Lincoln concept must wow the show crowd

The concept is essentially the next-generation MKZ, Lincoln's lowest priced sedan. Pictured is the 2012 MKZ. Photo credit: Lincoln
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

"Hold your breath, cross your fingers and pray -- pray that we did it right."

That might be the mantra on the lips of the folks at Ford Motor Co. and the Lincoln brand.

Tuesday morning, the wraps come off the Lincoln concept that shows the new styling direction for the brand. Insiders at the Blue Oval say the concept signals something bigger, more important -- the reinvention of the brand. The unveiling takes place at the Detroit auto show.

The concept is essentially the next-generation MKZ, Lincoln's lowest priced sedan. But unlike the current car, the new car will not be a dressed-up Ford Fusion, the folks at Ford promise. I have heard those words over the past 18 months from Derrick Kuzak, Ford's global product guru, and others.

Ford Motor's new global front-drive platform will be under the skin, shared with the Fusion, Ford Mondeo and other models.

But the greenhouse, sheet metal, luxurious interior, powertrain tweaks and technology will be the things that distinguish Lincoln when the production model arrives later this year.

The overall dimensions will be different, too. Some Lincolns in the future will have a different wheelbase, plus the hood and trunk areas will be longer or shorter than those of the Fusion.

Some might say Lincoln needs a rear-drive platform to be a true luxury competitor. They point to BMW and Mercedes-Benz models. I don't. Look what Audi did successfully for years using a Volkswagen platform and all-wheel drive. Or was it vice versa?

Lincoln needs a big thumbs up on this concept. Sales last year tallied a dismal 85,643 about the same as the previous year.

Specifically, this MKZ concept needs a styling execution that creates excitement for Lincoln. One word needs to be on people's lips after the unveiling: "Wow!"

When was the last time anyone said "Wow!" when a Lincoln rolled down the street?

I can't remember.

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