Lincoln will expand its lineup to as many as eight cars and trucks from five in the next six years.
The new products, to be built around European-style power and handling characteristics, reflect Lincoln's efforts to raise brand cachet to the levels enjoyed by BMW and Mercedes-Benz so that some Lincoln products can be marketed globally.
'I wouldn't call (the plan) a reinvention of Lincoln,' said Lincoln Mercury President Mark Hutchins in an interview at the Chicago Auto Show this month. 'I would call it an expansion of the brand.
'There is nothing wrong with Lincoln. What we want to do is expand and extend that brand and have many more Lincolns available.'
At the New York auto show in April, Lincoln is expected to unveil a coupe concept that will show styling direction for future cars. Another Lincoln concept likely will follow next January at the Detroit auto show or Los Angeles show.
Lincoln and Mercury are part of Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group, which includes Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover and Aston Martin.
Lincoln's product strategy takes in selling some vehicles outside the United States. The automaker has not marketed cars in Europe.
'We did research around the world because at some point we want to take Lincoln global,' Hutchins said. 'People say, `we think Lincoln is terrific, you just don't build anything that is relevant to my needs. ' '
A Lincoln spokesman said the automaker's intent is to 'go to Europe when we have an appropriate showroom of products that are appropriate for the market.'
The new Lincoln vehicles include a sport-utility to be built off the Ford Explorer platform, the so-called 'baby Navigator'; a new entry-level Lincoln sedan; and one or two other products that have yet to be determined, according to a source at the automaker who insisted on anonymity. The Blackwood, a new pickup based on the Navigator, bows this spring.
Continental phased out
As part of the model revamp, the source said, the Continental will be dropped because of low sales and because its front-drive configuration does not fit with Lincoln's rear-wheel-drive strategy. No timetable has been set for the phaseout, he said.
The Continental nameplate has been part of the Lincoln portfolio since 1940. The current-generation Continental was introduced in the 1995 model year, but a redesign has not been scheduled. Sales last year slipped to 22,648 from 26,246 the previous year.
The new Lincoln sport-utility will bow in spring 2002 as a 2003 model and will be a little larger than the Explorer/Mountaineer. It will have its own sheet metal and interior styling to differentiate it from the Ford Explorer.
But the styling on what insiders call the baby Navigator and the restyled 2002 Town Car will not reflect Lincoln's new design strategy. Styling was locked in place before Gerry McGovern, Lincoln Mercury design director, was brought on board to develop Lincoln's brand-new look.
Lincoln's new styling is expected to debut on a future sedan.
Platform not revealed
The new entry-level Lincoln sedan will be smaller than the LS sedan and likely will bow in 2003 or 2004 to compete with the Mercedes-Benz C class and BMW 3 series, two successful lines that accounted for more than 124,000 U.S. sales in calendar 2000. The entry-level Lincoln is one of the new models that is being developed with European sales in mind.
The company source would not disclose what platform the small Lincoln will use, but said it would not come from the platforms used for the Ford Mondeo/Jaguar X-Type or the Lincoln LS/Ford Thunderbird.
Lincoln sold 193,009 vehicles last year, up from 176,493 a year earlier. Cars account for 80.3 percent of the Lincoln's sales.