The present day showroom for The Lincoln Motor Company is, by and large, like the man for whom the company is named: Old. Dead.
That is, the company’s lineup (previous-gen MKZ, MKS, Town Car, MKX, MKT, and Navigator) sold a combined 82,150 units in 2012, which is 4.1% fewer than were sold in 2011. And as we all know, the total market was up in 2012, not down.
While that 82,150 number may not mean much, to put it in context: Ford sold 82,995 Mustangs in 2012.
And to put that number in relation to what Lincoln management considers to be the brand’s competitive set, the members of that set had the following sales in 2012:
- Mercedes: 295,013
- BMW: 281,460
- Lexus: 244,166
- Cadillac: 149,782
- Audi: 139,310
But like the film Lincoln, which has garnered more Academy Award nominations than any other movie of 2012, the new MKZ is getting a number of accolades for its fresh, contemporary styling and its clever use of technology, from its 15.2-square-foot retractable panoramic roof to its pushbutton gear selector.
So there’s life. Vitality.
The people at Lincoln know that in order to get back in the game, to be considered by the luxury market, it is going to have to continue to build upon the MKZ, so the company has announced that it is going to be rolling out four products in four years (starting with the MKZ).
Next on the docket is presumably the MKC, which is presently in concept status. And while people at the company are mum regarding how close the MKC Concept will be to the production car—in fact they don’t even acknowledge that there will be a production version of the MKC Concept—if one were to make the appropriate comparison. . . Kate Pearce of Lincoln marketing points out that there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the MKZ Concept revealed at the 2012 North American International Auto Show and the 2013 MKZ that was on the road before 2012 was out.
So given that it is showing the MKC Concept at the 2013 North American International Auto Show, and given that it needs another vehicle to maintain its announced cadence, one probably doesn’t need the powers of the Amazing Kreskin to figure out what’s likely to be what.
The MKC Concept is segmented in the “small luxury utility” part of the market that Pearce says is “the fastest growing segment in the industry”: up 200% during the past five years; up 60% in 2012; accounting for 11% of the current auto market overall; representing 25% of the luxury segment. It’s the market of the BMW X3, the Mercedes GLK, and Audi Q5, for example.
So if you’re going to reestablish your brand, then going to a place where the trajectory is going up is a good plan.
Note the cutline for the hatch is on the rear quarter, not vertically down the back
Murat Gueler, MKC Concept lead exterior designer, repeats a word that seems to characterize what they’re trying to achieve through the design: simple. But he hastens to point out that “Simple can become boring and plain.” That’s not what they’re trying to achieve. Rather, they’re eschewing garish adornments, and going with more of a classic approach. In the context of, say, fashion design, think Tom Ford-meets-Donna Karan.
There’s careful detailing around the foglamp cutouts
“The lines of the vehicle appear relatively simple on first look, but with a second view reveal a dynamic three dimensionality,” Gueler says. Another term he uses: “dynamic sculpture.” But while there are subtle lines and forms, this is a vehicle that people actually need to sit in, so he points out that even with the sweeping roofline, there is good headroom for the two rear passengers.
Another aspect of the design is secondary echoing of elements. That is, the grille form is echoed at the back of the vehicle in the tail lamps, and even the instrument panel picks up on that front face.
Note the shape of the metallic trim swooping down from the HVAC vent
Inside, Soo Kang, Lincoln interior design chief, says, “The goal was to create a clean spaciousness and daring presence.” This is achieved not only through the architecture of elements like the broad instrument panel and the implied flow-through from the instrument panel to the center console, but through the selection of fabrics and leather and detailing like the contrasting stitching, even down to creating a wood laminate with metallic flakes for trim. And as Gueler and his team created echoes on the exterior, on the interior there are small discoverable touches, such as the use of the rectangular shape that is used for the Lincoln logo on the seating surfaces as well as on the floor mats (it is done in such a way that in the case of the seats, the rectangles are obvious but what they are is not necessarily readily apparent, resulting in the potential for an “ah-ha!” moment; in the case of the floor mats, you have to look hard to see them, but they’re there).
The seats seem to float through the use of a dark trim material covering the tracks
Even if the segment wasn’t growing, it is more than likely that the MKC Concept could represent a wildly successful entry into the small lux ute marketplace. And the management of Lincoln is probably betting that will be the case.
Probably. Remember: this is the MKC Concept.