DETROIT -- The Lincoln MKC Concept makes its world debut at the Detroit show Monday, the second vehicle in a new generation of Lincolns aimed at young upscale customers.
Lincoln hasn't said when the production version will arrive, but it could be in showrooms as early as a year from now.
The MKC Concept is Lincoln's vision for its entry in a small segment that's rapidly growing in importance: compact luxury crossovers.
The segment grew 60 percent in 2012 and tripled in size over the last four years, Lincoln says. The growth has been led by vehicles such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Range Rover Evoque.
Picking their segments
As Lincoln reinvents itself, the brand's management team knows Lincoln can't compete with the major players in all segments.
So Lincoln is trying to choose its spots carefully, aiming for the largest luxury segments and those with the most growth potential, rather than trying to cover the entire waterfront. That means no niche or halo vehicles at the fringes.
Matt VanDyke, director of global Lincoln marketing, sales and service, says the compact luxury crossover segment is one that holds real promise for Lincoln.
"It's something we can get into and get a strong toehold," he said.
Tom Libby, a forecaster for research firm R.L. Polk & Co., said: "It's still a small segment, but a lot of growth is anticipated" with new entries from Lincoln and Lexus.
The MKC and other models planned as part of a major overhaul of Lincoln are key to reviving its U.S. sales.
The brand's U.S. sales slipped 4 percent last year to 82,150 -- well behind Acura, Infiniti, Cadillac, Audi, Lexus, Mercedes and BMW -- in a market that climbed 13 percent.
On first glance, the cream-white MKC Concept calls to mind the Range Rover Evoque with its raked rear window and liftgate.
"This approach eliminates the traditional vertical cutline on the rear seen on utilities," Murat Gueler, MKC Concept exterior designer, said in a statement. The liftgate is dominated by an LED taillamp that runs the width of the rear end.
The MKC features a new version of the "split-wing" grille that debuted on the MKZ. The grille is one of the signature elements of the new Lincoln design language developed by lead Lincoln designer Max Wolff and his Dearborn team.
Raj Nair, Ford Motor Co.'s product development chief, said designers had to sculpt "multiple iterations" of the front end to get the proportions right.