Ford Motor will resurrect the Lincoln Continental as its top-of-the line luxury sedan, betting the classic name will help rebuild the brand's image in the United States and China.
Ford's Lincoln unveiled a prototype of the future Continental sedan on Monday ahead of the April 3-12 New York auto show, which will feature many of the Continental's future rivals, including the Cadillac CT6 sedan from General Motors, a new Jaguar XF sedan from Jaguar Land Rover and a bevy of super-premium models from Daimler Mercedes Benz.
Ford retired the Continental name in 2002, and joined its rivals in using letter and number codes for most models. But memories lived on in China, where Continentals had been the car of political leaders and celebrities. China now is the main market for premium sedans such as the Audi A6 or A8, the Mercedes S-class or the BMW 7-series.
Ford executives say they were surprised to learn that the Continental name also had legs in the United States, where grandly proportioned Continentals from the 1960s had prominent cameo roles in movies such as the popular Matrix science fiction series.
Though China is currently home to the largest sedan segment, the Continental was designed for both the U.S. and Chinese markets, Ford CEO Mark Fields told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." He said Ford found far more similarities than differences in what American and Chinese consumers want.
The biggest difference is that Chinese car buyers are often chauffeured, leading Ford to focus on offering a wide range of passenger amenities, Fields said. The concept vehicle includes a backseat computer system, reclining rear seats, and "smart" windows that turn opaque with a tap of the finger to reduce the temperature.