The Lincoln MKZ concept has been unveiled at the Detroit motor show – and its significance goes well beyond the launch of a new product, as it also marks the first step in Ford’s quest to reinvigorate its struggling luxury brand.
"We are not introducing a new car, we are essentially introducing a new brand," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president for Global Product Development. "The MKZ concept is the next step in the reinvention of Lincoln, something we have been quietly but aggressively pursuing."
Ford has long pondered what to do with Lincoln, but is now committed to growing it; company bosses have set up a dedicated team of engineers and designers to work on Lincoln products only, and have also pledged to launch seven new or significantly revised Lincolns by 2014, two others of which are the flagship and MKT crossover, which are both also at the show.
Mark Fields, president of Ford America, said: “Lincoln is an important part of our business. The luxury industry is significant. In any given year in the US, the luxury segment is 11-13 per cent of overall sales, and it’s important for us to win customers with strong new vehicles.”
However, Lincoln won’t be expanding its attentions outside of North America yet. Jim Farley, Ford’s vice president of marketing, told Autocar: “It will take every ounce of energy and every cent of investment to make Lincoln work right in North America. Once we have got that right we may look elsewhere, but that’s a long way off.”
The MKZ, which sits on Ford’s mid-size platform and can be configured to run as a front or all-wheel-drive car, will make production in the US later this year, bearing a strong resemblance to the concept on show in Detroit. Design director Max Wolff also wants to apply the design theme, which he characterises as "elegant simplicity" to all Lincoln cars.
Wolff, who is in the process of setting up the dedicated Lincoln design studio, the brand’s first dedicated premises since 1970, says he has tried not to shy away from keeping classic Lincoln styling cues - the split-wing grille, for instance, was first introduced on the 1938 Lincoln Zephyr – while also blending in modern design, such as the panoramic glass roof and LED technology.
Inside, the emphasis is on comfort and luxury; it’s a strict four-seater, its cabin is swathed in leather and wood fittings and there a 10.1 inch TFT screen ahead if the driver, plus an eight-inch LCD touchscreen on the centre console.