning on heritage is one thing, but reminding potential younger buyers that the car has the same name as their grandpa's steed was a misfire. If you're going to keep the old name, keep driving dynamics on the softer side.
As it stands now, the model sells slowly, and sales continue to decline. Its best month was December of 2016, selling 1,845 models. The following year saw about 1,000 – usually less – sales each month in the U.S., according to Ford Authority. The first two months of 2018 have been slow, with 815 sales in January and 758 in February. With sales like that and little hope for a turnaround, it’s not surprising to hear rumors of the car’s future doom.