January 12, 2016 / 6:13 PM / 3 years ago

Ford unveils resurrected Lincoln Continental, targets China market

(Reuters) - Ford Motor Co unveiled on Tuesday a new luxury flagship full-size Continental sedan aimed at Chinese and American consumers.

The 2017 Lincoln Continental. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

“We’re not trying to out-German the Germans or try to be like anyone else,” Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields told reporters at the Detroit auto show, declining to forecast sales volume for the revival of the Continental, a model that was discontinued in 2002.

Ford’s U.S. luxury sales have lagged those of foreign competitors including BMW AG and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit. Until the 1990s, Lincoln along with General Motors Co’s Cadillac were far and away the U.S. luxury sales leaders.

Fields said Ford has made “meaningful progress and significant momentum” in reviving the Lincoln brand.

Ford showed a concept version of the Continental last April.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker considered shuttering Lincoln in 2010, when it announced it would kill its Mercury brand. But Fields has made turning around Lincoln a key priority.

In 2014, Ford said it hoped to triple Lincoln’s global sales by 2020 to 300,000 vehicles globally, from 100,000 in 2013.

Lincoln’s U.S. sales rose 7.1 percent last year to 101,227, the first time since 2008 they topped 100,000. Still that’s about half the luxury automaker’s record U.S. sales of more than 200,000 in 1990.

Ford sold about 11,000 Lincoln vehicles in China last year, which was its first full year on sale in China. To attract more Chinese buyers, many who have drivers, Lincoln is offering Continental versions with enhanced backseat comfort and features including greater connectivity.

The new Continental will be built in Flat Rock, Michigan, and goes on sale in the fall in both China and the United States.

The new car is slightly smaller and lower than the flagship it replaces, the MKS. It is about a foot lower in the rear than the MKS.

There some 1.7 million large luxury sedans sold in 2015, and that will grow to about 1.9 million by 2020, said Eric Turner, U.S. Lincoln brand manger, primarily fueled by growth in China. About 400,000 large luxury sedans were sold in the U.S. market.

Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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