The Lincoln Continental goes the way of the Dodo bird. Again

Lincoln revived the iconic Continental nameplate for the 2017 model year, a full 15 years after it sent it into the history books with the ninth-generation model. The new Continental was supposed to put Lincoln back on track as a solid premium brand against Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi. But things didn’t go as planned despite the new Continental featuring a nicely appointed interior, powerful engines, and even a special-edition model with rear-hinged passenger doors.

Sales dropped from 12,000 units in 2017 to less than 7,000 in 2019, so Ford decided to halt production of the tenth-generation sedan after four years. 2020 is the final year for the Continental in the United States.

Poor sales and America’s love for trucks and SUVs is killing off the Continental

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The Continental was relaunched at a time when sales of trucks and SUVs had already taken off and many automakers were already considering giving up on sedans.

Shortly after that, Ford decided to discontinue all cars in the United States save for the Mustang, killing off the Taurus, Fusion, Focus, and Fiesta. Although Lincoln still offers the MKZ, it’s pretty obvious that the brand is now more focused on SUVs, offering four distinct models from the compact Nautilus to the massive Navigator. Just to get an idea, 70 percent of the U.S. vehicle market in 2019 was trucks and SUVs.

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Speaking of sales, the Continental failed below expectations. During its first year on the market in 2017, the Continental moved 12,012 units in the U.S., which wasn’t all that bad. However, sales decreased to 8,758 units in 2018 and then took another dive to 6,586 units in 2019. That’s below the Cadillac CT6, yet another slow seller, which moved 9,668 units in 2018 and 7,951 examples in 2019.

Things become even worse when compared to full-size models from the German premium brands. Mercedes-Benz sold 12,528 units of the S-Class in 2019, while BMW delivered 8,823 examples of the 7 Series. Granted, Audi sold notably less A8 models in 2019, but the Continental still comes fourth in a market it once led. And that’s worrying given that the Continental retails from $46,305, while its competitors come with stickers between $59,000 and $94,000.

The Continental also accounts for only 8.3 percent of total Lincoln sales in 2019, so it's pretty obvious why Lincoln wants to stick to SUVs.
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But the Continental’s poor sales aren’t just because people prefer trucks and SUVs. The full-size sedan also didn’t live up to its concept version and many customers complained about the poor interior.

The Lincoln Continental will live on in China for 2021

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Although it won’t survive in the United States beyond 2020, the Continental will remain in showrooms for one more year in China. That’s not surprising because while sales dropped dramatically in the U.S., Continental deliveries in China remained steady at around $10,000 units per year. But 2021 will be the Continental’s final year on any market, putting an end to a rather short five-year life cycle.

The Lincoln Continental left an important mark

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Although it won’t be remembered as one of the more important versions of the iconic Continental, the tenth-gen model left an important mark on the Lincoln brand. For starters, it reintroduced actual names and led Lincoln’s campaigned to drop the confusing MK nomenclature. The MKZ is the only model standing, but it will be discontinued as well soon. Second, Lincoln learned from the mistakes it made with the Continental and delivered better Navigator and Aviator models and not just washed up variants of a cool concept.

The Lincoln Continental could return as an EV

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Although it’s going into the history books again, the Continental could return soon. Let’s face it, it’s Lincoln’s most iconic nameplate and the American brand probably won’t wait another 15 years to bring one into dealerships. But it’s quite obvious that Lincoln needs a different approach and an electric model might be the solution.

With Ford having launched the Mustang Mach-E with various electric drivetrains that deliver up to 459 horsepower, perhaps there’s a future for an electric Continental that would rival the Tesla Model S and upcoming EV equivalents of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series.

The Lincoln Continental has the same fate as the Cadillac CT6

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The Continental isn’t the only full-size American sedan that’s going under. Cadillac also discontinued the CT6, a model it had introduced only a few months before the Continental. The CT6 fared a bit better with some 36,000 units sold in three and a half years, but it also didn’t live up to expectation. Cadillac stopped production of the CT6 in January 2020, when GM kicked off a retooling of the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant for electric vehicles.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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