Lincoln-Bentley Squabble Makes for Good Theater

The Lincoln Continental Concept is a rip off of a Bentley sedan or at least that is the contention of one Volkswagen Group designer. Styling cues aside, the two models are far different. But that isn’t stopping people from noticing similarities that some find a little to close for comfort.

Bentley Fracas

Bring your popcorn and a drink, pull up a chair and take in the confabulation regarding the Lincoln Continental Concept and the Bentley marque. That conversation follows a fracas that began when Bentley’s designer, Luc Donckerwolke, left a comment on David Woodhouse’s Facebook page, effectively chastising Lincoln’s chief designer (and the architect behind the concept Continental) for copying the ultra-luxury automaker’s design.

“Do you want us to send the product tooling?,” was the comment left by Donckerwolke in response to the official unveiling of the Lincoln Continental Concept at the 2015 New York International Auto Show last week. That comment, since deleted from Woodhouse’s timeline, might have been ignored if anyone else had made it. But Donckerwolke is known both for his design flair as well as his outspokenness, a rare combination among automotive designers.

The Bentley Flying Spur.
The Bentley Flying Spur.

From Lamborghini to SEAT

Indeed, Donckerwolke is the designer behind the delicious Lamborghini Murcielago, the successor to the Diablo and the flagship model in the Lambo line. The Murcielago has received accolades from across the automotive and design spectrums, garnering the prestigious Red Dot Design Award among others. As for Donckerwolke, he has headed Lamborghini design since 1998 and will move to SEAT later this year. Bentley, Lamborghini and SEAT are Volkswagen Group companies. Not bad for a 40-year-old!

So, what is it about the Lincoln Continental Concept that angers Donckerwolke? Certainly, several things. In a bid to clarify his Facebook comment, Car & Driver tracked down Donckerwolke at Bentley’s pop-up studio in New York to find out what it was that disturbed the designer the most. It turns out the designer respects Lincoln, but criticizes the brand for “using cues” from Bentley.

Those cues include the haunch or what represents the side of an arch in an automobile. Furthermore, he sees the concept’s power vent located in the same position as Bentley and took note of various creases, shoulder lines and other exceptional characteristics that were similarly placed in the Lincoln. Notably, he did not point out the similarities in the grille, what others say resembles Bentley.

The Lincoln Continental Concept.
The Lincoln Continental Concept.

From Lincoln Continental Concept to Reality

Lincoln is intent on bringing the 2017 Continental to the market and the concept most likely is closer to what the final copy will look like. It is doubtful that the design will change much between now and the official reveal, likely to take place in Los Angeles in November or in Detroit next January.

As much as Donckerwolke criticizes the alleged “theft” of a styling intimation, it isn’t the first time that a commotion has occurred following a vehicle’s debut. In fact, Lincoln’s parent, Ford, recently weathered criticism following the current Fusion’s launch, with some critics pointing out the similarities between the Aston Martin’s fascia and the Fusion’s front end. Incidentally, Aston Martin was owned by Ford from 1994 to 2007; the Dearborn company still has an 8 percent stake in this English marque.

If you look back decades, you can see similar design patterns emerging and appearing across a variety of model lines. To be sure, Cadillac had the biggest fins of the late 1950s and early 1960s, but other manufacturers had their own fins and swaths of chrome across the body lines, bumpers and elsewhere.

Beginning in the late 1960s, American Motors’ models had a visage that resembled what Chrysler was producing at the time. To be sure, the AMC Matador borrowed styling cues from the Dodge Dart, but no one seemed to mind. The Chrysler Corporation in the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon layouts copied the Volkswagen Rabbit, but that wedge design appeared in various competing models around the world too.

Good Theater in a Competitive Industry

What the current dust-up comes down to is that comments such as those made by Donckerwolke make for good theater. Likely, little more will come from it, especially as Bentley and Lincoln serve two different markets — Bentley the uber rich and Lincoln well-heeled consumers, typically upper-middle-class car shoppers.


See AlsoScant Details About the Lincoln Continental Concept

Flying Spur photo courtesy of Bentley Motors.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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