Following the reveal of the gorgeous Continental concept at the New York Auto Show, representatives from Ford have hinted that the end could be nigh for the “MK” naming scheme. A production version of the concept Continental could bear the classic name when it arrives to replace the aging and unimpressive MKS at some point in the future.

On one hand, I’m glad to hear it. On the other, I’m unimpressed, because really, it took Lincoln this long to figure it out? It’s been eight years since the Zephyr became the MKZ in what was clearly a bald-faced attempt to cash in on Cadillac’s formula for success.

Continue reading to learn more about Lincoln’s future naming scheme.

Why it matters

The trouble is, Cadillac had been cultivating its shift in direction and style for almost a decade in 2007. Both Cadillac and Lincoln entered the new millennium with serious image problems, but while Cadillac dug deep to reinvent itself and create new, cohesive designs and direction, Lincoln seemed to just keep cruising along with a stable of badge-engineered Fords. As the luxury market changed dramatically in 2004-2008, Lincoln offered no real shift in direction, and certainly not a coherent mission, in spite of Ford’s “The Way Forward” plan that was intended to reinvent the brand starting in 2005.

In the end, all “The Way Forward” did was to let the cool LS sedan die of corporate ADHD-inflicted neglect, put the writing on the wall for the iconic but aging Town Car, and usher in the stupid and inconsistent MK naming convention. By the time the switch to alphanumerics happened, it wasn’t a radical rethinking of a classic American brand. This was a “me-too” gesture aimed at jumping on Cadillac’s rapidly accelerating bandwagon. Not classy, Lincoln. Not classy at all.

While it’s true that every luxury brand is measured very strictly in competition with the others, it is the height of gauche to be seen trying to actively imitate the folks next door. Doing your own thing and doing it well is the very heart of luxury. So what if all of the other premium brands were sporting flashy incomprehensible strings of digits and letters? I had high hopes that Lincoln’s “Way Forward” would come with some upper-crust attitude — that Lincoln would point to Rolls Royce and Bentley and say, “But the kings of this class still have names.”

But it didn’t. I was ever so disappointed. Lincoln’s products continued to be me-too Fords, and now its names were me-too responses to Cadillac’s.

And things got worse before they got better. The MKS was a faceless technobarge with lots of equipment but no personality. The MKX, a crossover aimed at the Lexus RX, hit the mark but wasn’t distinct enough from the Ford Edge to be memorable (and then the Cadillac SRX got a re-think and hit it out of the park). The MKT landed in a place in the market that Mercedes’ slow-selling R-Class and the first-generation Cadillac SRX had just vacated — and looked less interesting than the Ford Flex that it was based on. (To be fair, I kind of like the MKT, but it answered a bunch of questions that not too many people were asking. Also, I like hearses, so my taste can be decidedly fringe-y.) All this time the quality and driveability of Lincolns was improving, but the image left a lot to be desired.

Finally, we’ve got the latest MKZ and the new MKC, both of which evince steps in the right direction. Lincoln’s got a unique look and a style that sets it apart, hopefully with more product in the pipeline to back this up. Now is definitely the right time to ditch that stupid naming scheme. Sure, it should have never been adopted in the first place, but let’s work with that, too. The brand has had a few years to wear a corporate crown of shame; now that it’s been working out behind the scenes, it’s time to cast it off and come back sleeker and brighter and more powerful than ever.

If Lincoln can follow up a reborn Continental with effective renaming strategies (hint: this means not giving classic names to inappropriate vehicles, like Mercury did when it slapped a “Monterey” badge on its forgettable minivan), we could have a new era of Premieres, Zephyrs and maybe even Capris. I think that I’m not the only gearhead who’d like that. The Continental Concept is the first Lincoln dream car in years that I’ve hoped to see on the road. It’ll be even better if it hits the road with a proper classic badge.

Lincoln Continental

2017 Lincoln Continental Exclusive Renderings
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Source: Automotive News

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