NEW YORK - Lincoln expects the styling that made the Navigator a success to perform the same magic for the 2003 Aviator, the mid-sized sport-utility that arrives in showrooms in late summer.
The division enters a booming segment that Lincoln says accounts for 75 percent of the luxury sport-utility business. It includes vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz M class and the BMW X5.
The Aviator has "a striking resemblance (to the Navigator), and that is intentional," said Brian Kelley, president of Lincoln Mercury. "The biggest reason (people) buy the Navigator is its look, its stature.
"But one of the reasons why customers don't buy it is because they can't afford it. (The Aviator) gives them what they want in a package that is affordable and accessible, and a package that is smaller for a person that doesn't need the size."
The Aviator was unveiled last week at the New York auto show.
Pricing was not announced, but Kelley said the Aviator will be priced between the 2002 Mercury Mountaineer and the 2003 Navigator. The uplevel all-wheel-drive Mountaineer's sticker is $31,575, and the base Navigator's sticker is $48,775. Both prices include destination charges. The Aviator shares a chassis and components with the Mountaineer and Ford Explorer.
Kelley expects the Aviator to account for 85 percent of Lincoln's sales to buyers who don't own a Lincoln. Of that total, 50 percent will be new to Ford Motor Co., he predicted.
When full production is reached next year, the Aviator and Navigator are expected to account for a little more than one-third of Lincoln's vehicle sales.
Lincoln sold 158,934 vehicles in 2001.
Among the changes for the 2003 Navigator: