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Lincoln refreshes MKC in vital crossover segment

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Lincoln Motor Co. is betting on its lone small crossover SUV to drive new customers to a brand that’s reinventing itself again.

The Ford Motor Co. luxury segment announced Tuesday ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show a series of updates to debut on the 2019 Lincoln MKC. The refreshed crossover targets a growing, profitable segment favored by consumers that Ford executives expect to become more competitive over the next year.

“The SUV or crossover segment has seen fascinating growth over the last 10 years and we don’t see that growth stopping,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of Global Operations, told analysts at Goldman Sachs in mid-November. “You’re seeing more competitors, but also seeing very strong competition and very aggressive competition in pricing in that segment. That small SUV segment is really the heart now, the volume segment, of the market.”

The MKC also serves as an entry-point to the Lincoln brand, according to Robert Parker, director of marketing, sales and service for Lincoln. It appeals to a younger demographic, and is Lincoln’s least expensive vehicle.

The MKC is vital to Lincoln as executives try to shed the brand of its lackluster performance and vehicles over the last decade.

“It’s a segment that a lot of people start their luxury ownership in,” said Parker. “This is one of the products that I’ve been around that has ticked every single box as far as the target it was going after, the volume growth that it was going after. It’s working very hard for Lincoln.”

That’s evidenced by sales figures. The company has sold 8.7 percent more MKCs through October than it did in the same period a year ago, driving up sales overall for Lincoln while the industry begins to plateau.

And as an entry point, the MKC needs to have the Lincoln look, Parker said.

The 2019 model will receive interior and exterior changes to bring the it up-to-date with Lincoln’s new designs. The SUV will get the signature metal honeycomb grille, which debuted on the 2017 Continental, LED headlamps and a redesigned rear end, among other changes.

“The vehicles need to be instantly recognizable as a Lincoln,” Parker said. “I think we have nailed the silhouette and the design language. What we needed to do is align around a strategy for the face of the vehicle. The ability to recognize a Lincoln when its behind you or when you’re passing it is very important.”

The 2019 MKC will also have the Black Label option, which is a trim package Lincoln has leaned on to distinguish the luxury brand. Lincoln Black Label offers better interior materials, unique color schemes and a suite of membership perks like annual detailing, access to curated restaurants and additional service from the dealerships.

The redesigned model will have pre-collision assist and pedestrian-detection systems, amplified by new sensor and camera suites. Optional safety features include park assist, lane-keeping alert and blind-spot detection. It comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter, 245-horsepower engine, and has an optional twin-scroll turbocharged 2.3-liter engine producing 285 horsepower and 305 pound-feet of torque.

The 2019 MKC will be available in dealerships next summer. Pricing has not been announced, but the 2018 model-year crossover starts at $33,355.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau