Ford takes next step of Lincoln overhaul with luxury crossover

Sun Jan 13, 2013 12:36am EST
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By Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) will unveil this week a luxury crossover designed to help the company gain a foothold in a fast-growing and profitable segment of the U.S. luxury automotive market.

At the Detroit auto show on Monday, the No. 2 U.S. automaker is unveiling a concept version of its Lincoln MKC, an entry-level luxury compact crossover that shares its underpinnings with the Ford Escape.

Ford is betting that a strong showing in this burgeoning segment will reverse a two-decade sales decline for Lincoln, a brand better known for the Town Car and presidential limos.

The premium crossover segment has more than tripled in the last four years, Ford said.

"It's not a segment that's been around a long time with entrants that have been there for 10-plus years," said Kate Pearce, marketing manager for the Lincoln brand.

"This is still evolving, which really provides us an opportunity to come in and create something unique and differentiated and really grow our position," she said.

Last year, Lincoln sold a little more than 82,000 vehicles in the United States, slightly less than sales of the Ford Mustang, a retro muscle car last redesigned in 2005.

Many analysts said that while Lincoln's lineup has improved in quality and design, the brand's lackluster image remains an obstacle. The company is hoping to shed that image and take advantage of the momentum in the U.S. luxury auto market, which Ford predicts will outpace the broader industry this year.   Continued...

The Ford Motor Company's emblem is pictured at the company's factory in Almussafes near Valencia September 5, 2012. REUTERS/Heino Kalis