Tag Archives: Lincoln

Room(iness) at the top: 2017 Lincoln Continental

The pride is back? The new Continental landed with a splash at the NAIAS.

The pride is back? The new Continental landed with a splash at the NAIAS.

With its flagship back, Lincoln gets a cherry on its sundae

It’s no secret this writer has expressed more than a passing interest in the Lincoln Continental since news broke in 2014 that the marque’s flagship was returning.

Well, as the overused phrase goes, “It’s 2016!” and the production-ready Continental is here.

Unveiled at the North American International Auto Show, the Continental is the first all-new model since the Ford Motor Company decided to resurrect the moribund Lincoln brand with a multi-billion-dollar injection of cash.

Remember that 1980s Chrysler slogan ‘The Pride is Back’? That seemed to be Lincoln’s mantra at NAIAS.

In case you were wondering what this was...

In case you were wondering what this was…

Massive lettering on a towering digital backdrop screamed announced the presence of the new range-topping sedan, which itself was parked atop a massive, gleaming white stage, flanked by two more Continentals. Incidently, they were painted red, white and blue.

Loosely translated, this means “We’re here, we’re American, and we’re heading to China!”

Yes, for some time Ford has jealously eyed GM’s success in the Chinese market – a murky opportunity factory where the nouveau riche snap up any American car with a storied (and status) nameplate. Cadillac and Buick shouldn’t have all the fun, Ford no doubt thought, and what better car to do that than a new Continental?

The soon-to-be-late Lincoln MKS – the brand’s former flagship – sold like coldcakes and was as exciting as a bowl of plain rice at an orgy. Left to wither on the vine, the model’s planned second generation was scrapped by Ford CEO Mark Fields in 2014 in favour of a model with presence and name recognition – something that would bring more distinction (and hopefully sales) to the brand.

With vehicle sales rising for the past two model years, Lincoln is slowly but surely pulling out of its lengthy sales slump. With its crossover offerings already well fleshed out (and generally well regarded) getting back into the full-size sedan market was a needed and obvious next step in the brand’s turnaround.

The Continental's rear just might be its most flawless rear estate.

The Continental’s rear just might be its most flawless real estate.


 Last year’s Continental concept was a good indication of the shape of things to come.

Bentley-esque in profile, the concept and production model eschewed the gaudiness of the 70s and 80s, nor did it submit to a retro ‘60s design that would age quickly and make for awkward redesigns.

Many people, myself included, secretly wished for a pound-for-pound remake of the ’63 Continental, but it was not to be. Maybe Ford learned a lesson with its slow-selling retro styled Thunderbird of the previous decade.

Lincoln x Infinity makes for a gleaming mouth.

Lincoln x Infinity makes for a gleaming mouth.

The new Continental clearly aims to be a contemporary representative of the Lincoln brand, a rolling expression of the ‘quiet luxury’ that Lincoln literature speaks of.

The styling cues of the concept remain in a toned-down form. A high beltline with a delicate rear fender hump, wide rectangular(ish) grille gleaming with recessed chrome mesh, and chrome door handles integrated into the beltline trim stand out on the production model.

Rarely does something as pedestrian as door handles get top billing when it comes to a new model’s features, but the Continental’s ‘E-latch’ handles are something to see. Looking like they’re milled from solid chromed steel, the handles are truly unique, opening with a touch of a pad on the inside of the protruding handhold.

The doors fully latch by themselves even if only partially closed. A capacitor in each door controls the system, but as Paul Linden (Supervisor of Advanced Technologies at Ford) describes, they can be defeated manually a number of ways.

Reach out and touch me...

Reach out and touch me…

“Triple redundancies” protect an owner from being locked out, said Linden, by way of switches located on the inside of the door or via a small square panel located in the Continental badging on the door’s exterior. The system also unlocks doors automatically in the event of a serious crash.

Subtle branding exercises abound in the Continental’s front end brightwork. Surrounding the Lincoln logo in the center of the grille are hundreds of logo-shaped links, while the five projectors in each headlamp follow suit.

Out back, the branding exercise continues with truly large ‘Lincoln’ lettering stretching across the trunk lid, the width of which is enhanced by the full-width tail lamps we’ve come to expect from the company.

Filling out the fender holes are turbine-style 20-inch wheels that provide an appropriately large platform for the flagships’ rubber.

Admirers of the concept’s sleek, recessed rocker panels and metal accent trim wrapping around the lower body edge will have to live with normal rockers and far less shiny bits down low.

An uncluttered console with healthy doses of aluminum greet Continental drivers.

An uncluttered console with healthy doses of aluminum greet Continental drivers.

Looking in

The Continental’s interior reflects a mix of new and retro cues.

A healthy dose of bright aluminum mesh adorns the upper door panels, dash, steering wheel and console (both front and rear), surrounded by the leather one would expect from any luxury sedan.

Thin chrome strips ring the center infotainment screen and gauge cluster.

While there might be a little too much aluminum kicking around, the metal applied to the elegantly sparse front and rear consoles looks fantastic, and is probably the car’s biggest nod to the Kennedy era – that storybook time when the Continental was a design leader.

Take control (of the audio) in the Continental's comfy backseat.

Take control (of the audio) in the Continental’s comfy backseat.

Good news for the finicky – the vehicle’s leather-and-fabric seats are adjustable 30 different ways. Let’s hope they have a memory function. Front and rear, the seats are heated and cooled.

While no Continental owner is safe online, at least their car’s built-in rear seat window curtains will afford their passengers some privacy while in public.

And because every day is sunny when you’re in a Lincoln, a full-length sunroof is there for access to the sun, the moon and the stars.

A 19-speaker Revel audio system, complete with rear-seat controls, rounds out the list of the biggest creature comforts.

Five logos, all in a row. A small thing, but props on being different.

Five logos, all in a row. A small thing, but props on being different.


A new, brand-exclusive 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 will power the top-of-the-line Continental, with the existing 3.7-litre and 2.7-litre Ecoboost engines serving as lower-rung fare. The 3.0-litre will make 400 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque.

Front-wheel-drive is nothing new for the Continental nameplate, and those wheels will once again be putting the power down. Torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive will be an option.

Ford’s trusty 6-speed automatic is the only transmission offering.

Blue trumps white when it comes to showing off the Continental's subtle lines.

Blue trumps white when it comes to showing off the Continental’s subtle lines.

The verdict

Clearly the result of a careful design process, the Continental nonetheless runs the risk of being seen as bland, or worse, a badge engineering job.

Purists have taken exception to the car’s front-wheel-drive architecture, especially given that it’s a modified version of the platform that underpins the very ordinary Ford Fusion. While its Cadillac competitor, the CT6, is rear-drive, remember that previous Caddies like the DTS and STS were front-drive.

A conversation with a friend turned up the criticism that the new Continental is “okay, but weak,” and is likely the result of the people at Lincoln “playing it safe.” The grille, he added, was underwhelming.

Fair enough – I worry the headlamps and lower fascia stray close to Ford territory, but overall I say it’s a good styling effort. Maybe a little restrained, but isn’t that what Lincoln is going for?

I’d also add that the new Continental’s subtle lines are somewhat dependent on lighting. Well-lit white Continentals seem to become nearly shapeless, while the dark blue models show off their curves much better.

Overall, Lincoln deserves kudos for its bold return to the ultra-lux sedan market and for returning a storied nameplate to dealerships. The automotive landscape is richer for it.

Power in the front, party in the back

The Continental will officially replace the MKS in 2016 (Image: Ford Motor Company)

The Continental will officially replace the MKS in 2016 (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Continental goes front-drive, MKS taken behind barn


There’s going to be a death in the Lincoln family.

The long-running, slow-selling MKS flagship (‘Sex Panther’, as the young folks call it) will go the way of Betamax in 2016, with that year being its final production run.

As difficult as this news is, the trip to the glue factory for the antiquated and invisible MKS has a silver lining, as it will herald the arrival of a new King – er, flagship.

RIP MKS, LOL (Cropped image: Ford Motor Company)

RIP MKS, LOL (Cropped image: Ford Motor Company)

The Lincoln Continental, teased last winter as the saviour of the Lincoln brand (and the first nail in the coffin of the company’s confusing alpha-numeric model names) will take residence at the top of the model lineup.

Big, bold and packed with luxury and yesteryear cues (if the prototype is anything to go by), the Continental would position Lincoln to better do battle with its luxury rivals.

While the vehicle’s power plant was always stated as being a brand-exclusive turbocharged 3.0-litre V6, the drive wheels remained a mystery until recently. Lincoln has confirmed that the new Continental will be (wait for it) front-wheel drive.

Yes, the flagship positioned to take on the Cadillac CT6, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BWM 7-Series, Lexus LS and Jaguar XJ (all rear-drive vehicles) will be front-wheel drive, with an AWD option.

This revelation could take some of the wind out of the sales of hardcore Lincoln aficionados who remember – probably not all that fondly – the previous front-drive Continental (1988-2002).

1991 Lincoln Continental (Image via)

1991 Lincoln Continental (Image via)

Does front-drive mean the Continental will be a dud? Don’t bank on it – after all, the stately design and interior drooled over by auto journos last winter doesn’t disappear just because the car’s torque is being funneled to the front wheels.

(It remains to be seen, however, whether the concept was nearly production-ready, or whether we’ll see a watering down of the design and furnishings in a production model)

All-wheel drive is also nothing to scoff at, especially if the torque is biased towards the rear, or even distributed evenly. This means your dream of hooning a new Continental in the snow could soon become a reality.

Still, the greatest Continentals of yesteryear were rear-drive, as are the big players in the modern luxury market.

On the domestic front, Cadillac’s recent reveal of a range-topping rear-drive CT8 sedan could make the Continental look wanting in comparison, especially given the angular, Elmiraj concept car-inspired design seen in renderings.

Like finding out whether that noise outside the window is a raccoon, the wind, or something much more sinister, only time will tell.

If the interior of a front-drive Continental looks like this, maybe people will be forgiving (Image: Ford Motor Company)

If the interior of a front-drive Continental looks like this, maybe people will be forgiving (Image: Ford Motor Company)


The plot thickens…

If the Continental name returns, could it return Lincoln to the forefront of luxury motoring?

If the Continental returns, could it return Lincoln to the forefront of luxury motoring?

Recently, this humble blog teased you with insinuation and speculation about the possible unveiling of a modern-day Lincoln Continental at next week’s New York International Auto Show.

“It can’t be,” some said.

“Get the f*** out of here,” said others.

“You’re drunk,” opined the rest.

Well, according to the handsome and trendy staff at Jalopnik, there’s plenty of reasons to believe this is exactly what will happen.

Exhibit A? A partially crafted website that gushes about the new Lincoln Continental concept in professional PR-speak. Much mention of “you” and “we”, which is classic ‘personalize-the-carbuyer/automaker-relationship’ jargon.

No images were made available on the page, which was discovered by a Ford fan at blueovalforums.com early on March 25, but the code associated with the page references a 2017 model year Lincoln Continental.

If the Continental name does return, my fingers are crossed for styling elements of the 60s and 70s.

If the Continental name does return, my fingers are crossed for styling elements of the 60s and 70s.

Until now, the bulk of the speculation (when there was any), was that Lincoln would pick New York to tease the 2016 MKS, which currently serves as the aged flagship of Lincoln’s passenger car line.

Any true flagship would require rear-wheel-drive to compete with other luxury automakers, something that can be now be accomplished by Ford’s new and versatile D6 platform.

A source told me this past weekend to expect a rear-drive Lincoln sedan at New York, and it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to carry over the MKS name onto a new rear-drive platform when they have the name ‘Continental’ in reserve.

Yes, the MKS exists (relatively unchanged since 2009) and dutifully reflects Lincoln’s alpha-numeric naming trend, but ‘Continental’ has more caché and remains instantly recognizable as a Lincoln model and luxury symbol.

Whether or not the MKS soldiers on in a new guise, slotted beneath a new Continental, what does Lincoln have to lose by trying to recapture the magic of the past?

The brand is still struggling and can use all the attention it can get.





Mystery date

The Lincoln MKS is due for a styling change, but will it also get a name change? (Cropped image: Ford Motor Company)

The Lincoln MKS is due for a styling change, but will it also get a name change? (Cropped image: Ford Motor Company)

What is Lincoln going to reveal in New York?


Anyone who closely follows the ongoing turnaround of the Lincoln brand will know that something new is expected to be unveiled at the New York International Auto Show this April.

This shadowy Lincoln Motor Company vehicle is said to be a large sedan, underpinned by the new, modular ‘D6’ platform developed by parent company Ford and announced late last year.

That platform is the product of a $5 billion cash injection from Ford, designed to end years of stagnation at Lincoln by enabling a slew of possible new products. The D6 platform is said to be able to accommodate front, rear, or all-wheel drive setups.

An all-new flagship model would be beneficial to Lincoln at this crucial time.

An all-new flagship model would be beneficial to Lincoln at this crucial time.

The most recent Lincoln product to have work done was the 2016 MKX, which was doing the auto show circuit this winter.

Lincoln’s flagship large car is the MKS, a long in the tooth model introduced back in 2009 that’s in serious need of a redesign. Given the recent attention given to the MKZ, MKX, MKC and Navigator, it’s a no-brainer that the MKS would be next in line to receive a new look, and new architecture.

But will the New York debut be the MKS?

In December of last year, folk-rock icon Neil Young (who is marketing an audio product via his music company Pono) let slip that his product would be available on the 2016 Lincoln Continental. That model name hasn’t existed for over a decade.

Lincoln execs were mum on the issue, according to the Detroit News, leaving people to wonder whether Neil’s years of drug ingestion had left him momentarily confused.

Earlier this year, autoevolution.com speculated on the New York debut, posting information garnered from a source that stated that Lincoln would indeed be unveiling a large, rear-wheel-drive sedan at the show.

Lincoln is under pressure to produce a memorable flagship for the brand, especially when considering rival Cadillac’s planned entry of its range-topping CT6 sedan.

The Continental is Lincoln's most famous and recognizable nameplate. Is it too much to ask for a revival?

The Continental is Lincoln’s most famous and recognizable nameplate. Is it too much to ask for a revival?

Rear-wheel-drive would make sense, now that the funds and architecture exist to make it happen. But the New York Auto Show website doesn’t tease the MKS, but rather a ‘to be determined’ model.

Now, it could still be the MKS, which could easily appear on new, rear-wheel-drive architecture. But wouldn’t a memorable name – one that defined Lincoln for decades – make a bigger splash?

A source close to the company told me today to expect a rear-drive Lincoln sedan in New York, and cagily hinted that the Continental name can’t be ruled out.

If true, this would be big news for those who have longed for the triumphant return of that storied nameplate, which brings with it images of iconic, Kennedy-era sedans that defined American luxury.

We’ll have to wait and see whether these wishes will be satisfied – the show begins April 3 – but it’s nice to see some buzz building around Lincoln again. Whatever sedan is unveiled, we can only hope that it’s pleasing to the eye and a competitive entry into its class.

Suicide doors, I’m sure, are definitely too much to ask for.







(MK)X marks the spot

The 2016 Lincoln MKX will adopt what's good about its little brother, the MKC (hint: tasteful styling)

The 2016 Lincoln MKX will adopt what’s good about its little brother, the MKC (hint: tasteful styling)

The MKX has finally grown into itself.

The Ford Edge-based SUV, which slots right in the middle of Lincoln’s utility vehicle lineup, has been identity challenged right from the beginning. Bowing in 2007, the MKX was clearly a tarted-up, badge engineering Ford that swapped front fascias and taillights for a 2011 refresh.

The 2016 MKX, revealed earlier this month at the North American International Auto show in Detroit (and photographed here in Montreal) pushes its parent vehicle further away by adopting a clear, full-body styling job.

It just so happens that the new MKX’s styling cues – flowing fender bulges, pronounced rear haunches, split grille and narrow, full-width taillights – are the same cues that adorn its smaller, well-received sibling, the MKC.

Tasteful elegance seems to be the goal for Lincoln's mid-sized utility (Image: Lincoln Motor Company)

Tasteful elegance seems to be the goal for Lincoln’s mid-sized utility (Image: Lincoln Motor Company)

Clearly, head brass at Lincoln saw they had something good going with the MKC and applied the same touches to their wayward mid-sizer, thus giving the brand a more cohesive design language.

The styling is careful and understated, yet still pleasing to the eye, and no longer resembles a Ford with a Lincoln badge.

Under the hood, Ford’s 3.7-litre V-6 returns as the standard engine, making a projected 300 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque.

The upgrade will be Ford’s new 2.7-litre EcoBoost V-6, a twin-turbo unit that Lincoln says makes 330 horsepower and 370 foot-pounds of torque (based on early data tests). This is the engine that Ford is touting as the mileage-making upgrade in its newly lightened, aluminum-framed F-150 pickups.

Both engines will be mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with push-button shifting (because buttons = luxury, obviously).

Fender bulges, more pronounced rear haunches and full-width taillights class up the new MKX.

Fender bulges, more pronounced rear haunches and full-width taillights class up the new MKX.

The long-awaited, oft-mentioned Lincoln resurgence appears to be happening, with 2014 sales numbers showing a definite uptick in U.S. sales compared to the five stagnant years that came before it.

The MKZ sedan and MKC utility get most of the credit for renewing interest in the flagging brand, but if the MKX’s new look impresses in the same way as its smaller stablemate, it can only help sales.

The restyled model’s popularity remains to be seen (it goes on sale this summer), but it’s still nice to see Lincoln becoming more cohesive and self-assured as a brand.




Motoring, à la française

The Hyundai Intrado sport crossover concept comes unwrapped at the Montreal International Auto Show.

The Hyundai Intrado sport crossover concept comes unwrapped at the Montreal International Auto Show.

Thoughts from the 2015 Montreal Auto Show


There’s few things as unsexy as driving in Canada in the middle of January.

Brutal cold is never sexy, nor is starting your car in that same nostril hair-freezing temperature and shivering while the heater valiantly tries (and fails) to blow warm air.

Road salt and brown-grey slush covers everything – roads, sidewalks, your car, your pants – while the weather forecast teases you with warmer weather (which never materializes) on the last day of the week.

So it was fitting that the mercury was holding steady at minus 25 when I left Ottawa for the warm, glitzy confines of the Montreal Auto Show this past week.

Thankfully, the only salt to be found inside the Palais des Congrès was on my Old Dutch potato chips.

Here it is - the 2084 Camry! Actually, the Toyota FT1 concept is meant to tease a future design direction for the company.

Here it is – the 2084 Camry! Actually, the Toyota FT1 concept is meant to tease a future design direction for the company.

Unlike past years, lots of concepts were unveiled this time around, and mainly from Japanese automakers. Could it be they’re feeling a growing ‘beige’ backlash to their sensible but reserved offerings?

The wildest concept by far was the Toyota FT1, a two-seater supercar that was red enough and low enough to arouse Prince. Missing a drivetrain, the FT1’s totally un-Camrylike styling is a direction the company rep said Toyota plans to go in.

No word on whether the FT1 will be appearing alongside Corollas in Toyota showrooms anytime soon, but I somehow doubt it.

Supercars are hot, but they aren’t big sellers. Most of the concepts revealed at the show were a little more sensible, and shared a common theme: compact, sporty, 2-door crossovers aimed at adventurous, urban Millennials.

Subaru's VIZIV 2 concept (another 2-door sport crossover!) reflects the company's future styling plans.

Subaru’s VIZIV 2 concept (another 2-door sport crossover!) reflects the company’s future styling plans.

Have you finished vomiting yet? Yes, the ‘adventurous, urban Millennial’ is the new, hipsterized ‘young urban professional’ of yesterday.

Whether you’re grabbing your beard buddies and heading down to the Vance Joy/Lumineers concert, taking your open relationship girlfriend to the Lena Dunham book signing, or ironically shopping for Mason jars or corduroys by yourself, these concepts were meant to arouse apathy and muted passion all at once.

Subaru brought its VIZIV 2 concept, Hyundai rolled out the Intrado, and Volkswagen showed up with the T-ROC. Together, the concepts were meant to imply a design and market direction, one that (if accurate) should have America’s young people toasting their good fortune with overly hoppy craft beer.

Paging Millennials - the Volkswagen T-ROC might be the lifestyle you need.

Paging Millennials – the Volkswagen T-ROC might be the lifestyle you need.

All joking aside, the concepts have definite appeal. A Jack-of-all-trades vehicle that combines sportiness with modern amenities, a city-friendly body length and usable utility would seemingly be the perfect vehicle for a childless one-car couple.

They could easily be a second, more ‘fun’ car for a Baby Boomer couple. Or, just maybe, individuals of all ages might come to the conclusion that – based on its attributes – this is the car for them.

Besides the concepts, a number of models ready and waiting to be bought were given some time in the limelight.

The North American unveiling of the Mazda 2 revealed a newly KODOized styling job, a new 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-G engine, a longer wheelbase and basically upgraded everything. Despite the freshening up, it looks like the 2 will retain the sprightly personality it has made for itself.

The front end of the 2016 Mazda 2 shows off its new KODO design language.

The front end of the 2016 Mazda 2 shows off its new KODO design language.

The Fiat 500X, the larger crossover built atop the stretched 500L platform that underpins the Jeep Renegade, impressed with its pleasing proportions and tasteful trim. Compared to the 500X, the 500L looks like a birthday cake after a  grenade attack.

Lincoln’s refreshed-for-2016 MKX was at the show, but wasn’t afforded any unveiling time. Still the black MKX in the display reflected the new MKC-inspired styling job well. The treatment can best be described as ‘safely, subtly stylish’ and can only do good things for the mid-size SUV as Lincoln continues with its turnaround.

Missing from the Montreal show (due to overlap with the Detroit show) was the 640-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V sport sedan, which was a damn shame, though the ATS coupe and stunning Elmiraj concept gave journos something sharp (and sharp-edged) to look at.

The Cadillac Elmiraj concept rolled into Canada to show us what a luxury American coupe should look like.

The Cadillac Elmiraj concept rolled into Canada to show us what a luxury American coupe should look like.

I was hoping to come across the Hyundai Santa Cruz concept, but alas, no dice. Unveiled in Detroit, the clamshell door, short-bed unibody pickup concept has generated a lot of interest, and not just because it seemed more ‘fleshed-out’ than other concepts.

The Santa Cruz is downright appealing. While the ‘crossover coupe’ was all the rage at Montreal, I wouldn’t bet against this ‘crossover pickup’ getting the green light from Hyundai before long. It seems like the company was trying to strategically gauge consumer demand by unveiling a nearly production-ready prototype.

Build it, I say.

After the gold rush

With dropping oil prices and an economy on the upswing, why not buy that new Mustang? (Image: Ford Motor Company)

With dropping oil prices and an economy on the upswing, why not buy that new Mustang? (Image: Ford Motor Company)

End-of-year sales figures are in, and it seems the people who didn’t buy a new car this year could all fit on a short-wheelbase bus.

2014 turned out to be a boffo year for the automotive industry, and for American manufacturers, too – automakers who just a half-decade ago were questioning whether they’d survive to see the 2010’s.

In Canada, overall sales were up 6% over last year’s totals, and rose an astonishing 16% in December. In the United States, sales also rose 6% in 2014, and 11% in the month of December.

In Canada, the top three companies turned out to be the Big Three, with Ford Motor Company on top with 15.8% of the market, while Fiat-Chrysler took 15.7% and General Motors snagging 13.5%.

In the U.S. of A, GM was on top of the corporate sales ladder with 17.8% of the year’s market share, followed by Ford (14.9%) and Toyota Motor Corporation (14.4%).

Buick made impressive sales gains in Canada in 2014, selling 31% more than the year before (Image: General Motors)

Buick made impressive sales gains in Canada in 2014, selling 31% more than the year before (Image: General Motors)

In terms of brands, Canadians were most partial to Ford, which saw sales rise by 39.5% for December (compared to Dec. ’13) and 2.7% for the year. Honda and Toyota took 2nd and 3rd place, with Chevrolet and RAM rounding out the top five.

South of the border, Americans also found themselves drawn to Ford the most (thought the annual tally dipped by 1.1% over last year), followed by Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

Other automakers also had strong showings this December compared to last. Buick saw Canadian sales rose 64.9%, finishing the year 31% higher than 2013. Chrysler sales shot up 86.9% in the Christmas month, though overall sales were down slightly (2.9%) for the year.

Even the Lincoln brand, which seemed (until recently) to be as endangered as GM and Chrysler were in 2008, saw positive sales gains. In Canada, the luxury brand saw a 61.4% boost in December, finishing the year 17.3% higher than last. In the U.S., Lincoln saw December sales rise 21.4% over 2013, with an annual total 15.6% higher.

Interest is being rekindled in that storied brand, it would seem.

Scion sales slid sharply in 2014 in both American and Canadian markets (Image: Toyota Motor Corporation)

Scion sales slid sharply in 2014 in both American and Canadian markets (Image: Toyota Motor Corporation)

In a game with winners and losers, there always has to be a downside – even with buyers running to dealerships en masse, cash in hand. This past month – and this past year – the loser was Scion, the Toyota offshoot that appears to be headed the same direction as the Lusitania.

With December sales down 30.7% in Canada and 11.7% in the U.S., drastic action will be needed to reverse this trend and keep the brand afloat. The annual sales loss for Scion works out to a drop of 20.4% in Canada and 15.1% in the U.S.


A sporty, 5-door hatch scheduled to be released in 2015 might change things, but I’d say more models are needed to bring the brand back to visibility.

Crystal ball types are predicting that it will be difficult for the industry to maintain this level of sales next year, which isn’t all that surprising. At some point, the amount of new cars already bought, and the amount of people who can’t afford them, will conspire to reach a sales plateau.

My not-too-brilliant prediction: with oil prices plunging, expect growth in the truck and SUV categories this coming year.





I am the resurrection

Will a $5 billion investment from Ford boost Lincoln's sagging fortunes? Time will tell.

Will a $5 billion investment from Ford boost Lincoln’s sagging fortunes? Time will tell.

There’s been no shortage of spilled ink when it comes to debating the (seemingly) age-old question, ‘What are we to do with Lincoln?’

The iconic 92-year-old brand, once the pinnacle of American luxury, has meandered along on a rudderless path for years, churning out forgettable vehicles while whispers of its impending demise grew ever louder.

Well, it seems that Ford is finally deciding to do something about the wayward marque. New CEO Mark Fields clearly believes in the ‘go big or go home’ mantra, and late last month announced plans to pump piles of money into the Lincoln Motor Company.

Like gasoline through the carb of a 460 V-8, this copious cash infusion is aimed at jump-starting the brand into renewed relevancy.

How much cash, exactly? At least $5 billion over the next five years, according to Reuters:


To compete, you need to offer a variety of things that people want, and do it as good or better than the other guys. Like any company with two brain cells to rub together, Lincoln knows this, and the 2014 MKC small crossover is a good example of a move in a more competitive direction.

But one new vehicle doesn’t save a company. The $5 billion will be allocated to freshening up the existing lineup while adding new goodies to the shelf.

The creation of a new, highly-configurable platform to underpin several new models is at the centre of the rebuilding plan. The platform will reportedly be able to accommodate drivetrains utilizing the front or rear wheels (or all of them).

Now that there’s fuel being added to the fire, it should be interesting to watch Lincoln attempt to rise from the ashes.

Lincoln Mk. III (1969-1971) spotted in Prince George, British Columbia.

Lincoln Mk. III (1969-1971) spotted in Prince George, British Columbia.

Whether it will attain past levels of glory remains to be seen, but I’ve got my fingers crossed – like always – for a new flagship Continental sedan, ideally with suicide doors.

I’m never backing down on that wish. And if that’s too much to ask, can we please get a personal luxury coupe?

Lincoln’s identity crisis

Kissin' cousins...

Kissin’ cousins…

Automotive columnist John Phillips has an interesting piece in the July edition of Car and Driver.

In it, Phillips describes the Lincoln Motor Company as being devoid of direction and purpose – an automaker undecided as to what it wants to be in the automotive landscape. Lincoln’s badge-engineered lineup (essentially, luxury re-treads of Ford vehicles), are a “distracting abstraction,” Phillips argues, existing solely as a second sales stream for Ford.

This kind of speculation is nothing new, as Lincoln has been drifting like a ship without a rudder for some time, but it’s still worthwhile. Lincoln is a storied nameplate that has become almost invisible, and deserves to return to prominence.

While traditional rival Cadillac now boasts an appealing lineup of aggressively styled vehicles that knows who their competition is, Lincoln’s offerings lack an overall design philosophy.

Judged on their own merits, each vehicle in Lincoln’s lineup has things to like about it, but there’s no denying they’re simply ‘Fords…with luxury’. Luxury, and an odd grille.

I know the retro waterfall thing is supposed to emulate the face of the classic 1940 Continental, but it always looked like a beached whale to me. The MKS is nice but forgettable, the MKT is a bizarre land boat that’s rarer than a Toronto Conservative, the MKX seems to be a top trim level for the Ford Edge, and the MKZ – the most visible new Lincoln – boasts a no-cost Ford Fusion hybrid drivetrain as its centrepiece along with ‘different’ styling.

The Lincoln MKS: a whale of a sedan.

The Lincoln MKS: a whale of a sedan.

Phillips argues that Lincoln needs to do something completely new – something that’s distinctly a product of Lincoln, and not Ford – in order to emerge from automotive purgatory.

I don’t see why this isn’t possible. Ford is making money, and I’m sure it would like to make Lincolns that generate large sales (and buzz). In the 60s and 70s, Lincoln was a powerhouse, selling luxury coupes and massive formal sedans like they were going out of style (and they were).

In the 1980s, Lincoln held its own over Cadillac precisely because they hadn’t gone on the badge-engineering ride that GM had entered Cadillac into.

(See clip for evidence that Lincoln played up this angle, advertising its “uncompromised individuality.”)

Things started to fall apart in the 1990s after the Mk VIII was put out to pasture and the front-drive Continental started withering on the vine, leaving the Town Car as the remaining ‘classic’ Lincoln.

The rear-drive Lincoln LS (2000-2006) that followed earned some impressive accolades, but is now as remembered as the Cadillac Catera of the same era – ie, not at all. Badge engineering began in earnest in the LS’s wake, with the introduction of the Fusion-based Zephyr in 2006.

The Zephyr thudded into the marketplace with lacklustre sales, forcing the Ford Motor Company to almost immediately rebrand it as the MKZ (while also giving it an engine upgrade and grille redesign).

The rest is history.

I’m sure Lincoln will one day find the direction it needs, but what direction that will be escapes me. I know many car enthusiasts still wish for a modern, rear-drive incarnation of the Continental (with suicide doors, no less!), but Cadillac’s newfound hotness didn’t come from re-hashing the deVilles and Fleetwoods of years past.

On its own, the new MKC small crossover is fairly attractive, with a duo of interesting turbo fours. However – call me a traditionalist – Lincoln needs to be primarily about sedans. We will watch.

Leaving a Mark

1969-71 Lincoln Continental Mk. III, spotted near Leamington, Ontario.

1969-71 Lincoln Continental Mk. III, spotted near Leamington, Ontario.

Perhaps the most quintessential American ‘personal luxury’ coupe ever, the 1969-1971 Lincoln Continental Mk. III was a rolling statement that you’d arrived.

Arrived at a high income, that is.

With this model, the Ford Motor Company seized upon a growing marketplace niche and cut a big chunk out for itself. A competitor to Cadillac’s Eldorado (and to a lesser extent, the cheaper Olds Toronado and Buick Riviera), the Mk. III was a high point in Lincoln’s history.

Like many other standouts in the automotive world, we have Lee Iacocca to thank for this iconic model. Then serving as president of Ford, Iacocca had the new Lincoln built on the existing frame of the four-door Ford Thunderbird, which, while not a sales success, provided a solid platform on which to rest a higher-end vehicle.

And there was a lot of resting.

Tipping the scales (or crushing them) at 4,866 pounds, the Mk. III fitted Lincoln’s new 460 cubic inch (7.5-litre) V-8 under its mile-long hood. With cheap Middle East oil flowing unchecked across the Atlantic and little concern for emissions controls, the Continental could be as big and thirsty as the car-buying public wanted.

Inside the imposing beast, optional leather upholstery and multiple electronic conveniences awaited the lucky motorist. Air conditioning was a must-have, and anti-lock front disc brakes was an option worth bragging about in advertisements.

The Mk. III turned into a huge money-maker for Ford and Iacocca, not just because of strong sales, but also because of the reduced manufacturing costs made possible by utilizing existing parts. The styling also set the tone for Lincoln in the 1970s – a style the Thunderbird quickly adopted after shedding its rear doors in the early 70s.

Car buffs and movie aficionados alike will remember the Mk. III as being the ride of choice for the bad guy in  The French Connection (1971), with the Lincoln serving as a very classy container for piles of smuggled heroin.

Just as the earlier 1961-64 Continentals had defined American luxury in the early 60s, the Mk. III brought that same feel and presence into the 70s.

For sure, the sheer size and thirst of this vehicle would be hard to comprehend (or afford) for modern-day motorists long accustomed to stratospheric gas prices and tiny parking spaces, but that doesn’t mean the allure has faded.

If anything, the desire for this car – and the nostalgia for the era it came from – is only getting bigger.