Ford Will Build New Lincoln Continental Alongside Mustang, Fusion

Flagship sedan set to debut in 2016.

by on Jul.16, 2015

Ford CEO Mark Fields with the Lincoln Continental Concept during its NY Auto Show debut.

Ford Motor Co. has revealed plans to produce its new luxury flagship, the Lincoln Continental, at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant where it will roll down the line alongside the Ford Mustang and Fusion models.

The Continental will be the most significant effort in years by Ford to revive the fortunes of its long-struggling Lincoln brand. Ostensibly a replacement for the outgoing MKS sedan, it will move Lincoln up-market, in line with rival Cadillac’s new CT6 flagship sedan.

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The Flat Rock plant is one of the maker’s most important U.S. assembly plants, and also one of its most flexible, capable of producing both front-wheel-drive models like the Fusion, as well as the rear-drive Mustang. Lincoln has not yet disclosed specific details about the Continental drivetrain but it is expected to offer an all-wheel-drive version, in keeping with trends in the premium luxury market.

(Lincoln lands the big surprise at NY show with unexpected Continental debut. Click Here for that story.)

The Flat Rock plant was originally operated as part of a joint venture between Ford and Mazda Motor Co. But Mazda pulled out several years ago as Ford sold off most of its holdings in the Japanese maker.

Mustangs roll down the Flat Rock line.

The announcement comes at a significant time and serves as something of a carrot following the stick Ford threw in the direction of the United Auto Workers Union last week by confirming it will pull two small vehicles, the Focus and C-Max, out of another suburban Detroit plant. Production of those models is widely expected to be shifted to Mexico.

Ford is set to begin negotiating a new, four-year contract with the UAW next week – General Motors and Fiat Chrysler having launched their own negotiations this week. Production and job security are set to become critical issues in the discussions.

The Continental will be the largest and, Ford hopes, most prestigious model in the Lincoln line-up. Observers view it as something of a last-ditch attempt to prove that the brand can directly compete with not only Cadillac but the imports that now dominate the U.S. luxury market, Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

First revealed at the New York Auto Show in April, the Lincoln Continental adopts a dramatically different design language from other recent models the brand has introduced, going so far as to abandon the so-called split-wing grille introduced only a few years ago on the redesigned Lincoln MKZ.

The new flagship also marks a shift away from the controversial naming strategy Lincoln has adopted, using the letters MK in all models but the big Navigator SUV. Company officials have explained that they wanted something distinctive considering the role the new Continental will play – though some observers believe Ford may now walk away from the MK nomenclature.

(Click Here for a review of the updated 2015 Lincoln Navigator.)

The 1940 Lincoln Continental.

The original Continental was developed as a one-off vehicle, the personal car for Edsel Ford, the son of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford. It made a splash when it was driven by the executive during a March 1939 vacation in Florida, winning so much praise it was quickly put into production.

Over the years, the Continental name was used on a series of top-line models for Ford but was dropped due to poor reviews and sluggish sales in 2002.

The concept version has won raves, and it offers “a pretty strong hint of what the production vehicle will look like,” Lincoln President Kumar Galhotra said after its New York debut.

But the maker has yet to reveal any details about the new Continental, even the basic platform it will use. There’s ongoing debate outside the company as to whether it will opt for a front-drive or rear-drive layout, though most observers agree that Lincoln will bow to industry trends and offer at least an optional all-wheel-drive package.

The new Continental will debut shortly after Cadillac makes its own push back into the premium luxury segment – taking on such stalwarts as the Mercedes S-Class – with the all-new CT6 sedan. The Caddy flagship will offer several powertrain options, though notably no V-8, instead opting for a top-line twin-turbo V-6, as well as a high-power plug-in hybrid, for its performance versions. The Cadillac CT6 will be offered in both rear- and all-wheel configurations.

(For more on the Cadillac CT6, Click Here.)

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5 Responses to “Ford Will Build New Lincoln Continental Alongside Mustang, Fusion”

  1. Pakman says:

    This is great news, Ford bringing back a great and historic name plate/design, investing locally, competing globally. American made, American manufactured, and American Luxury. Its nice to see the OEM head quartered on the “American Road” investing in American Manufacturing and product.

  2. Jorge says:

    IMO the only means to compete in the premium luxury category is with a RWD and AWD model as most buyers in that category expect a RWD platform. I doubt the “MK” designation is hurting the product line unless people some how associate it negatively with Martin Luther King. MK was suppose to stand for “Mark” as in Mark I, Mark II, etc. The Continental name should be just fine for a top of the heap model that delivers everything that the competition offers. That however is going to require a major shift in thinking at Ford.

  3. DWH says:

    It may not be built at the flat rock plant but I’ll bet that the new jag from tata uses the same chassis. Probably even aston martin. I belive they call it industry integration.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      I highly doubt that, DWH. Jaguar is even moving away from using Ford engines. That separation is largely complete.

      Paul E.

  4. EAJ says:

    Um Jorge, that would be “MLK”, not “MK”. “MK” is really always used as abbreviation of “Mark”. What’s hurt Lincoln, besides the use of MK-whatever is they have basically taken over Mercury’s role as being rebadged Fords. That decision untimately killed Mercury and is not doing too well of a job with Lincoln. Add in that “genius” move of calling everything “MK-”, which was supposedly done b/c the marketing brain-trust thought by going that route people would use the full name “Lincoln MK-blah-blah-blah”, and the brand became what it is today, tarted-up Fords. And the kicker, people still don’t use the full name, just MKS, MKT, MKOMG, MKyuck…

    You’re correct Paul, the Jaguar / Ford tie-up is pretty much complete, with the last bastion being the engine architecture, which is being phased out at Tata as we speak. I believe the only chassis being shared between Ford and PAG members was with Volvo and the X-Type/Mondeo mashup, and that was years ago.

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