Lincoln MKC: American, with a Chinese visa

Amid the strains of live violin, Lincoln unveiled its latest bet to ensure a sustainable future and a new, livelier (read: younger) customer base.

The introduction on 14 January of the MKC concept, a small, car-based SUV, dovetails with the Ford subsidiary’s push to re-establish itself as a contender in the luxury market.

“Do not think ‘concept’,” said Jim Farley, executive vice president of global marketing at Ford and Lincoln, hinting that the production MKC will remain true to the concept. He emphasised the changing nature of luxury buyers, who expect “great experiences” and are moving away from “traditional, extroverted luxury”. The segment, which has become rather crowded of late, already includes entries from luxury automakers such as Acura, Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

The MKC is also positioned as a global vehicle, particularly as a standard bearer for its mid-2014 entry into China, a new yet critical market for the brand.

The concept vehicle shares the striking exterior and interior design cues that debuted on the MKZ, replete with the brand’s winged grille, which pays overt homage to the circa-1940 Lincoln Zephyr. The chunky crossover features large, shiny wheels and a panoramic glass roof, which have recently become hallmarks of the brand. Inside, the cabin places strong emphasis on driver and passenger comfort, and makes liberal use of chrome, wood and glass. It also previews “Lincoln Experiences”, an interface of settings for ride control and other dynamic parameters. 

Glaringly absent from Farley’s address was mention of the Ford Escape, the vehicle from which the MKC derives its architecture. When it enters production, the MKC is expected to share at least one of the Escape’s three 4-cylinder engines, which include a 2.5-liter unit and two turbocharged variants. The omission was understandable, as Ford wants to avoid the impression of badge engineering -- that practice of basing a new luxury car on a model from the parent company's volume division. Ford is also staying mum as to whether the MKC would complement or kill the existing Lincoln MKX and MKT crossovers.

In a show of support for the Lincoln brand, Farley was joined onstage by Ford executive chairman Bill Ford, who said that Lincoln is “a vital part of who we are”, and Ford chief executive Alan R Mulally. Referencing its “divestment” from its European premium brands – Aston Martin, Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover – as a means to focus on its core product line, Mulally created the impression that Ford’s attention and energies are laser-pointed at Lincoln.