The Lincoln Continental and Cadillac Eldorado, two of the industry's longest-running luxury cars, are headed for extinction, according to a June 8 story by Lawrence Ulrich in the Detroit Free Press
Lincoln officials who asked not to be identified told Ulrich that Ford Motor Co. will discontinue the Continental after the 2002 model year. General Motors Corp. is expected to pull the plug on the Eldorado coupe in summer 2002. Sales of the Eldorado peaked at more than 71,000 in 1983, but the long-in-the-tooth model has had barely 3,000 sales so far this year.
Sales of the Continental, which debuted in 1940, peaked at nearly 63,000 in 1990, though that number was heavily supported by fleet sales. The Continental sold about 26,000 in 2000.
Rather than keep brands alive for tradition's sake, Cadillac and Lincoln are determined to develop models that can compete with the new luxury leaders from Germany and Japan, according to Ulrich's story.
Industry analysts say the problem with the Eldorado and the Continental isn't necessarily in the name, but lies more with the stodgy, senior-citizen image that has come to be associated with the models.
For now, the Continental remains an important product for Lincoln, especially in northern states where owners appreciate its front-drive layout, according to the Free Press
. But according to analysts, the long-term trend for Lincoln is to move toward rear-wheel drive, and eventually all-wheel-drive.
Lincoln will begin selling a rear-drive sport sedan in 2005 or 2006 to compete with the BMW 3-Series, according to analysts. Soon after, a two-door convertible model will become Lincoln's first open-roofed car since the Continental convertible in 1967.
The Continental name was first used on a coupe and convertible based on the Lincoln-Zephyr in 1940. The Continental went away after 1948 and returned eight years later with the 1956 Mark II at a then-shocking price of $10,000. Then 1961 brought a major redesign with the Lincoln-Continental sedan and convertible and their famous "suicide doors" that swung open from the center. The Continental became a front-drive sedan in 1988.
Cadillac launched the Eldorado as a 1953 model, a top-of-the-line convertible that celebrated Cadillac's 50th anniversary and sold for what was then a mind boggling price of $7,750. President Dwight D. Eisenhower rode to his 1953 inauguration in one of the first production Eldorados.
In 1967, a front-drive Eldorado, based on the previous year's Oldsmobile Toronado, made the Eldorado a mass-market car.
Last year, Cadillac signaled the beginning of the end for Eldorado by moving assembly to the Lansing Craft Center, in part to make way for Cadillac DeVille and Buick LeSabre production at its Hamtramck plant.
Cadillac's luxury roadster, based on the Evoq concept car, will essentially replace the Eldorado in 2003, acocording to industry analysts.